Anytime a company or person becomes semi-well known, there will be rumors about them. It’s just the way of the world, and something we must all accept as an unpleasant side effect of being successful. Mostly, when I hear things about Baby Steps, I hear that our classes are thorough, that we present information and support individual choice. Occasionally, I hear (usually from people who have never observed or taken one of our classes), “You know, they really push ___________________.” The blank might be homebirth, unassisted birth, not vaccinating, or whatever.
I understand how these rumors start. I’m one of the founders of Baby Steps, and my 2nd child was born at home unassisted. Yep, we planned it that way. I loved that birth experience and wouldn’t do it any other way at this point. I’m not afraid to share my birth story with people who are interested in reading it (it’s in our birth stories section if you’re one of those people). In our Intuitive Birth class, we discuss homebirth as a valid, safe option. That is, homebirth attended by a trained midwife. In our class, we do not include planned unassisted birth in the curriculum at any point. Were we to have a student planning one, we would be supportive, just as we’re supportive of the 80% or so of our students planning hospital births. The only time unassisted birth comes up in our class is when we talk about what to do in the very unlikely instance that your labor goes so fast that you don’t make it to your birth place (or, if you’re planning a homebirth, your midwife doesn’t make it to your house). If ever there is a study done on unassisted birth that proves it to be safe, maybe we’ll consider an addition to our curriculum. However, our goal is to provide evidence-based information. The evidence supports the safety of homebirth with a skilled birth attendant, so that is the information we provide.
In the United States, 99% of births take place in the hospital. Studies on homebirth have shown that for low risk women, it’s just as safe as the hospital but with fewer interventions. Almost all women who take our Intuitive Birth class are planning a natural birth and want few interventions. We want them to think about birth place and birth attendant very carefully. That is, we don’t want them to choose hospital birth by default. Therefore, we provide information about homebirth so that they can make a conscious choice. We also discuss birth attendant in great detail, since too often we pick an OB off an insurance list based on proximity to our houses, without giving much thought to whether that OB (or midwife) will support us in the kind of birth we hope to have. Sometimes, we have students decide to plan a homebirth after our class. Sometimes, they decide to stay with the hospital. We don’t care which they choose – we’re just happy to know that when they chose, they had all the information they needed to decide what was best for them. We only want the best for our students, and we know that the ONLY person who can define “best” is the individual woman who will be giving birth, with input from her partner.
As a group, doulas and childbirth educators tend to be pro-homebirth, anti-circumcision, pro-attachment parenting, pro-breastfeeding. And sure, there will be a handful who push their preferences on others. For the most part, though, what we hope for is a world where parents are able to make their own choices with the full support of us (their childbirth educators & labor support), their birth attendants, and their pediatricians. For us it’s not about what the parents choose, but THAT THEY GET TO CHOOSE FOR THEMSELVES.
So if you hear that Baby Steps pushes _________________, don’t believe it. If you’re a pregnant woman, come take our class and find out for yourself. If you’re a doula, you’re welcome to observe a series as long as there’s space. We try to be supportive of other childbirth educators and doulas. We believe wholeheartedly that we’re all working towards a common goal: to improve the lives of families. We see this not as a competition, but as a collaboration. Above all else, we believe in the absolute necessity of supporting women and their partners in making their own decisions for their families, based on a thorough understanding of all the relevant facts.