So, let me just say that I have been incredibly humbled and encouraged by everyone’s comments both on the blog and on Facebook. It’s truly confirmation that this is a subject that is very close to people’s hearts. Thanks everyone!!
I’d also like to put it out there that I believe that, no matter how it occurs, every birth is magical. I don’t care if you deliver naturally or have every medication under the sun. I don’t even care if an alien comes down from outer space and zaps the baby out of your womb for you, every single birth is a precious miracle and should be valued as such.
However, I think it’s unfortunate that delivering naturally is considered an impossibility by so many women. I think this is mainly due to the fact that women are taught from a very early age that giving birth is supposed to be a traumatic experience. Think about it. Have you ever seen a woman give birth naturally in a movie in which she appeared focused, calm, and in tune with her body? I honestly can’t say that I have. (If you know of any, please let me know!) The majority of the time, birth is depicted in film as a wild, out of control, beast of an experience in which women are portrayed as screaming banshees. There also aren’t too many examples of couples working together during labor. The partner-to-partner interaction is usually summed up by the classic line, “You did this to me!!!” and, though many films depict partners reconciling when the baby is born, it doesn’t seem as though any of them have actually prepared for the childbirth experience.
All of this adds up to the misconception that giving birth is going to be a negative experience in which a woman could possibly lose life, limb, husband, and sanity. This leads to a belief that birthing women need to be “rescued” by medical interventions because few people are teaching women that giving birth is what their bodies are designed to do. Period.
I truly, truly believe that, barring true medical emergency, ANY woman can give birth naturally. It isn’t the impossible feat we’ve been taught to believe. It is most certainly a challenge, but no more so than running a long distance or hiking a difficult trail. And just as you wouldn’t expect to successfully complete a race or a climb without prior training, we can’t expect to have a pleasant birth experience without proper preparation, either.
So. If you’re a woman who deeply desires to give birth naturally – and there are a lot of you out there – here’s my list of suggestions to help you along the way. It’s never too early to start educating yourself!
Read. Seriously, the more you read the more you’ll be able to identify just what you specifically want out of a birth experience.
I absolutely adore Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley, M.D. because it gives very practical information on how to manage pain, what to expect from the stages of labor, and is based on the idea that every woman should have an awesome labor coach.
During this pregnancy I also read Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah J. Buckley, M.D. This one is a lot more scientific in nature, but it gives some tremendously good information on exactly what happens to your body and the baby when medications are given, questions to ask doctors, statistics on anything from fetal fatality caused by being “overdue” to the number of women who give birth naturally across the globe. Buckley does tend to be a bit on the “hippie” side of things, but I felt that she gives an honest account of both sides of the issue.
Talk. I think the best resource for women desiring a natural birth experience is other women. Surround yourself with women who have given birth naturally and pick their brains. Not only will you learn what to expect, but you’ll learn that it’s totally feasible and gain a tremendous amount of encouragement.
Stick to your guns. When people hear that you’ve decided to give birth without medication you’ll probably get a lot of shocked or skeptical responses. Many people will probably tell you not to do it or that you’re crazy. Remember that they’re totally entitled to their opinion…I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to get so into something that you’re militant and alienating in your support of it. However, you need to be strong enough to stick to your guns and not give in to the doubts that others may put into your mind. It helps to have a partner and close friends/family who support your decision.
Be flexible. I don’t believe in birth plans. I think it’s a good idea to have a general idea of how you’d like your delivery to go, but don’t put all of your eggs in one basket and expect nature to stick to your plan. Call me superstitious, but I think that’s the sure-fire way to get a c-section. Do have your requests planned out (immediate skin-on-skin contact, early breastfeeding, birthing ball, etc.) but be flexible. You and your body may end up having entirely different needs than you initially expect. Roll with it.
Pray. Do it. For obvious reasons.
Remember, the birth of a child – in any form – is a miraculous and life-changing experience. No woman should be judged based on her birth choices, nor should she feel like a failure if she attempts natural delivery and it doesn’t work out. However, I hope that the movement toward more natural deliveries continues to develop in our country, as I believe it is a phenomenally empowering experience and very healthy, to boot! I pray that, if a baby is in your future, you’ll have a peaceful and precious birth experience no matter how it all goes down!