“I’m a hot mess!” I hear that phrase a lot these days as a self-descriptor for women who are a little unorganized, a little different, and especially from those who live life a little off the beaten path. I also hear it from women who are wearing their leggings, “I just need coffee and Jesus” t-shirt, Uggs and a messy bun who might want people thinkthey’re living life on the edge, but that’s a different post for another time.
If your path is leading you to a birth that includes a natural birth plan, a doula, and especially an out of hospital birth, you absolutely aren’t a hot mess and you don’t have to apologize for yourself. Here are seven reasons to back you up.
1. Birth is the only “condition” treated in a hospital that isn’t a condition and generally doesn’t need treatment. It’s a normal physiological function of the body that needs the oversight of a provider, but it doesn’t need “cured”.
2. “You wouldn’t have dental work done without pain medication, why childbirth?” So if you avoid pain medications at the dentist, you might be a hot mess but this doesn’t transfer to childbirth. There isn’t a deliciously squishy baby waiting at the end of your cavity filling, no oxytocin high and no “pain with a purpose” in the dentist’s chair.
3. Maternal Mortality Rate. If you’ve not heard, the USA is doing the poorest of all developed nations and Texas is doing the worst out of all of the states in the union. It IS a complicated hot mess (and very serious) and we don’t know exactly why it’s happening, but if look at countries with the best track record of keeping moms alive in childbirth, they’re doing the opposite: midwives handle most low risk mothers and OBs are utilized for high risk. Modeling your care after their style isn’t a bad idea at all and it may save your life.
4. Williams Obstetrics, the classic OB textbook, includes paragraph after paragraph of epidural risks but ends with the conclusion that epidurals are considered safe since they don’t lead to maternal mortality. In other words it’s safe because you’re not likely to die from the procedure. I am guessing that’s not the definition of “safe” women are using when they’re discussing epidurals.
5. Birth plans are a desperate attempt from the mother to get some control back where it belongs. As a doula, I know birth plans are fraught with issues at times. However, the fact that women feel the need to bring in a piece of paper to advocate for themselves should humble every birth worker and make us sit up and pay attention to a broken hot mess of a system that’s hurting women.
6. Attempting to see what your body can do without assistance of an epidural is not abnormal, crazy, or strange in any way. Marathon runners are applauded for pushing their bodies to the limits. It will take all you have (plus a little more) to achieve an unmedicated birth and if that’s a challenge you get excited about, it’s a good thing!
7. It’s not fair that our mainstream birth culture is upside down and backward. When it’s the rare OB that truly understands and supports physiological birth, the odds are stacked against you. Going against them is culturally brave.
The phrase “hot mess” evokes a cute image I suppose but truly, I don’t like it. It’s as if we’ve transparently broadcasted our chaos as a status symbol, isn’t it? I love transparency, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t love being a victim to our (real or made up) chaos and I think women need to stand strongly for their birth preferences, not make light of them so they are more palatable for their provider. If you have to do this, you’re not with the right provider.
I can’t leave you without tools. If this post resonates with you:
-Communicate with your provider about your preferences and philosophy early in your prenatal appointments.
-Pay attention to the yellow flags you see. They often turn to red flags in labor and it’s too late to do much then.
-Hire a doula. Her years of experience navigating the local birth world gives her excellent insight that she’ll use to help you navigate.
-Don’t be afraid to switch providers. People do it all the time, it’s not as big of a deal as you might think (and we accept transfers as late as 36 weeks at the birth center).
-Attend a strong childbirth class so you are well informed of all of your options (our classes are open to the community).
-Wendy Fowler, Doula, Childbirth Educator, Office Administrator, Student Midwife