The outsize sense of entitlement behind the quest for a “healing” birth

12665132 - word on keyboard made in 3d

When my children were small, there was rarely a day that passed without someone whining, ”It’s not fair!”

I would inevitably respond with some variation of, “Who said life was fair?”

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Believing you are entitled to a “healing” birth makes as much sense as believing you are entitled to a “healing” diet that will finally make you thin.[/pullquote]

Sometimes I would expand on that admonition by explaining that anyone who expected that everything would always be fair was destined to be sorely and repeatedly disappointed. The difference between a happy life and an unhappy life is not whether you experienced unfairness; everyone does. The difference is how you deal with it. You have to learn to accept it and move on. That didn’t mean that you have to be happy about it, just that you can’t let yourself become weighed down by sadness and anger.

That’s how I explained it to children. The adult version is this: you have to be unbelievably entitled to imagine that you are owed fairness.

I am reminded of this whenever I read about a woman’s quest for a “healing” birth, as I did yesterday. Joni Edelman wrote:

His birth was supposed to be peaceful, swimming into the world in our kitchen, surrounded by his family, welcomed with cake and champagne. He was supposed to come out easily and heal me from the trauma of my previous labor and dystocia. His birth was supposed to be a lot of things that it was not.

This birth was supposed to “heal” her from a previous disappointing birth?

Where did she get the idea that she was entitled to the birth of her dreams? Where did she get the idea that if she didn’t get that ideal birth the first time, she is entitled to get it on the next go round? I’d be willing to bet she acquired that outsize sense of entitlement from the natural childbirth industry.

It surely wasn’t from an obstetrician; obstetricians don’t care about how a baby is born just that a healthy baby is born to a healthy mother. I suspect it wasn’t her partner; he was probably thrilled to be a father and considered the method of birth to be irrelevant (to the extent that he considered it at all). I doubt it was her parents or in-laws who were disappointed with her either.

The natural childbirth industry sold her (through their books, websites, childbirth courses, midwives and doulas) a birth that would make her dreams come true and then it didn’t happen. That might have made her question whether giving the industry so much money for promises they couldn’t keep was really worth it.

How convenient (and profitable) for them that they could double down and offer her more books, websites, childbirth courses, midwifery care and doula services to help her “heal” from the disappointment of her first birth, the disappointment that they themselves caused by convincing her that she was entitled to the birth of her dreams.

How convenient for them that at no point are they (or she) forced to re-evaluate validity of the books, websites, childbirth courses, midwifery care and doula services from which they earn their income. They are always correct. She can just try again and this time it will happen!

It’s like the fashion industry. The same people who spend millions marketing the idea that thin women are better, make millions more by marketing the products that will supposedly make you thin. And if a woman’s self-image and self-confidence are undermined because she failed to achieve the ideal weight, it’s her fault for failing, not their fault for creating an unrealistic sense of entitlement.

The idea that a woman is entitled to a “healing” birth makes as much sense as the idea that she is entitled to a “healing” diet that will finally make her thin. Not everyone can be thin and imagining that you are entitled to be thin will just make you miserable. Not everyone can have the birth that midwives, doulas and childbirth educators promise; imagining that you are entitled to such a birth will just make you miserable.

Life isn’t fair. Those who are mature enough to accept that reality deal with their disappointment and move on. Those who aren’t have another baby hoping they will finally get their “healing” birth.