What You Should Know About My Birth Biases

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Yes, I have biases. Do I consider myself a non-judgmental birth worker? Also yes, but judgments are not the same as biases. All human beings operate with inherent biases.

So, how much do biases actually matter in the birth space? The answer is, I think, as much as you want them to. My agenda is still your agenda. I will hold your hand, both figuratively and literally, through anything you come up against. I trust you know yourself best, and I acknowledge your decisions are yours to make. Your own biases are yours to have.

My work is founded on non-judgmental support — not completely unbiased support. It would be dishonest to pretend my heart doesn’t go thump-a-thump under certain conditions and give me pause of caution in others. But even in those scenarios that possibly require me to regroup, I’m a pro at the regrouping because I want you to feel honored, respected, and seen — your birth is about you, not my or anyone else’s biases. I focus on helping you feel confident in whatever YOU want to be part of your own story.

Without further ado, I give you… my birth biases:

I think everyone (even doulas!) should have a doula.

This seems like an obvious bias considering I’m a doula myself, but I will say, I wouldn’t be a doula if I didn’t 110% believe in the difference doula support can make in better mental, emotional, and physical health outcomes for pregnant and birthing people. There are many types of doulas with different approaches — there’s a perfect doula for every birthing person! Your match is out there, so go find them. You won’t be sorry when you do.

I think birth photos are pretty important.

Unfortunately I have no talents in the art of photography, but I do love the medium!

Some say they don’t care about getting birth photos, or they won’t want to look at them. Sure, I get it, photos aren’t everyone’s thing… BUT, in ten, twenty, fifty years, are you certain you’ll feel the same? I always say it’s better to have options. Maybe one day your child will ask about their birth and hope for a visual aid. And if you get some photos, you don’t have to look at them! But it might be nice to know you can… if you wanna.

I think photography helps “pull things together” from a storyline standpoint and can even help with healing from traumatic events (if you’re worried about photos being triggering, remember — you need not look at them).

Whenever possible, I try my best to snap photos for my clients during special moments (like a loving embrace between the new parents, first latch, cutting the cord). Sometimes couples who originally insisted they didn’t care about birth photos thanked me later for capturing those moments.

Also, you don’t need to spend tons of money on a professional photographer to capture a few treasured memories (though if photos are important to you and you’ve got the resources to invest, don’t feel guilty for booking that fancy pro-photog!).

I’m a fan of natural birth.

I can’t help it — I think the sights and sensations of unmedicated birth are pretty wild in the best of ways.

During my intervention-free birth, I loved manifesting the feelings of “bigness” from my own body. I loved being able to funnel feelings of overwhelm into something productive. I loved the intense power of labor rushing through me like ocean tides. I wanted to feel ALL of it and I welcomed whatever nature had in store for me. So, yep, I definitely believe in the potential of natural birth to transform and heal people.

Though, surgical birth is still a birth. Medicated labor is still labor. Amazing memories can still be made here. I’ve seen epidurals used for excellent reasons, allowing laboring people to have births free from painful, stressful, scary memories. An epidural can mean a peaceful birth instead of a traumatic one. And this should be the standard of care, really: taking whatever actions are requested to preserve a positive birth event, ensure safety, and prevent suffering wherever possible.

For many people, natural birth is not their thing. If that’s you, great — I say kudos for knowing yourself and aiming for what feels right to you. While I’m a fan of natural birth, I’m also a fan of you having alternatives.

I like for interventions to be necessary or the birth giver’s choice.

In regard to birth in general, I appreciate these lessons: Nature knows what it’s doing. Your body has its reasons. Babies have a mysterious schedule of their own.

Labor starting on its own makes me happy. With trust in what we cannot see, and patience as we wait for the plan to be revealed in its own time… labor happens. Yes, sliding into labor really can be as simple as conjuring the emotional fortitude needed to seat oneself deeper and deeper into an “overdue” pregnancy.

Until it’s not that simple, of course! For all its ultimate simplicity, a lot of complex cogs are working to get this wheel going. Sometimes labor waves need to strengthen by a certain day, yet your body remains quiet. Sliding into labor becomes a dimmer and dimmer possibility. Then medical induction is on the table.

