Beware the Hive Mind!

A stranger on the internet says: I chose a great birth center to have my baby in, but as of this morning they say that I’ve risked out. I don’t want to have my baby in the hospital. So, I’m reading a few things about unassisted homebirth, and I’m thinking that my husband and I can do this ourselves. We’re planning to call the paramedics when I’m delivering so that they can be there to help.

A hundred people in reply say:  Heck yeah! That’s a great idea! You can do it! Don’t let them bully you!

Another stranger on the internet says: My sister’s doctor says that she needs to be induced tomorrow. I’m trying to talk her out of it. How long should I tell her she can wait?

Another hundred people say: Tell her not to show up! Wait as long as she wants. I know someone who went three weeks after her due date, and she’s just fine!

And here on the other end of the screen, I sit on my hands.

I can’t believe that I even need to say that this is a bad idea on so many levels.

We have NO other information about these mamas. We don’t know why the practitioner that she knows and has chosen to trust with her medical care is advising her to make this decision. We don’t know what her birth center has said, or why the OB is concerned enough to think that the baby is suddenly safer on the outside. We know nothing of test results, or mama’s health, or signs that the baby may need help.

As a birth community, when we advise blindly to ignore medical recommendations, we are just as much in the wrong as the practitioners who apply all interventions to everyone regardless of need.

As doulas, childbirth educators, or even online birth junkies, it’s great to encourage and support. Mamas no doubt need the community around them who is willing to say “You are so strong! You can do this!”  Yes, we are in this together seeking to learn, and sometimes, we might know information that is relevant and useful.  However – these decisions should never be left to the opinion of strangers on the internet. When we cross the line into saying, “Don’t listen to anyone!”, we are taking the risk of jeopardizing the wellbeing of a mother and baby we don’t know. This is a serious breech of ethics.

We may be a lot of wise women, but we do not possess the collective wisdom to know what is best for a person that we have never met, that we cannot see, who has been advised by a practitioner that we don’t know, about medical facts that haven’t been shared.

My answer?

Mama needs to talk with her practitioner. Ask the benefits. Ask the risks. Ask the alternatives. Ask if doing nothing is an option. Then, make her own best choice. No hive mind needed.

 

8 thoughts on “Beware the Hive Mind!

  1. You are so right. I make sure to avoid using absolutes for anything, often using qualifiers like “if” and using studies, laws or professional organization recommendations instead of my own personal opinion since we really don’t know the real deal! It’s the difference between saying “well, my cousin was born healthy at 43 weeks so you should just say no to induction for being overdue and have an unassisted birth!” and “well, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that if mom and baby are not showing signs of issues through available testing methods, you are not considered post dates until 42 weeks and one day. After that, induction may be an option to be considered if testing shows that baby might do better on the outside. A review of data on births past 42 weeks showed around a 1% increase in stillbirth rates. Discuss this with your care provider and see what other options you may have at this point before making a decision.”

  2. What a wonderful reminder!! As a doula I am even very cautious when I do know lots of personal information and have been there with the DR or Midwife. Ultimately, they have protocol and I cannot stand in the way of that. Not to mention, when you choose a provider you are choosing to play in their court. I heard these same things and it scares me for Moms and Babies to go rouge without being fully prepared. Point to the evidence and let mom talk with her provider is always the best policy.

  3. Very, very true. There are times when a mom needs to know that it is okay to ask more questions, seek other options, but we need to be careful with absolutes and always, always defer that the care provider likely knows best. There is often a reason that they are saying that. Don’t jump to conclusions!

  4. Social media can be quite dangerous; far too often women post vague questions and well wishers post direct opinions. We need to be telling mamas, “use your BRAINS!!” Ask benefits, risks, alternatives; use your intuition, explore “what if you do nothing?” and take time to discuss! Uninformed decisions are just that, uninformed. Finding balance on the spectrum of western medicine and natural birth is essential and only mama and family can do that, not outsiders.

    I feel encouragement for mothers nervous for their vbac or other upcoming birth is very helpful but advice should definitely not be handed out so lightly.

  5. These are the things I complain to my husband about late at night (as he is trying to fall asleep). I see this daily and it frustrates me to no end. If I poke my nose in these “conversations” then I’m often poo-poo’d for not following the in-crowd. I’ve taken myself out of most mother’s groups for this very reason.

    Women need to be confident in themselves and in their choices. They need to talk to their care providers and other experts in the field to get the best information so they can make a choice for themselves.

    Too many people speak, without really listening.

    • Every woman wants to feel supported, Deena, and when their emotions are running high, of course they want you to agree with them. (You probably know this better than anyone.) I’m sorry groups have voiced their frustration with you when you voiced your opinion. Having worked with you in class, I can say that putting safety first ultimately makes you more trustworthy, even if you give an answer that may not be what we Moms-to-be want to hear. I’d be far more likely to give you a call for advice than I would a friend, and it’s because I know you want to see me and my baby come out of our experience healthy and happy. Goes to show you’re in the right line of work. Online forums or blogs can result in you being misunderstood or taken out of context, but in face-to-face classes, your goal of healthy babies and families is clearly communicated.

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