Natural Childbirth: A Series

25 Jul

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.

 

 

Mama, Daddy, and Ev at the Bean in Chicago.

 

 

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?

 

Looks pleasant, doesn’t it?

 

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.

 

 

Pretty much sums it up…

 

 

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! 🙂

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30 Responses to “Natural Childbirth: A Series”

  1. Molly Mikes July 25, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I delivered three babies, all naturally. I know I am one of the lucky ones because my longest labor was 7-8 hours. I delivered one 8lb1oz, one 10lbs6.5oz, and one 10lbs. Hard, yes. But I am glad to have experienced it.
    On the other side though I have sit with my daughter in law during her last hour of labor. She was oblivious moving from a 6 to a 10 centimeter. I watched the monitor and would look at her when I saw the contraction coming. She was watching TV.
    Good luck with your decision.

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Wow! Those are some big babies…how wonderful for you to be able to have those experiences! And I truly believe that, like for your daughter-in-law, the decision to go natural might not be for everyone, and that’s completely okay. Thanks for reading!

  2. stepheniejones July 25, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    To start, let me just say, giving birth to Aubree was the best thing I’ve ever done! Ever. But there are things I would do differently. I would have waited longer to go to the hospital, but I was convinced that I needed to go in as soon as my contractions became regular because I had GBS. I was in labor for 27 hours. I could have waited. I would have firmly told them I did not want an IV in my left hand, I wanted it in my right. Then they wouldn’t’ve have blown my vein and I wouldn’t’ve have nearly passed out. I would have told them no IV, no monitors until absolutely necessary because I had been assured that I could be up and moving around. I really would have wrung that girls neck who kept adjusting the monitor every time Aubree moved off of it. She was fine, I knew she was fine, get off of me! I would have told them absolutely no to the pitocin that they insisted I needed to regulate my contractions. I wouldn’t’ve let them convince me that they needed to break my water for me. I wouldn’t’ve chickened out and gotten the epidural (that wasn’t effective, thank God) at the end. All that resulted in was a bleed that caused me to have headaches for weeks, not being able to bend over, and a needle in my spine. Yeesh. Definitely would keep my doula though, she was awesome. Also, I would NOT have taken any form of cell phone device in with me. Yikes.

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      Oh my sweet goodness, Steph, I had no idea you went through such a battle to get your sweet girl here! What an incredibly strong woman you are! You should be very proud of yourself. Seriously.

      I’m interested in your experience with a doula…what was it about her presence that made your experience better? I’m about 98% decided that I’m going to go ahead and get my doula certification, so I’d love to hear more specifically about your experience! I don’t have a lot of friends who have actually used one, so I’d love to have your two cents!

      Now go pat yourself on the back because you are all that is woman! Thanks for sharing!

      • stepheniejones July 26, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

        Hey Girl!! The hospital I used has a doula service for free, so that was a major plus for me. I actually had 3 different doulas. The doula I was supposed to have and loved right from the beginning ended up being in labor for over 24 hours before I went into labor. She sadly handed me off to another lady. And by sadly, I mean she was sad to do it, which I just thought was so thoughtful. She truly cared about me not feeling like I had been passed off. The next doula I had was just such a sweet woman. She helped me be calm in the early stages of labor. She got me popsicles, chatted with me, etc. It was pretty easy going in the beginning. She even managed to wrangle me a rocking chair. I love, love, love to rock, always have. I hated being in the bed, and so she got me that and then I just felt like I was in so much more control of myself. I didn’t like having the nurses in there, and when the doulas were in there, nurses came and went a little less. My doula had another patient go into labor, so she had to pass me off to my last doula, but they all did it so gracefully. I never once felt like I didn’t matter. I mattered very much to them. The last doula was so awesome. She would rub my back, where I was feeling most of my labor. She’d just sit there putting pressure in the places where I needed it. She helped me talk things out, helped me move around, etc. She did lock her knees during pushing and kinda passed out, oops. But she came back after she got it together. I just appreciated the supportive presence and the running off of nurses when I started to get pissed. Haha.

