When all people can see is black or white
The way I do things
VBAC Facts communicates differently than many others who speak or write about birth. Rather than advocating for a specific decision, I advocate for access to information. Specifically, the mission of VBAC Facts is to close the gap between what the best practice guidelines from ACOG and the NIH say about VBAC and repeat cesarean and what people generally believe.
In meeting this goal, VBAC Facts makes hard-to-find, interesting, and pertinent information relative to post-cesarean birth options easily accessible to the people who seek it. VBAC Facts does not advocate for a specific mode of delivery, birth attendant or birth location. Because of this stance, sometimes people are a little confused. They are accustomed to outspoken advocates (arguing for either the pro or con) urging them to have a certain type of birth at a prescribed location with a specific type of birth attendant – or none at all.
VBAC Facts is occasionally labeled as pro-this/anti-that because I periodically will not agree with someone. If someone supplies incorrect statistics, uses faulty logic, or uses the dreaded terms “always/never,” I pipe up and give my perspective and a source corroborating my stance. You may (or may not) be surprised how often this interjection is interpreted as anti- or pro-[insert method of birth, place of birth or type of birth attendant here.]
Perhaps people interpret my realistic/practical approach to things as anti-_________. I like to debunk myths. I like to question the conventional wisdom. This can frustrate people because these myths give them (misplaced) confidence. Conventional wisdom can be confused for evidence because “everyone knows _____ is true.”
I acknowledge the various risks and benefits that come with our birth choices. I do this because I think that women are intelligent enough to hear “these are the risks and benefits of XYZ” rather me dictating “make XYZ choice.”
I also tend to avoid the often hollow sounding, “It will all be fine” or “I had a VBAC, so should every woman!” To some people, that comes off as anti-this/pro-that… but for me, it’s a fair look at our choices.
I think sometimes people start to look at a specific mode of birth/birth location/type of birth attendant with rose-colored glasses. They try to minimize the risks associated with their “choice of choice” in an attempt to advocate for others to make similar decisions whether that is VBAC, repeat cesarean, home or hospital birth. (Everyone has an agenda!!)
But minimizing risks deprives women of their right to informed consent and that is really no different than individuals who exaggerate risk. I don’t advocate for women to birth a certain way in a certain location.
A big part of my philosophy is based on the fact that I have a website and a large readership. I don’t want anyone to ever come back to me after a bad outcome and say, “You misled me.” I feel an obligation to be honest and truthful about the pros and cons of options as well as the quality and quantity of research available to us. Women often feel misled by their HCPs [health care providers]. I don’t want to be part of that misinformation machine.
My mission is simple: to make hard-to-find, interesting, and pertinent information relative to post-cesarean birth options easily accessible to the people who seek it.
I do this because I think the information speaks for itself. It doesn’t need a cheerleader! It doesn’t need someone to stretch the truth! Just someone to say, “Read this!”
My tips for birth advocates
Someone recently posted in a group asking how they can get involved with birth advocacy. Other members and myself directed them to a variety of organizations like ICAN, Improving Birth, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women, the ACLU, and Human Rights in Childbirth.
There are many roads to the same destination. You can advocate right now by going on message boards and simply pointing people to accurate information when they ask questions. Sometimes all they need is to see a little bit that suggests what they have accepted as “truth” is the opposite of what major medical organizations, public health professionals, and medical researchers support and recommend.
Take home message
I have said many times, “Birth is not one size fits all.” As ACOG says, two women can look at the exact same information and make very different choices. There is not a Right or Wrong decision for all women, just a right or wrong decision for a specific woman. That is her decision to make based on information, not bullying or hysteria.
What do you think?
Leave a comment.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Jen Kamel is the founder of VBAC Facts, an educational, training and consulting firm. As a nationally recognized VBAC strategist and consumer advocate, she has been invited to present Grand Rounds at a hospital, served as an expert witness in a legal proceeding, and has traveled the country educating hundreds of professionals and highly motivated parents. Even more have accessed her trainings online. She speaks at national conferences and has worked as a legislative consultant in various states focusing on midwifery legislation and regulations. She has testified multiple times in front of the California Medical Board and legislative committees on the importance of VBAC access and is the Secretary for the California Association of Midwives and the California Association of Licensed Midwives. Her favorite flavor of ice cream is peanut butter chocolate. And mint chip. And coffee.