Realities of Becoming a Birth Consumer

By Umm Layth

The problem with learning about the many choices we have during labor and birth is actually finding care providers who will honor the ones we want to make. And when I say care providers, I don’t just mean doctors or midwives. I mean anyone and everyone who plays a part in the care we receive.

For example, just this week I learned that my insurance company, which was chosen for me by the state I live in, doesn’t cover home births. I also learned that my particular state doesn’t allow free-standing birth centers either. What this comes down to is that unless my family and I are wealthy enough to pay for our ideal birth out of pocket, which of course if we were able to do we wouldn’t need state medical care, the only “choice” left for us is to birth in a hospital.

Once I step foot in the hospital, the choices I have for labor and birth are once again limited by outside players, from facility policy makers to hospital legal teams to medical supply purchasers to senior staff members--who may be interested in training their residents more on pathology than on natural birth.

So before I can even make my birth plan, much of the path I’ll have to journey is decided for me. It’s like my birth experience has been packaged, wrapped, and sent out on the back of a FedEx® truck to arrive wherever the "powers-that-be" have decided to deliver me.

Alhamdulillah for my husband, who after hearing me rant and rave about the limitations we would have to face, made me realize an important part of being a birth consumer:

"At the end of the day all of the education and preparation we do to gear up for labor and birth can, at best, only influence our outcome; it can never control all of it."

After filling my head with information on routine obstetrical practices, cascades of interventions, and all the many things that could go wrong at a techno birthing focused environment, I set my heart on a natural delivery in the comfort of our home, or at least a calming home-like setting of a local birthing center. In doing this I stripped away my own willingness and ability to adapt to the unexpected.

But being a birth consumer is not about getting rigidly attached to one ideal; it’s about preparing ourselves for the multitude of things that could happen. This way in the end, we can truly say that we did our best and we can be happy with our births even if they were less than “perfect”.

In the words of Pam England CNM, MA, and author if Birthing from Within,

“Flexibility, not rigidity characterizes a safe, healthy birth".