"A Healthy Baby Is All That Matters" (Or is it?)

A blogger from Our Green Nest recently said something that I can't stop thinking about, "It's so sad that many people still don't see the importance of the birth experience...they think that as long as the baby is healthy that's ALL that matters...obviously that's the most important thing, but nearly as important is the overall experience - for the mom and baby."

For a long time, I've said that phrase: "well, a healthy baby is all that matters." I said it to comfort friends - who had an unexpected Cesarean or who had an epidural when they were hoping for a natural birth. I thought I believed it in my heart of hearts.

baby-feetBut I don't believe it anymore. A healthy baby IS the most important outcome, of course, but it certainly is not "all that matters." On the contrary, the birth experience matters a lot - perhaps more than we would like to think. It is the beginning of a new life, of motherhood...and the more peaceful it is, the more natural it is - the better it is.

In the next few posts, I will write about birth in hopes that we - as mothers - can have respectful conversations about birth. About what it means to us. About what it is...and what it should be.

And the maternity care system should be different than it is in America:

  • The Cesarean rate shouldn't be 31.8% (nearly 1 in 3 women).
  • The US shouldn't rank 29th worldwide in infant mortality (nearly 7 U.S. babies die of every 1,000 live births).
  • Inductions and epidurals shouldn't be the norm.

One thing is sure: the maternity care system is broken in this country - and we all have a responsibility to help fix it. Even if it's just by the choices we make.

The upcoming posts in this series may not be politically correct. But they will be sincere and tempered with grace. I hope you'll participate in the conversation.

Because a healthy baby isn't "all that matters." Even if that's what everybody says.

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12 comments on “"A Healthy Baby Is All That Matters" (Or is it?)”

  1. 5 epidurals,5 breast fed babies ,weaned to a cup,no guilt about my north experiences in the hospital with my OB who I love! 2 shoulder distotias, handled by him so no newborn trauma,5 vaginal deliveries ! I am educated nurse, seen a lot of sick babies, everyone blames the Dr for birth problem, lots of lawsuits! We saboyt that!hould talk

  2. Excellent post. Birth DOES matter, Mothers matter.

    I had a cesarean for my first child, because I was uneducated and went in for an unnecessary induction at barely 41 weeks for being "overdue". Needless to say I was labeled as FTP and CPD.

    I HATED my cesarean. I felt less of a woman- I knew i could had my "too big" son vaginally if given time. I later learned my OB was "cut happy".

    My experience inspired me to create my site BirthCut, where mothers and fathers can tell their VBAC and c/s stories, post art, poetry, etc. Whatever they want that helps them heal.

    Lots of people don't seem to understand why we feel the way we do about our cesareans. It is usually met with "all that matters is a healthy baby" and "just get over it". We are labeled narcissistic and selfish. FAR from the truth.

    I am actually writing an article about this in the AIMS Journal. About birth trauma, and how women have the right to express themselves.

    US maternity "care" is appalling. Women lack choices. We are forced into repeat cesareans, coerced into primary ones, subjected to unnecessary intervention, etc.

    Thank you for writing about this.

  3. Coming to this late. I was induced after my daughter was ten days overdue. I did not want to be induced and in fact I canceled it three times before finally succumbing to the ob's pushy requests. I had read enough to understand that induction often leads to c-section and in my case that is exactly what happened. My daughter's heart rate went way up after I was in labor for 24 hours and I had not dilated much at all. She was fine, but I always felt like I was pushed into the situation and wonder if a c-section would have been necessary had they allowed me to go naturally. Thanks for a great topic.

  4. Well thank you for quoting me :)...I'm honored. Great post and of course I agree...Sadly nearly every c-section that you hear about "HAD" to occur for this health reason or that...and sometimes, they are of course necessary but oftentimes not unfortunately. The birth experience is SOOO important to the overall physical and emotional health of the mom (and baby) as well as to the recovery and it's most often overlooked. Anyway, I really look forward to your future posts on this!!! People are VERY easily offended though by this topic (obviously since it's so personal), but I think you already know that :). Be back soon...

  5. Wow....hmmm...that's so hard.... (and I've had almost 10 years of experience working as an OB/NICU nurse)
    You know I had a C section (thankfully) since my son was posterior and stuck and starting to have decels (drops in his heart rate). I would have loved to have a natural birth but I am thankful that he was born healthy. If I would have waited I don't know what would have happened (but I can definitely speculate). Thankfully I had a skilled OB. I did have guilt about having a c section...why couldn't I have delivered naturally? What was wrong with me? Those questions crossed my mind and I had to deal with them (and I was hormonal!). But honestly....what helped me get through that was the fact that things could have been different. I could have waited...and it could have become an emergent situation....it was heading that way...so while I don't agree with the alarming c section rate in this country...or the routine use of inductions/epidurals....I feel like there is an important place for all of those interventions. I'm glad I had a skilled physician who told me when intervention was necessary. I'm glad my son is healthy and normal....And that is what gets me through the fact that I had to have a c section and my body couldn't do it naturally... I think that women can look at their birth experience positively even if they have a c section or were induced or had an epidural...does that make sense? Am I totally going to be criticized in the comments? LOL!

