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.
Neonatal and perinatal death rates for the world, via WHO (page 18 has an easy to read chart)