Fear Itself

There are two things that are a bit at odds with one another when preparing for a baby. On one hand, you are told to try and avoid stress. It causes tension, which can cause a host of other bodily discomforts. It causes blood sugar levels to rise, dangerous in the case of mothers with gestational diabetes. It’s just bad news. On the other hand, you are advised to keep yourself informed and prepared and information has a tendency to cause stress.

Learning to sift through the many info streams that are coming your way to find the tidbits that are helpful is a tricky art. Allow me to impart a bit of wisdom that has guided me through many years of heavy internet browsing and maintain my sanity: never read the comments. Ever. You may find yourself reading an elucidating article by an erudite author and figure that the readership may have some worthwhile input that can expand upon the topic. You are wrong. Just go along about your business and open another webpage. There are lots of them! Some aren’t about porn!

This rule includes most forums as well, as they are really just extended comment sections. Janelle and I recently had to agree that she would stop reading through the forums on The Bump. While browsing through to get some information and read about experiences of other mothers with gestational diabetes, she found herself in the High Risk Pregnancy area of the forum. She found herself reading posts from mothers who, in their forum signature (a bit of text and/or graphics that tails every post they make, much like an e-mail signature would) have photos of their premature babies with captions detailing how they died shortly thereafter. Mothers that, using an automated signature tool the forum has, list the dates that their stillborn children would have been had they survived. And, as you would expect, the posts in this area are filled with the kind of horror stories that will keep a mother up at night.

But you can trust books, right? They’re filled with facts and information meant to inform you and make you safe. Well… not always. The world of pregnancy is fraught with warring factions. There’s vaginal delivery versus Cesarean. Breast milk versus formula. Day care versus home care. Bradley versus Lamaze. Books written in favor of any of these options tend to treat the opposing camp as if it were comprised mostly of sociopaths who only make the choices they make so that they can be in defiance of the natural order of things. Many of these books are thinly veiled propaganda.

We are taking a Bradley class currently, and I’m a fan of the major tenets of the system. Natural childbirth, a focus on relaxation techniques for the mother, a focus on nutrition and exercise to prepare the body for childbirth and an aversion to the use of drugs in childbirth. I don’t find any of the alternatives to these methods to be abhorrent. Janelle and I simply have a preference. So we signed up for a class. Imagine my surprise when, for our recent reading assignment between classes, I found that I was basically reading Dr. Bradley’s Little Red Book instead of a bit of background information regarding drugs used in childbirth.

The article begins by telling me that in 1987 an Associated Press article “linked teenage drug addiction to the use of childbirth drugs by their mothers” and that other reports have linked childbirth drugs to teen suicide. Correlation does not equal causality, for all you statisticians out there. Then, two inches below this on the page, it claims that 98% of children delivered are delivered with some form of drug administered. *insert spit take here* I was astonished. Child birth drugs cause teen drug use. Oh, and 98% of children are born using childbirth drugs. CLEARLY THERE IS A CONNECTION. With numbers like that, I could make a pretty convincing case that eating breakfast also causes teens to want to kill themselves.

The article then begins to discuss the so-called “-caine” drugs, thereby linking things like Novocain, epidural drugs and street drugs like cocaine. It then begins to reference cocaine-addicted mothers who reported that their drug use resulted in a passive baby that fueled their own resentment of the child. In the next sentence, it makes the lofty assertion that if street “-caine” drugs are unsafe, how can any “-caine” drugs be safe? Then it casually tosses in the idea that taking these drugs could result in later child abuse. Really? Really? You’re making the assertion that habitual drug abusers using an unregulated and un-dosed amount of an illegal narcotic is the same as a one-time, carefully controlled application by a trained profressional in a medical setting? I understand that you want me to really try and avoid drugs during the pregnancy, but please do not insult my intelligence with fear-mongering.

Okay, okay. I’m done ranting. Maybe.

Beware your source. Take the information you gather with a grain of salt. Do not spend your time terrifying yourself or believing that everything you read is the gospel truth. Most literature based around a particular birthing practice is intended to educate and baptize. You are meant to spread the good word of your chosen method and to renounce the evils of all other practices. But really, it’s all about you. Just because some other woman had a horrible experience does not mean you will. You want to give birth in your bathtub? Go for it. Is your pain tolerance so low you need an epidural? Load it up. You’re having your baby and no one else’s and there are so many mitigating factors involved in every individual birth that it is just this side shy of totally useless to be concerned about what happened in any other scenario.

Fit the education to you, not the other way around.

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