      • ohblessyourheart July 27, 2013 at 6:52 am #

        Thanks so much for sharing this! I love all of your insight…and the fact that all three doulas had the same focus: compassion and comfort. It’s so awesome that a doula was provided by the hospital!

  3. Danielle July 25, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Bravo, Mary Susan… I’m days away from my first delivery and I couldn’t say this better myself!

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Thanks so much! I hope you have an incredibly peaceful and empowering delivery…once you’ve got your “sea legs” please, please let me know all about it! I loooove birth stories! 🙂

  4. haleyherber July 25, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    Amen sister! Very well said!

  5. ABC days of being a mom July 25, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    ” I believe that, ultimately, it all boils down to fear, ignorance, and intimidation.”
    This is very apt… There’s so much you’ve spoken of and I guess you’ve said so much that I will agree with. Women need to be “oriented and re-oriented” on the blessings of going into the labour room without being afraid.. There’s so much fear out yet having a baby can be a bliss yes there’s also the pain aspect of it. I think there is so much in life which is temporary pain but lasting joy and childbirth is one.

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Yes, yes, and yes! You’re so right about “temporary pain and lasting joy”…and if the labor room were perceived as a blessing instead of a curse, I think more mothers would feel empowered and privileged to be there.

  6. Granny Garr July 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Uhm, of course you are for natural childbirth! You are the product of natural childbirth – after your mom had a C-section with your older sister. When you were born, I didn’t have an IV, an aspirin, anything. And, I was so glad that this didn’t occur at the roadside park out of Miami! But, you told it right. It is a marvelous and doable thing. It is great to have medical backup, but if one tunes into one’s body, childbirth is a natural! The body knows a lot more than we give it credit for. We don’t second guess sneezes, burps, and, um, other functions so why do we think we have to take this bodily function into hand and totally revamp it? The less a woman fights the process, the easier it becomes. And, with the ease comes even more joy if that is possible. I support you totally, but I am so proud that you understand that each woman needs to follow her own heart on her birthing choice as she does with most of the other important choices of her life. We all need support and empowerment to be the individuals we are supposed to be and not gingerbread cookies of our society. Love you, Girl!

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Love you, too! And thank you for raising me in an environment where this kind of support was modeled on a daily basis. 🙂

  7. Valerie July 25, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    Great post!
    We are taught that birth is a medical condition instead of something to be embraced as a natural process (that is hard but doable!) I also think less women would go the med way if they REALLY knew the risk.

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

      It’s so funny that you would say that because, when I was visiting the water birthing suite at the hospital, the nurse giving me the tour said the exact thing, “Birth is not a medical procedure.” Great, great point!

      • Valerie July 25, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

        It’s really not, and I’d be interested in learning why women started routinely giving birth in hospitals anyway! Because I have low platelets in pregnancy, it isn’t wise for me to give birth anywhere but a hospital, HOWEVER, most women don’t have this issue (and birth still isn’t a medical condition for me, but my blood loss might be 😉 )
        So, you are planning a water birth?

      • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

        I’m planning to do a post on this very thing! For various reasons, we tend to go the hospital birth route, but I’d definitely be willing to consider a birthing center or alternative location. However, I’m like you and tend to lose a lot of blood, so being in a hospital just makes more sense for us.

        We’ve been lucky to find a hospital that is small and intimate. We’re doing a water birth this time and I’m really excited to see how it goes!

        I may be wrong, but didn’t you have a natural birth after having a medicated birth? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you prepared!