To be real with you, I think the Cascade of Interventions (which often begins with induction) harms babies and birth givers in ways we have yet to fully understand. I don’t want you to leave your birth with more questions than you had going in, or worries about the later-term impacts of interventions (necessary or not).

Remember I talked about how simple the “labor happens” thing can often be? With every medical intervention, we move away from nature’s intention of gifting a birth giver with the most seamlessly evolved version of this biological process.

Mind you, the availability of said interventions also warrants a leap for joy — not every birth is on a parallel track with “nature’s intention.” In fact, many are not. And while various medical interventions do raise risk of unnecessary cesarean, it certainly doesn’t guarantee such an outcome.

A quality childbirth class will help you learn about the necessary medical reasons for induction and other interventions (and the frequently-used “convenience” excuses falsely framed as emergencies). Know the difference and make your own informed choice from there.

Home birth holds a special place in my heart.

I had an awesome home birth and I loved it top to bottom and all around! It’s not just me — I’ve seen other families thoroughly enjoy similar experiences.

When I attend a home birth, I feel the energetic pulse of thousands of years’ worth of women bringing life into the world at home. There is an art, a tradition, a generational thumbprint in the labor work done in one’s own intimate, personal space. The home birth experience can really be a night and day difference compared to what the typical hospital setting can offer.

I also had a hospital birth myself and I feel that was where I needed to be at the time. I do completely acknowledge that a hospital is the best birth place for many people in myriad circumstances. All births are special, no matter where they happen — and I’m really not just saying that.

I’d like to see patriarchal influences disappear from the modern birthscape.

Now, I’m not saying men don’t belong at births (quite the opposite — dads, we need you)! I’m saying misogyny has no place in birth. I’m saying a liability-based care model isn’t written with a patient’s best interests in mind. I’m saying pregnancy and birth aren’t diseases and the culture of suspicion inspired by female reproductive functions is toxic. Most importantly, I’m saying taking advantage of birth givers in their most vulnerable state is a tradition I refuse to get behind.

Many first-time parents are surprised (or shocked) to learn how the politics of their birth place end up impacting their experience. Society’s media has already shaped our perception of birth as something requiring control, as a natural disaster that renders pregnant people powerless. We’re primed to believe we must succumb to the demands of authoritative figures for a successful birth when we should instead be lovingly encouraged to succumb to the energy of our own laboring power.

Why is a care provider’s dominance over laboring people so normalized we scarcely even notice the power dynamics at play? We say “they’ll let me do XYZ” like we should be kissing their feet for the gracious “letting,” or “I’m not allowed to XYZ” like valuing our bodily autonomy would be criminal. We tolerate being told what we can and can’t do with our own bodies because, especially as women, we’re ready to apologize for our imposition upon others. So we put up with the body-policing, emotional degradation, coercive language. All because we’ve been taught it’s okay — this is a birth place after all, and we’re just birth vessels for the only actual important thing, the baby, and it’s supposed to happen like this… right?

Well, I don’t put up with it, and I don’t want you to need to put up with it either.

I’m a little concerned when 20 family members are invited into the birth space.

There’s a reason they say for every extra person in the room, add an hour to labor. It’s no wonder, given the privacy, vulnerability, and intimacy needed for undisturbed birth.

I’ve seen laborers close up, shut down, or become self-conscious when family and friends show up unannounced. I’ve seen labors stall when excited relatives decide to hang out for hours in the waiting room, twiddling their thumbs and pacing impatiently. I’ve seen laborers become tense and distressed under the pressure to invite their whole family, who vocalize a “right” to be there.

Still, the presence of extended family helps some birth givers feel safe and reassured. I can’t know all the nuances of someone else’s family dynamics, so ultimately I believe the vision you have in regard to attendees. I just want you to believe in it and truly want it, too.

I think childbirth classes are more important than a lavish baby shower.

