So, I’ve got birthing on the brain and I wanted to start a dialogue with on natural childbirth. I’ve been having a conversation with a friend who is preparing for a natural (unmedicated) delivery after having previously given birth under induction, etc. What’s really struck us, and what I’ll be focusing on in this first post, is the initial negativity that most people have regarding natural childbirth.
As Everett’s arrival gets closer, I find myself gearing up for one of the most transformative and soul-satisfying experiences a person can have. I can’t begin to tell you how totally psyched I am. Seriously, can’t wait.
And I know I’m not in the majority here. I’ve been blessed to find some really great online communities of people who are as excited as I am, but more often than not, when I’m out and about in the “real world” and the subject comes up, I’m greeted with emotions of horror, put-downs, negativity, or self-depreciating comments.
Why is that? Why is it that our culture is so incredibly negative regarding the “earth-shattering” idea delivering babies without drugs? I believe that, ultimately, it all boils down to fear, ignorance, and intimidation.
Unfortunately we’ve got a long history of negative imagery deeply embedded in our minds. Think about every movie you’ve seen in which a woman is depicted giving birth (natural or otherwise). What happens?
There’s always a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. People panic, run for hot water. We find out that Prissy “don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ no babies, Miss Scarlett,” and then Prissy gets the biz slapped out of her. Hateful words are shrieked across sterile hospital rooms. The doctor bumbles around and the hysterical mother usually casts blame on the father, as in, “YOU did THIS to MEEE!!!” I cannot recall one instance in which birth is depicted as a peaceful experience. I’m sure one exists, I just don’t know where.
Now, I get it. “Knocked Up” just isn’t as funny without all the scrambling and the chaos. And it’s genuinely hilarious to think of Bill Cosby’s wife literally pulling his lower lip over his head. But if these are the only images of childbirth that are out there, I mean really getting out there to a large audience of young women, what message are they receiving about the miracle of bringing a new life into this world?
And the blaming of the father? The screaming of condemnation that he is solely responsible for the allegedly horrible situation in which the mother finds herself? What does that say about our culture’s view of sex and responsibility and the gift of children?
Besides a boatload of cultural misconceptions surrounding childbirth, I think the main thing to combat is the simple fact that the average Joe has no idea how the female body works, much less how it works specifically in childbirth. Blame public schools, cultural stigmas, shyness, over-protective parents, whatever, but let’s face it we just don’t know our bodies.
For many years I considered myself fairly well-informed on the female anatomy. It wasn’t until I took a Natural Family Planning class that I realized how little I really did know. Later, when we were expecting Maggie, we researched and learned even more, and I felt like I was an informed parent-to-be; I felt like I knew enough.
But it wasn’t enough. Not enough for me to trust my initial instinct to wait for labor to begin on its own. Not enough for me not to be tempted by the alleged ease and quick pace and “routine-ness” of an induction. Not enough for me to avoid being in labor for eighteen hours. You can never know enough. When I became pregnant with Lily, I hit the books hard and never looked back. I was intensely more satisfied with my second labor experience and I credit that to my continued pursuit of knowledge. Never stop learning. Never.
Ultimately, guys, we’re mammals. We need to understand that the female body was gorgeously created to give life. Childbirth is intuitive for the body, but not the mind. We have to re-introduce ourselves to our bodies and get to know them intimately to get the best results.
I understand that medications can be helpful and that they can make things a zilliondy times better for us in the right situation, under specific circumstances, but I will never be comfortable with the idea of medicating the body when medication isn’t required. It is counter-intuitive to chemically change the dynamics of a machine that is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Period.
I know that natural childbirth is intimidating. It hurts. A lot. Is it the most horrendous pain of all time that no one alive can live through? Not even close. And the way I look at it is that, based on the research that’s out there, a drug-free delivery is the best option for my babies, so why wouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice of myself for them? Labor is not forever. It is completely doable. People climb mountains and run marathons. Childbirth is no different. It’s a physical challenge to the absolute extreme that will take you to the edge and back…and that’s why it is so incredibly rewarding.
I think a lot of women don’t choose natural childbirth because they’ve been told they can’t do it, by society, by other women, by themselves. I’ve literally had people tell me that I’m crazy for wanting to deliver naturally. I’ve been told, “Don’t be a hero, take the drugs.”
I’ve often wondered what makes women so negative about the birth choices of other women. It may be that they don’t understand the desire. It may be that they don’t feel capable and, when met with someone who wants to try, they feel threatened.
Maybe they’ve met one too many of those “militant” people. You know, the kind who use their lifestyle choices -which are fine in principle- as weapons to make you feel like absolute garbage.
“I don’t eat that I’m vegan.”
“My child wouldn’t know about that…We’re a screen-free family.”
“I delivered my baby on top of Mount Kilimanjaro with only a Sherpa to attend me.”
Regardless of the cause, I think it’s a shame that women aren’t more empowering of one another, specifically in regards to childbirth. While I’m as pro-natural childbirth as they get, I will never condemn another woman for the choices she makes in delivery. Every woman, every pregnancy, every delivery is unique. I am not the one who walks that road. I only take my own and I don’t think that belittling someone based on their childbirth choices helps anyone.
But I do want people to learn. I do want people to give natural a chance. Most importantly, I want to foster a community of women that is encouraging and uplifting. I want my stories and your stories to be an encouragement to others who may be considering natural childbirth, but never though they could do it.
Because self-doubt is the biggest enemy. So many women who initially want natural births cave under the negativity, they believe the lie that says they aren’t capable, and they give up before they’ve even begun. And it’s a shame, because you really can do it if you want to. Really.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I’m not even really all that professional in general, so I’d suggest that you get out there and decide what you think for yourself. And then come back here and tell me about it, ’cause I want to know what you think! This series is meant to provide my personal opinions and to foster dialogue, so chime in and consult a trained medical professional if need be. But definitely chime in! 🙂