How many times have we heard this?
The most important thing in birth is that you have a healthy baby at the end of it.
Yes, a healthy baby is the most important part. But is it the only important part?
"At least you have a healthy baby" is a comment that often follows after a woman has shared details of her traumatic birth. Trauma can come in many forms, and means different things to different people. For some women, it will be around not feeling listened to and respected during their labour, while for other women it is around the things that were done "to them" during their labour and birth - perhaps with consent, perhaps without.
In today's day and age, we are very fortunate. We don't have the high maternal and neonatal mortality that we experienced in years gone by.
We are grateful for antibiotics, sanitation, good education, literacy, nutrition, skilled and qualified midwives and obstetricians, hospitals and medications. These have all resulted in safer childbirth for mothers and babies.
With maternal and neonatal mortality as low as it is, perhaps we are entitled to shift the focus to the emotional experience of birth for the mother and baby.
So how come we still have such low expectations of our births? We don't dare to plan an active, natural, drug-free birth because it might not happen and we might feel we have failed. We have low expectations of our bodies, it seems, and we're certain we'll "fail" at birth.
Do we have this mindset in any other aspect of life?
Do we fail to plan our day or our wedding or moving house because it might not happen quite the way we have planned and then we might feel we have failed?
Rather, we take a different approach: we have plans, but we back them up with research, knowledge, evidence and experience and we have contingency plans. We know the parts that our in our control, and we know what is not in our control. And none of this stops us from making plans, for we know that if we made no plans, we would be certain not to get what we want.
Why does all of this matter in birth?
Many women don't know that there is a growing body of knowledge that birth matters for a child's development and for mother-baby bonding.
The best predictor of a child's wellbeing, educational attainment, mental health and happiness is the quality of the bond that forms between the mother and baby following birth. Confident, empowered mothers birthing with respectful and compassionate care leads to confident and empowered mothering. Birth is so much more than merely having a healthy baby.
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