What does it mean to you?  What are you willing to put yourself at risk for?  What about your baby?

I have the distinct impression that we have become a society of people very scared of risk.  A few hundred years ago, most every family lost children and family members much earlier than we often lose them today.  I wonder if they were able to take those things more in stride, and simply accept death as a part of life that can not be avoided, no matter how painful it may be. 

Today there is lots of talk about risk-

If you vaccinate you risk damaging your child.  If you don't you risk disease.

Home birth risks death or damage to the mother or baby if something happens that could have been helped quickly in the hospital.  Hospital birth risks high c-section rates, high induction rates, high medication rates and all the risks attendant to those interventions. 

VBAC or repeat scheduled c-section?  Induction or postdate pregnancy?  Gestational diabetes- to test or not to test?  Group B strep.  Test? Treat? Forget about it?  The choices are endless.


But I have a revolutionary idea:

There are risks no matter what we choose.  There is no way to completely eliminate risk.

Really- there will always be risks no matter what we choose.  Do you want to know why?  Because we can't control everything.  We like to think we can, but we are wrong.  Birth has a funny way of teaching women that control is out of our hands.  It prepares us for the humility required of a mother. 

I love natural birth.  I have had three births outside of a hospital, one unassisted.  To some degree I trust my bodies ability to give birth.  That does not mean however that I "trust birth" blindly.  I believe that birthing has some degree of inherent risk.  I believe that risk exists no matter where I birth.  I believe that the risks may be slightly different depending on where I choose to birth, but there is risk no matter where I birth. 

When I decided where to give birth, I considered risks- FOR ALL MY CHOICES.  There is always risk. 

I hope that was clear, because it seems like those on either side of any argument are convinced that choosing what they choose is always safer and what other people choose is always riskier.  I believe that in reality this is false.  There are risks either way, they might be different, but they can never be totally eliminated. 

I feel blessed beyond measure that the risks I took paid off.  I am grateful that I always had a good outcome and that my care providers were able to help me professionally if I needed it and leave me alone if I didn't.  It is of course horrifying if what we choose does not end well.  Death, damage, pain, and many other negative side effects are a possibility no matter what we choose though. 

Maybe it is time we realized that there is risk to all choices.  Maybe it is time we all opened our eyes to the FACT that there is no 100% guarantee that all women and all babies will emerge from birth happy, healthy and alive. 

Risk is ugly, but it is our constant companion, no matter what we choose.  Lucky for us we are free to choose our risk. 

Also luckily for us, no matter what we choose, the risks today for women and babies who are well cared for and birthing in the United States of America are fairly low.  Different studies will show different levels of risk, even on the same subject.  Statistics can be interpreted and thrown out in may different ways, but what it comes down to is this: we will most likely survive and our children will most likely survive the risks of childbirth.

We live in a blessed time with many choices open to us.  I hope we can all choose wisely the option that is safest for us, and let others choose their own risk.  Let us not go blindly down any pathway, whether it be towards home birth or hospital or any of the other choices we have as mothers.  And lets forgive ourselves when we make the wrong choice.  Risk happens. 


Angie said…
This is good. I have my very strong beliefs but as I get further into my education, and closer to being a birth attendant, I realize that it's not my job - nor will it ever be - to choose FOR my clients. I believe in having ALL of the information and making informed choices from there. It pains me when people blindly just do what they're told and don't seek out other opinions or do any research -- but when a woman is knowledgeable about birth, and herself, and knows what she wants, who are we to define which risks / choices are more "worth it" than others? My dearest friend birthed with a midwife, and the experience was awful, traumatic, incredibly scary ... literally, she almost died. It made me realize that all the planning in the world doesn't ensure a good outcome. Mama and baby (now 2) are both fine. But it was terrifying to know what she was going through. It changed my perspective about birth a LOT - but it also made me want, even more, to become a midwife ... to actually fulfill the promises I made to my clients.
Sara said…
Totally agree with all of this. Life is risky, and we take chances all of the time. We can only live with the risks that we are allowed to choose for ourselves, however. (Or at least I think so).
Jessi said…
Thank you, well said.
Anonymous said…
I wish I had been the one to write this. What a fantastic, and important, piece. This is EXACTLY how I feel, not only about birth, but about LIFE. There are no guarantees, and although that can be frightening to come to terms with, it is also freeing in its own way, because every moment is a fleeting gift. Thank you for saying what I have never yet been able to put into words as eloquently as this.
cindy said…
Love! It doesn't seem that revolutionary to me. I almost wrote something very similar. Seems like you've got it covered, so I'll move on to my next project :).
Totally agree with this post. There is some level of risk in everything we do. I find that in some of these issues, the level of risk is a trade off and somehow, we can accept certain risks over others because it's been done before and deemed safe. Casual attitudes about surgical births and inductions only feed into that, making us think they are totally risk-free because they're so commonplace; not so. This reflects on those who don't want to birth that way, but because everyone considers it "no big deal" we are all essentially forced into accepting risks we don't want to take because someone else says we should.

It's interesting though the level of risk that one is willing to take with a repeat cesarean, for instance, and not a VBAC. You are trading one set for another, I think. And it's stunning to hear how "safe cesareans are" but people are only considering the short-term risk, not the long-term. :(