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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Quiet Advocacy

Of the few friends I have who have either VBACed or had a homebirth, I've never understood why they aren't more outspoken advocates of their experiences. Maybe they just don't have the time to devote, or the desire, seeing their "alternative" birth as a once-and-done experience and are ready to move on to something else. In my circle of friends, I seem to be the one loud-mouthed person who is writing about it, reading about it, talking about it, and I wish that could change.

When I was pregnant with my second, I had no intention of having a VBAC at first. A woman from my church quietly took me aside and asked if I had ever considered having one, and I said I wasn't sure and they sounded too dangerous, blah blah blah. In fact, I had never done any research on them at that point, and just thought a repeat cesarean was my only option. She herself had had a long, arduous vaginal birth, bargaining with her doctor to be allowed more time to labor, finally delivering a baby boy with a nuchal hand. In short, a real "birth warrior" who was exercising her rights and being her own patient advocate at a difficult time. After that, though, probably because she was done having children, her interest in advocating childbirth choices seemed to fade into the background, at least until she spoke to me.

Little did either of us know that, in my 37th week of pregnancy, I'd be calling her on the phone at 10 p.m. to ask about her VBAC. Not what either of us ever expected!

I liken those parallels to some of the celebrities we know of who have had either a natural birth (more on that later) or a homebirth. There is no shortage of them, and websites galore list them. If you were to picture a mental list of celebrity homebirthers, Ricki Lake and Gisele Bundchen would probably top the list. And that's okay - they're both outspoken and educated about it, passing on that information to any and all who can benefit from it. Gisele does have a blog, and while her primary focus seems to be on the environment, she does devote some space to childbirth.

Some would argue that perhaps the reason we're so familiar with Ricki's stance on birth is because, thank God, she's made a movie about it. Whatever it takes! It got our attention (whether good or bad), and people know she's a staunch advocate of homebirth and choices in childbirth. But where the heck is everyone else?!

Dozens of celebrities have had homebirths, and only one I can think of has VBACed - Kate Winslet. I remember reading awhile back how she lied about the birth of her first child because she felt ashamed or a sense of failure over her c-section. Not uncommon, sadly. However, I'm not sure she really tooted the VBAC Horn, either, and I think even made mention how she "quietly VBACed" with her second child. Not sure if that means it was boring and uneventful, or if she just didn't want to talk about it. While she probably has strong opinions about VBACs, it's not like she's talking about it regularly or encouraging other women to have them.

Julianne Moore, Kelly Preston, many entertainers (Nelly Furtado and Ani DiFranco, to name a few) and the wives of many male celebrities all had home births. Remember Kenny Loggins, a folk/pop singer from the 70's? His wife gave birth at home unassisted, albeit by "accident," because of a precipitous labor. Meryl Streep had all four of her children at home. Pamela Anderson had both of her sons at home, and apparently is a big advocate of long-term breastfeeding. Really? Who knew? I know she walked down the catwalk pretty much nekkid to promote PETA, of all things, but why not do it while having an infant at her breast?

Perhaps a little extreme. But sometimes I just wish these people in positions of "clout" would promote their successful, safe "alternative births" more - like, the way they talk about PETA or environmentalism. Wouldn't that be a wonderful boost for the cause?

One midwife's website that I recently read stated that Gisele was the next celebrity spokesmodel for homebirth or something like that - "move over, Ricki Lake!" I frowned and thought, no need to move over - there's room for many more.


Ethel said...

For myself I decided on VBAC (and came across it) not from a warrior nor an advocate, but another mom just saying that's what she did - quietly asserting it was a possibility. Same with breastfeeding, the most persuasive advocacy for me was seeing moms in church nursing their infants as an adolescent and teen, it set in my head "oh, this is what we do for our babies". Really, I think quiet advocacy is far more effective, it doesn't mean silent advocacy at all. Nothing turns off moms more then a super believer foaming at the mouth about something.