Eep, don’t hate me for this! I know, baby showers are exciting and fun and who doesn’t love a good theme? But listen, it’s one day, and birth is NOT “just one day.”

If your funds can swing quality childbirth classes AND a fancy shower, by all means — have that party, you deserving queen! If not, you aren’t alone. Many parents-to-be are needing to choose between a comprehensive birth education and an event space rental / themed shower decor / what have you. If you’ve allotted hundreds+ dollars toward a welcome party for baby, you may have little to no space left in your budget for birth classes.

Is someone else throwing you a big shower? Could they dial it back and donate a portion of intended funds toward birth classes? Can you really have your cake and eat it too? Hmm… something to think about!

Birth classes run by hospitals are supremely lacking.

Look, the goal of hospital-run birth classes is not to teach you what to expect from the birth process. They aim to tell you what they expect from you as an agreeable patient. A staff member (usually not a childbirth educator) will give you a spiel about “what we do here” and a rundown on Labor & Delivery floor policies. You’ll likely leave feeling like more of an expert on their job description than how to prepare for birth.

So basically, if you’re my doula client and I ask “Have you signed up for a birth class?” and you say “Yes, we registered for the 2-hour birth class at our hospital!” I take that as a no and make plans to ramp up childbirth ed in our prenatal meetings. Even that would be insufficient, however, as I do feel a separate comprehensive course is a real game changer, especially for first-time birthers or first-time natural birthers.

Another bias: I teach Birth Boot Camp classes and think their curriculum is pretty thorough and awesome. 🙂

I’m openly opposed to infant circumcision.

I’ve been volunteering as director of Intact Houston / Intact Texas since 2014 and have no plans to let my involvement in the genital autonomy cause fade away. If you’re invariably uncomfortable with the idea of hiring a doula who disagrees with this practice on an ethical level, I’m sorry to say I may not be the doula for you.

Can we agree to disagree? Of course. If you’re strongly in favor of circumcising your child, I won’t judge or shame you for your choice. I’m aware there are cultural and religious considerations of which I’ve not personally felt obliged to follow myself. Even if you’re a client, I don’t know your life story. My job is to trust you, but this dynamic only works if you trust me back.

However, you can expect I will still share educational resources with you. I also require that a Circumcision Risks & Outcomes Acknowledgement be read and signed by yourself and partner. I do not mean to cause offense with this approach. If you know it will be too upsetting to deal with, again, I may not be the doula for you and that’s okay.

I think breastfeeding is an incredible journey.

By “incredible” I mean just about every adjective in the English dictionary rolled into one. I think “incredible” just sort of sums things up!

I breastfed my first baby until he was no longer a baby (age six, actually) and am going the child-led weaning route with my second child, too (he’s four now). Yes, I’m aware many people think that’s something only weirdos do (I used to be one of those people!) and I’m also completely aware through first-person participation that breastfeeding is also, in fact, the most exasperatingly awful thing sometimes.

BUT.

It’s mostly just incredible. (<3 Insert alllll the heart emojis <3)

Nursing my children has brought so much substance, purpose, and empowerment to my life. I’ve learned to nurture myself through nursing my children. It hasn’t always been easy, and to be honest a lot of the time it wasn’t. It’s been quite a ride but I wouldn’t take back a single second.

That said, I’m at the tail-end of this journey and I know it’s easy for me to wax poetic with hindsight nostalgia. I only remember the hard times because I’ve written at length about them over the years. Infant feeding is rarely “easy” no matter how it’s done. Breast or otherwise, it’s always incredible though.

It’s important to me that marginalized groups see safer, better supported childbearing years.

For example, let’s start with BIPOC, trauma survivors, teenage and single parents, and members of the LGBTQIA community. There is a lot to unpack regarding issues faced by marginalized groups, too much to properly address in this post. I will just say I feel especially protective of those growing, birthing, and raising babies on the margins. Dignified treatment in childbearing years is for everyone, and I think we all need to find our own way to actively become part of the solution.

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This blog post was inspired by this fantastic post by fellow Birth Boot Camp Instructor / birth worker Kristi Keen.

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