Natural childbirth advocates don’t respect Nature


All of us familiar with the idea of falling in love with an illusion, an idealization of a person instead of the person as he or she really exists.  As psychiatrist Neel Burton writes:

Idealization involves overestimating the positive attributes of a person, object, or idea and underestimating the negative attributes; but more fundamentally, it involves the projection of our needs, desires, and fantasies onto that person, object, or idea. The classic example of idealization is that of being infatuated, when love is confounded with the need to love …

In contrast to the illusion of love, real love involves loving the person, object or idea for who or what they really are. In other words, mature love requires respect.

Natural childbirth advocates have fallen in love with an illusion of Nature. That illusory love of Nature is fundamentally disrespectful, because all negative characteristics are ignored. Natural childbirth advocates don’t love Nature. They love the illusion of Nature that they have created to meet their own needs.

Natural childbirth advocates like to say that Nature designed women to give birth. Nature doesn’t design anything and Nature does not create perfection. Traits and abilities are subject to natural selection mediated through the survival of the fittest. An organism perfectly adapted to one environment may turn out to be an utter failure when the environment changes as it inevitably does.

Nature is imagined as benign by natural childbirth advocates, but “nature is red in tooth and claw.” Death, violent and agonizing is a fundamental, ineradicable feature of the life all animals, and human beings are no exception. Claiming that natural childbirth is safe because we wouldn’t be here makes about as much sense as claiming that humans never kills each other because if they did we wouldn’t be here. Death in childbirth is as common as death in war and we’re all still here.

Natural childbirth advocates are hubristic. They imagine that because they love Nature, Nature is obligated to love them back. They imagine that because they worship Nature, Nature won’t visit calamities on them. They prefer to ignore the fact that Nature is responsible for earthquakes, typhoons, snake bite and disease. They imagine Nature as a gentle breeze when it is in reality a heartless, selfish force, operating to the rhythm of its own rules and completely unconcerned with the wishes and hopes of human beings. Trusting birth not to kill your baby makes about as much sense as trusting a typhoon not to kill your baby. Pretending that your affirmations have the ability to affect the outcome of childbirth is like pretending that your affirmations have the ability to stop an earthquake in progress.

Obstetricians, in contrast, have profound respect for Nature and her power. Because they have orders of magnitude more experience of childbirth than anyone else, they are intimately familiar with the death dealing ways of Nature. It is Nature that creates miscarriage, stillbirth, pre-eclampsia, Rh disease, massive maternal hemorrhage and hypoxic brain damage. The incidence of most potentially fatal childbirth complications has changed little over the years. The only thing that has changed is our ability to treat and sometimes prevent these otherwise fatal complications.

Natural childbirth advocates like to whine that obstetricians “play the dead baby card.” Damn straight, because without obstetricians 7% of babies and 1% of mothers will die in and around childbirth … and that doesn’t even count the 20% of established pregnancies that will end in miscarriage in the first trimester. Obstetricians aren’t foolish enough to pretend that complications are rare or that they can be wished away by affirmation. Obstetricians, unlike smug natural childbirth advocates, know that Nature is far more powerful than they are.

Trusting birth is like trusting a tiger. Both are wild, unpredictable and uncontrollable. People who work with wild animals show their respect for them, their power and their ability to deal death by taking preventive measures. Obstetricians know that childbirth is wild, unpredictable and uncontrollable. They show their respect for childbirth, for its power and its ability to deal death by taking preventive measures. We would judge anyone who chose to enter a tiger cage without protection as foolish beyond measure. Anyone who chooses to give birth without protection is just as foolish.

Mature love requires respecting the object of that love for who or what it is. The worship of Nature among natural childbirth is not mature love, because it lacks fundamental respect for the reality of childbirth, and of Nature itself. Natural childbirth advocates have fallen in love with an illusion. Unfortunately, the consequences can be far worse than a broken heart.