I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time, but I didn’t quite know how to say it. I still don’t, but I’m writing in hopes that someone out there is waiting to hear this message.
Needs to hear this message.
I love natural childbirth. If you spend just a minute looking at what I’ve written, you’ll find numerous posts about my natural birth experiences, how to prepare for a natural birth, and the benefits of a natural labor and childbirth. Natural childbirth is a beautiful, miraculous feat of nature in is rawest, most vulnerable for.
Except, for when it isn’t.
You see, birth is wild. Birth is a natural process that can have many, many different outcomes, and not all of them positive. For most of us in the 21st century, our births end in a happy, healthy baby and mama. Sometimes that’s due to natural childbirth and preparation, but sometimes that’s due to the splendid wonder of modern medicine.
Long before the current natural birth movement, before doctors and midwives, before C-sections, and hospitals and all of it, birth was extremely risky. You had a decent chance of dying or losing your baby during birth. Of course, we know a lot more now.
We know the intricate details of how the baby moves through the birth canal, we know how to prevent and treat infection, and we know how to save a mom and baby in an emergency.
Natural birth is wonderful, and it’s something I think everyone should strive toward if they so desire. The benefits are immeasurable, and many times when left alone childbirth works itself out perfectly as God intended.
But when it becomes an idol, and it’s importance become an obsession in a woman’s mind, that’s just a set up for disappointment. I’m talking from experience, friends.
Sure, both my kids were “natural.” I had no medications, no interventions, and no induction. We were in a hospital for both; it was my decision because we were not close enough for my liking to an labor and delivery OR. With my second, due to an unnecessary amount of time attached to a fetal monitor, I was in pain. A lot of pain.
I was squeezing so hard to the side of the hospital bed, my muscles were sore the next day. I made a lot more “noise” than I had originally intended, and I didn’t spend nearly enough time in my stress-free bath as planned.
And the weirdest part was, after my perfect son was born, a few days later I felt sad. I felt sad that I didn’t just float around from the tub to the bed and give birth in the most peaceful way. I felt sad that I was in so much pain and it wasn’t all dreamy and hypno-like.
Nope, I would say the only way I got through was stone cold stubbornness and intense will powder. But, instead of being proud of myself, I felt disappointed. Disappointed in myself. How crazy is that? I brought life into the world and I felt disappointed. No woman should ever feel disappointed that she didn’t achieve the “perfect” birth.
Now, after realizing what a terrible mindset that was, I’m choosing to remember the positives of both my births. I delivered both babies without intervention and held them immediately skin to skin for the first hours of their lives. I held them to me while we delayed clamping the cord and we spent the last few beautiful moments together completely as one.
I challenge you, focus on the positives, whether your birth is over or you are preparing for one. It probably won’t go perfectly, but that’s no reason to feel disappointed.
Focus on the positives.
I’m not saying to give up on the idea of natural birth. I think everyone should take natural childbirth classes, use a midwife and doula, and prepare mentally and physically for natural birth. I think there are numerous benefits to it, and many women would experience far less birth trauma and postpartum depression if their birth was less in the hands of everyone else and more in their own control.
But, and it’s a huge but, a natural birth is not the end goal. The end goal is a healthy and living mother and child. Like I said earlier, birth is wild. You don’t know what is going to happen. You don’t know when you will need a life saving intervention for yourself or your child, and if that’s the case, put your trust in the hands of the provider you’ve chosen to make that call.
And in the end, whether it’s a 5 minute bathtub birth or an emergency C-section, rejoice in the fact that you gave life to a child, no matter how, no matter what medicine, surgery, doctor, or intervention was involved. No matter if you reached a hyper-zen, pain-free relaxation mode or screamed your head off at anyone who looked at you.
Rejoice. Rejoice that you brought life into the world.
Fear is a huge liar, and fear can convince you to make the wrong choice. Fear of pain can lead to an unnecessary epidural, but fear of a hospital can lead to a lack of access to a life-saving procedure.
So, how do we lose the fear, take control and empower ourselves for preparing for the birth we want, but also mentally toughening ourselves to be okay if it doesn’t end that way?
Education, practice, and finding trusted providers to guide you. Take the classes on natural birth, find a midwife or doctor who shares your values and views of birth but who you trust to make the hard calls when they need to be made.
Learn all you can about birth, what can go right, and what can go wrong. Research interventions, their risks, and when they may be necessary. Make the decision about what kind of birth you desire.
But most importantly, remember it’s not about who can achieve the most zen birth in a forest, it’s about us, as women, doing what we were made to do, giving life, gritting our teeth and making it through one of the most beautiful, challenging, painful, and amazing human experiences.
So, have your outdoor forest birth, or your bathtub birth, or your hospital birth, or your planned c-section. But, let’s not idolize the “perfect, natural birth.”
Let’s never made a mom feel bad or disappointed for the kind of birth she had. Because, in the end it’s all perfect.
Because, in that perfect, raw experience, life is born.