Friday, March 11, 2016

Reflections on “Better Than a Birth Plan”

In a recent Desiring God article, Jenni Naselli expresses some of her concerns surrounding the growing push for mother’s to birth naturally.

In some respects, Jenni hits the nail on the head. Mom’s often struggle with comparison. It can negatively affect so many areas of our lives. It can lead us to become control freaks and cause us to question our worth when we can’t seem to “measure up”. And when we begin to take pride in our ability to do something right, lack of humility can lead to lack of discernment in how we interact with people in our lives.

Naselli writes, “I am concerned as I hear some women evangelize for natural birth, and then I observe the hurting women who can’t experience natural birth.” It’s true, zealousness to do things the best way possible can lead to failure to understand and properly respond to the needs of those around us. However, in such a scenario, the problem I see playing out is the woman’s lack of discernment – to judge well what she should or shouldn’t say to the hurting women – not her desire to promote natural birth. Unfortunately, Naselli makes it sound as if “evangelizing” for natural birth is a problem in and of itself. But one can promote natural birth while also properly loving the women around them who have not or are unable to experience natural labor and delivery.

Naselli’s section, “My ‘Unnatural’ Life”, is concerning to me as well. Writing, “I am alive because of four Cesarean sections”, she begins sharing a series of “unnatural” events that have shaped the lives of her and people dear to her. While it’s not entirely made clear, it appears the four c-sections she refers to are the ones had by her mother and herself. Her statement could be entirely true, but in the paragraph that follows Naselli fails to recognize that many women today experience unnecessary interventions during labor and delivery.

She writes, “C-sections, and other medical interventions, are gifts from God to preserve life.” Interventions can and often do preserve life. This is undoubtedly a gift from God. But interventions can also be used inappropriately, leading to a host of new issues. The latter scenario is the number one concern natural birth advocates have with the direction birth in America is trending. While birthing in America may prove safer than birthing in Sierra Leone, we should not ignore the fact that maternity care in America is in crisis.

At 32.9%, America has one of the highest rates of cesarean sections in the industrialized world. There’s no evidence to support the belief that one third of America’s mother’s are sufficiently high risk to merit a c-section.[1] When compared across countries, there is no evidence that cesarean rates that exceed ~15% result in better birth outcomes for mom and baby. Research increasingly suggests that failure to provide evidence-based care is leading to unnecessary interventions. While a maternal death rate of 14 out of 100,000 births may seem a decent statistic, we should not ignore the fact that according to the World Health Organization, since 1995, the maternal mortality rate in the United States has increased 160%. The United States' maternal mortality rate is ranked at the top of developed countries.

We live in a fallen world. As such, pregnancy, the birthing process, and parenthood beyond, will always present the opportunity to trust God. But unless you affirm determinism (the belief that God has intricately planned every detail of your life right down to what you will eat for lunch today), you should not accept the belief that it is ever God’s plan for something in birth to go wrong. It is not God’s perfect plan for mother’s to need interventions in labor and delivery. “God’s Birth Plan” is for moms and babies to experience successful natural births. Consequences of the broken world we live in often lead to women experiencing otherwise. We know this pattern to be true of life in general. It is not God’s perfect will for us to suffer, and yet we often do. This is why we need a Savior and anticipate his return when things will be as they should be again.

This is also why despite being educated and making the best choices possible surrounding birth, things can still go wrong. A mother may experience a seamless natural birth (praise be to God!), but until Christ’s return, she will never be guaranteed a life free of complications or disappointments. 

Naselli’s right, we don't have ultimate control over our lives or our childrens’ lives. But we can strive to trust God, do our best with the information and options we are given, and properly love those around us in the process. We can also allow him to use our negative experiences for good (after all, many natural birth advocates have a past of birth trauma). We can grow in wisdom and knowledge. We can work to change America’s poor birthing trends while also loving women who find themselves hurting as a result of them. God will give us strength and be gracious to us along the way.



  1. Hi! I don't know you and haven't read anything else on your blog, but I came across this response and just wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts. I had a traumatic (possibly unnecessary) c-section experience with my first birth and am planning a VBAC for my baby due soon. I considered writing a response myself on my blog as well. I know Jenni personally, and totally agree with the main point in her article (that we must trust in God's sovereignty above our plans). However, I felt that, through omission, she made it sound like (1) all c-sections/interventions are necessary and always save lives (which you address here). (2) there's no place for grieving a birth that didn't go as planned, or that you are a "bad Christian" who is not trusting God enough if you struggle with disappointment/grief over a traumatic experience. (3) having a birth plan and hoping/praying for a natural birth is somehow less godly. Again, I know Jenni's heart and know that she doesn't believe those three things to be true. BUT, the article could come across as sounding like she does. Thanks for providing some balanced stats :)

    1. Hi Christi, thanks for commenting! I'm not really active on this blog anymore, I just wasn't sure where else to share my thoughts on this article - so no worries that you haven't read anything else here. :-P I really hope your next birth goes smoothly and is a healing experience for you. Although I don't know her personally like you do, I think you're right that Jenni's intentions were pure, despite the fact that she may have neglected a few points. Thanks again for sharing!


I love your comments! If you're dropping by for the first time, do let me know.

If you want to comment but don't have a Google account, simply select "Name/URL" under the "Comment as" drop-down menu. Then, enter your name and blog address.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...