The name alone gives rise to visions of wild and naked pregnant women prancing through a field of perfectly executed birth plans that rustle in the breeze like so many judgemental Facebook whispers.
Yet it’s a vibrant online community of women who believe that their way of doing ‘birth’ isn’t just a little bit better, but actively superior than all other methods of birthing.
What The Hell Is Free Birthing?
Free birthing, called unassisted birthing in the less trendy circles of the internet, involves birthing a baby with absolutely no outside assistance from a medical professional. Babies are birthed at home, with usually mum and dad present, and pretty much nobody else except your photographer who, for some reason, only shoots in film like it’s 1995.
There are no midwives, no doctors, and definitely no hospitals. Some free birth supporters also protest to any kind of medical intervention through the entire process of pregnancy, which means no scans, checkups or ultrasounds either.
Why would someone do this? Well, according to the free birth community, the more naturally a birth is, the better it is. And yes, they mean natural just like the cavemen did it all those years ago. Free birthers look at Caesareans as “birth rape” and think women in the third-world, where both maternal and neo-natal deaths remain tragically high, have the right idea.
Why Is It A Super Bad Idea?
Just imagine for a second you want to do something pretty dangerous, like bungee jumping. Seeing as your mum and her mum before her have bungee jumped, you feel that instinctively you, and gravity, will know what to do. Plus, you’ve watched a hell of a lot of YouTube videos.
So you decide to go it alone, setting up your own bungee cord and finding a suitable precipitous cliff to throw yourself from. What could go wrong?
Yep, that’s pretty much it. Except that instead of bungee jumping, it’s birthing a baby. Which is totally simple, never involves any complications, and is a positively joyous and orgasmic experience that ‘real mothers’ need to seek out in this medically saturated modern world.
Actually birth can be kinda a big deal, which is why having a medical professional on hand isn’t just suggested, it’s a god damn necessity. Of course, free birthers don’t think that, which is why they need to get over themselves.
Why I Hate It
In Australia, we are so much luckier than so many countries across the world. Yes, the cost of living is expensive, our politicians don’t imbue us with a sense of confidence, and things don’t always seem to have a silver lining. But we also have modern technology, amazing facilities, and opportunities that people in locations the world over couldn’t imagine.
That’s one of the reasons that I find free birthing such a useless concept. I understand that women want to claim their birth back from the medical establishment, but what you have to remember is that they’re not trying to own it at all. This idea that doctors, nurses and midwives are somehow stealing the thunder of birth away from you is wrong. In fact, it’s almost as wrong as a woman in a modern country like Australia choosing to give birth ‘paleo style’ in her home alone.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with home birthing. I can hardly argue against it, having entered the world in a home birth situation myself. Birthed in a tub on the floor of my parents’ bedroom, my entrance sounds pretty similar to a free birth.
Oh, except there was a professional midwife there, because we weren’t crazy people.
It was a good thing too, because I was a 10-pound baby and got stuck on the way out, an unusual complication called shoulder dystocia. The expert midwife almost had to break my collarbone to stop me from suffocating. Had my mum been by herself with just my dad supporting her, I would likely have died, all because my shoulder was stuck behind her pelvic bone.
That’s why I can’t condone a dangerous practice like free birthing. Yes, birth is a natural phenomenon, something to be celebrated and maybe even enjoyed. But like all natural phenomenon, it’s inherently impossible to predict, particularly if (like hard core free birthers), you also refuse neo-natal checks and regular doctor’s appointments.
Complications that would be small in a hospital setting can quickly become a big deal when you have nobody on hand familiar with the medical complexities of giving birth. Maybe a woman’s body does inherently know what to do in order to birth their baby, but the fact is that women can’t just instinctively think their way out of a haemorrhage, or any of the other complications associated with birth.
So please, by all means embrace a joyous birth, but don’t do it in a way that might put you and your child at risk. If you want to home birth, properly assess, with your doctor’s help, the risk factor of your pregnancy, and make a decision accordingly. And always, always, always, make sure you have experts on hand who actually know what they’re doing in a medical sense, not just an instinctual one.