Henci Goer whines that no one listens to childbirth educators

In a post on Science and Sensibility, Henci Goer whines that no one is listening to childbirth educators, including herself:

I taught Lamaze classes independently from 1980 into the 1990s, yet … I quit because I could no longer stand watching my students lie down on the railroad track despite all I could do to tell them there was a train coming… More importantly, what more could—no, should—childbirth educators be doing about it, including hospital-based educators? …

What should they do about it? They should stop pretending that your birth is their business. They should stop looking to your birth for validation of their choices.

As I wrote last year, Lamaze is well aware that their message does not resonate with American women. Instead of examining the message, they are hiring public relations experts to promote the message more aggressively.

It reminds me of nothing so much as a dominating, interfering mother.

You know the type: the mother who believes that every choice her daughter makes is a statement about the value and correctness of the mother’s personal choices. The mother who believes that her daughter’s choices are not merely different, but a personal reproach. The mother who believes that it is her mission in life to convince her daughter to do it her way. If the daughter doesn’t do it her way, she just yells louder.

And, as is often the case with the domineering, interfering mother, she starts with the premise that if her daughter only understood the intrinsic wisdom of her mother’s choices, she would copy them. But Goer and her Lamaze compatriots, like many domineering mothers, have a problem. Most women refuse to accept that an intervention free birth is the only “normal” or “natural” way to have a baby.

According to Sharon Dalrymple a past president of Lamaze:

Indeed, the research showed that the meaning of the words “normal” and “natural” was not interpreted by the women and educators the same way. For example, 36% of women felt that ALL vaginal births are “normal birth”, while 63% of Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators defined “normal birth” to be a birth without medical intervention. Women and Lamaze childbirth educators are likewise divided when deciding if the terms “natural birth” and “normal birth” are generally similar or generally different in meaning.

Lamaze tries to trade on the cultural assumption that “normal” and “natural” are intrinsically superior and that, therefore, “normal” and “natural” could be used as code words for “best.” Evidently some daughters women are too dense to make the connection so coded appeals must be dismissed in favor of more overt declarations:

Lamaze International found that the words safe and healthy are the most effective words for communicating and promoting the birth practices Lamaze has endorsed for years. Everyone wants a safe and healthy birth. Mothers are particularly motivated to keep their baby and themselves safe and healthy…

Just like a domineering, interfering mother, Goer and Lamaze want you to know that their choices aren’t merely the best choices, they are the safest and healthiest choices. Just like a domineering mother, Lamaze declares: if you really cared about your baby’s health and safety, you’d do it my way.

Not only is this as obnoxious as any interfering mother who proclaims the superiority of her personal choices, it is just as wrong. The practices that Lamaze declares to be the safest and healthiest are nothing more than their personal preferences.

Consider some of the 6 “best” practices that Lamaze promotes:

Let labor begin on its own: There is no scientific evidence that a spontaneous labor is better or safer for babies. Indeed, there is copious scientific evidence that the risk of stillbirth begins increasing before 38 weeks and rises steadily with each day that passes. That risk must, of course, be balanced against any risks of induction to the mother, but, even so, it is factually false to claim that spontaneous labor is safer. Indeed, as the rate of induction has risen in the US, the rate of late stillbirth has fallen dramatically.

Walk, move around and change positions throughout labor: There’s no scientific evidence that moving around or changing positions has any impact on labor, let alone a beneficial impact. According to the Cochrane review on position in labor:

There were no differences between groups for other outcomes including length of the second stage of labour, mode of delivery, or other outcomes related to the wellbeing of mothers and babies.

Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary: In other words, refuse an epidural; yet there is no scientific evidence that childbirth without pain relief is better, safer, healthier or superior in any way to childbirth with pain relief. No matter. The women at Lamaze think that they are superior for refusing pain medication, so you should refuse it, too.

Goer and her compatriots at Lamaze sound just like the domineering, interfering mother who tells her adult daughter: do it my way because my way is best. And as in the case of the domineering interfering mother, the adult daughter should ignore the remonstrances and reproaches, recognizing that they have nothing to do with the daughter’s well being and everything to do with the mother’s validation.

It sounds like that is just what happened to Goer. Women ignored her remonstrances and reproaches, recognizing that they have nothing to do with the well being of women and babies and everything to do with Goer’s desire to validate her own choices.


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