  6. This is an excellent discussion topic. I wanted to have a natural birth with my first baby because I knew that since that was the "natural" way - it would probably be better all the way around for baby and me. Unfortunately I have a problem with tumors and had the option of having a natural birth - followed immediately by basically a c-section to remove the tumors or just having a c-section. I opted to just have the c-section. Fortunately my OB scheduled the surgery only 4 days before my due date and my water broke 3 days before that so I at least have the peace of knowing that she was born when she should have been born.

    I'm pregnant with #2 now and have more tumors and will have another c-section. I also will be taking permanent measures to make sure that I don't get pregnant again, because I don't want to put my body through another c-section.

    C-section's are not the birthing method I would have chosen for my babies, but since there is a reason for them that goes beyond the baby I've been able to cope with it and only feel a tiny bit disappointed that I will never experience natural birth. For me, it is more important that my babies are healthy and that the doctors do what is necessary to help me stay healthy than that I have a natural birthing experience.

    I have to agree though - there are way too many c-sections in our country and way too many other medical interventions.

  7. My hospital birth almost entirely lined up with the birth center side of your list. I think it really pays to have your desires clearly communicated to your OB and nurses. And to make sure (before delivery!) that your OB is someone who will comply with those wishes (as the situation permits).
    But next time I want to give the birth center a try(for the cost, too!).

  8. My friend had her baby about 6 months ago and she had a c-section. She had only been laboring for 10 hours and they suddenly started worrying about the heart rate and said she needed a c-section, however I saw the heart rate and everything looked normal to me, I am not a nurse or anything but I know about pregnancy and stuff and it was only dropping during contractions and would go back up after. It wasn't an emergency c-section either they took their time with getting her ready and in there and nobody acted hurried, the doctor was laughing and making jokes while my friend sat there in silence tuning everything out because she didn't want it done and every time I tried to ask questions for her or get her attention so she could ask them they just ignored me. Sometimes I think doctors just don't want to take the time to wait for the baby to come so they just decide when it has been long enough and do a c-section. Then there is a fact that a lot of nurses in maternity are ill educated. One nurse told my cousin that breast milk can give the baby jaundice! I was outraged, how can these people who know nothing be allowed to even talk to a patient and spread false information?

  9. This raises some really good points!! I'll say, in a tiny bit of a defense for the medical professionals in this country, that we have such a high infant mortality rate because of all the technology available (and, frankly, really dumb restrictions on abortions), doctors here are more likely to attempt to deliver in high-risk pregnancies than in other countries. A lot of women come to the US from other countries with their high-risk pregnancies. It all adds up and makes our infant mortality rate high.

  10. Couldn't have worded it better! When I unexpectedly had a c-section at 35 weeks, 6 days only to later find out the ultrasound technician was very off in her estimation of my daughters size I had a lot of hard feelings about it. It took me quite some time to accept it as it was because the experience I had was far from the natural birth I wanted.

    So many people made me feel guilty and selfish for being upset about my birth experience, but in the end what helped me through it was understanding that it was OK to be upset and morn the experience I missed out on. Does that mean I would have rather held out at the risk my daughter might not be a healthy newborn? Absolutely not, but consequently I never got to experience labor or birth and I didn't get to see my daughter for the first time until several hours after she was born -- why shouldn't I feel disappointed? Thanks for posting this. I think its so important for other women to realize.

  11. I agree that the cesarean rate is outrageously high in this country. It is definitely a blessing for women whose bodies can't seem to bear children naturally but I think doctors cop out far too soon in the labor process for many women who would have been fine delivering naturally if given just a little more time.

    I haven't thought much about inductions or epidurals being a bad thing. I was induced with number three for the first time and only one day early. I wouldn't have fought for it so much except that I knew I would be having another huge baby and was afraid of having to have a cesarean if she was too large. Luckily she came out naturally at 10 lbs. 2 oz.

    As for epidurals I don't think they're an evil but I do think they may hinder the recovery process. I can't compare my second birth recovery to my first (since with my first I had a broken tailbone and a 4th degree tear and recovery would have been and was awful no matter what) but with my second I was given an epidural but it never took so I basically labored and delivered naturally. Oh that ring of fire! Ow. But recovery was so quick and easy! With my third the epidural worked wonderfully but I definitely wasn't on my feet as fast after the birth.

    It's so difficult to say what is right and what's not since every woman's body is so different. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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