The Deranged Housewife said...

That is true.

But I just wish for once, that we'd hear something about birth rather than PETA, or compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or recycling, etc. Those things might be important - but the environment in my home is much more important for me to take care of first.

There is a difference between advocating and "foaming at the mouth." And that can go both ways! We need to remember to be supportive without judging or being overly critical, and yet, when I read about these women "quietly" having their homebirths, they rarely register a blip on the collective radar screen outside of birth advocacy circles. Surely there has to be a positive way to change this?

Anonymous said...

I am one of those quiet advocates. I've had 8 VBAC's, a couple were awful, a couple were dreams, the rest were OK. I am always open to talk to women about VBAC but I don't accost pregnant women or women I know who have had past C-sections and talk about VBAC. I'm the same with breastfeeding-going on 8 years cumulative of nursing babies and proud of it.
I love to talk about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. I was a doula, CBE and parenting instructor and loved it and miss it. I tend to just put it out there what my experiences are and that I'm happy to chat and sometimes women open up and want to talk and sometimes they don't.
The only time I can get a little 'rabid' is when I hear a woman repeat things her doctor told her that are LIES. Like "there are no docs in (our city) that do VBAC's"

The Deranged Housewife said...

I don't know that I consider you a "quiet" advocate - you're right out there on the 'front lines'! :D

I guess what I'm saying is, rather than quiet, you hear no voice at all. I don't expect these women to be swinging from the rooftops, touting their birth experiences, but I don't know that anything's ever been said, other than their name is on 'some list.' Where is the support? The encouragement? Why doesn't Meryl Streep ever say, "Ya know, I had four homebirths myself, and I honestly don't see what all this 'birth is dangerous!' stuff is about!"


Heather Griffith Brewer said...

I remember being a kid and Cybil Shepherd was searching high and low for a doctor to deliver her twins vaginally.
Being as loud as I am, I have a hard time speaking out. I throw things out there and I try to be available when/if a woman is interested in talking or asking questions. I think the hardest part for me is hearing the horror stories that women tell each other...and really how do you critique a womans birth experience? I find the sheep mentality very depressing and I struggle with trying to educate without being overbearing. We can't protect women from themselves, and many women are blinded by their faith in their doctors.
I do wish celebrities were more outspoken about their experiences. If they realized that many women and babies need as much consideration and protection as our animals or our planet, then maybe it would be more important.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I was going to mention Cybill Shepard in another post - sort of off in a category by herself with Kate Winslet, maybe. I didn't know the backstory on her birth but I do know she did have the twins vaginally. Even then, that was probably considered a rarity. Sure, positioning can be a problem, but I've read often that once a vertex twin A is born, it makes it much easier for breech twin B to pass through safely. I know also from the stories of others, as well as my own experience, that that stubborn baby can turn at the last minute.

i do wonder, though, if not for the birthing community as a whole, if these celebs are going to advocate for their own daughters when the time arrives. Meryl Streep's kids are probably on the verge of having their own. So are Cybill Shepard's. Their daughters are grown up women now, and I wonder if their mothers will "pass the torch" on to them.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I found the article, Heather, and posted it on my FB fan page. :D

Joelle said...

I'm glad you aren't a "quiet" advocate. You and several other bloggers have inspired me to find a VBAMC-friendly doctor with my next child!

The Deranged Housewife said...

Thank you for your kind words. :) And also know that you are not alone - I am considering having another baby, and thus would also be a VBAMC hopeful as well! We're all in this together! :D

Rachel O. said...

My friends know how I feel about birth. I have some friends that I would like to shake until their teeth rattle because they feel that their doctor knows best and they don't do any research on their own, but I state my opinion and leave it at that. I have another (college) friend who is very interested in birth. I've been trying to talk her into "coming home" for a homebirth with a reknowned midwife for babe #4. This particular midwife trained my homebirth midwife and has vaginally delivered 500+ breech babes.