      • Valerie July 25, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

        Glad you guys like the hospital! I didn’t, tbh, but it was only 48 hours of my life… 😉
        Yes, my natural birth was after two very UNnatural ones! I share how I prepared here: http://atlantamomofthree.wordpress.com/natural-childbirth/

  8. Claudia McClelland July 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Very well written, Mary Susan! I so agree with you! My first labor and delivery (36 years ago) was in a sterile delivery room, I was draped head to toe in blue paper covers and highly medicated. I don’t really remember a whole lot about it other than I thought there was a spider on the ceiling and I really wanted a lemon. Two years later, I had my son in a birthing suite with no drugs. What a different experience. So much better the second time around. And you know what? It’s true what everybody says……you will forget the pain.
    So glad you have researched your options and have a plan. I hope you have a speedy and easy labor and delivery.
    My pet peeve about this generation of pregnant women is how they think they can just do away with the final month of pregnancy. So many of them want to be induced 3 to 4 weeks early, just because they can’t stand being pregnant any longer. They’d rather risk the health of their baby just because they’re uncomfortable.

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

      Oh, my goodness, Claudia, thank you for sharing your story! What a crazy experience!

      I couldn’t agree more with you about the common trend of inducing early. I think it’s incredibly obnoxious when celebrities schedule their births for convenience and it’s horrible that it’s becoming common practice. I think there’s a big problem with “playing God” and forcing our hand in situations where it’s unnecessary.

  9. Little Lights Doula Services July 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm #

    Yes, yes, and yes!
    The idea of making an informed choice which feels right for the person is so important and empowering.
    When I tell people I am a doula, they often react with “oh, I could never do a natural birth” which is strange to me because having medication doesn’t negate the need or desire for support. Anyway, yay for our bodies and self-ownership.
    Love you, lady!

    • ohblessyourheart July 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

      Love, love, you too! And I think you make a good point…you definitely don’t have to be going natural to want/need a doula.

  10. Whitney Campbell July 25, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Mary Susan,
    I love reading everything you write! I too love to hear birth stories. It’s such an amazing miracle. My story is similar to yours. When I had Karson I was induced. I planned not to use pain meds of any kind but after about 30 hrs of labor I gave in. I wish now I didn’t because the stupid thing didnt even work. Well it worked but only on my left thigh! Anyways, this time with Kynadee I went into labor on my own & had her in 8hrs without drugs. It was so much better. Don’t get me wrong it hurt but it was so worth it. After it was all said and done I felt so empowered. I feared my body “wouldn’t know what to do” like last time but it took charge & did exactly what it should. Thank you for sharing your story. It helped me realize I could have a natural birth.

    • ohblessyourheart July 27, 2013 at 7:05 am #

      You’re so sweet, Whitney…and congratulations again on precious Kynadee! I’m so excited that you got to have a more positive birth experience this time around! And, gosh, your girls are adorable!!

  11. jadempierce July 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

    I can’t believe you referenced my birth story from Mount K. So embarrassing.

  12. Mimi Duncan July 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I didn’t see this when you originally posted it. I had all three of our children the natural way. I had broken my back when I was in college and because of that having spinal anesthesia was not an option. My choice was all natural or put to sleep, so of course I chose the natural option. I was fortunate that all my labors were pretty simple. I always felt great afterwards, and was able to get up and go quickly.

    Everyone’s experiences are different, but I felt I was fortunate to be able to have all my children this way.

    • ohblessyourheart August 2, 2013 at 8:42 am #

      Wow! I think you’re absolutely right that everyone’s experiences are different, and I like that you count yourself fortunate to have delivered naturally. It really is a gift. 🙂

  13. Rachel November 23, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    I’m a little late to the party, but I had both of my daughters without medication, naturally. Before I had children, I thought the idea of natural childbirth was laughable and pointless. But once I was actually pregnant, I felt the Lord putting it on my heart. I became passionate about learning as much as I could regarding natural childbirth. I learned a lot from The Business of Being Born; and it was actually that documentary that convinced my husband that natural was best, too. There is another book I read, but I can’t remember the name right now. :-\

    We did hire a doula both times, and she was phenomenal for our first birth. We felt much more comfortable having her around, and she helped us make decisions, such as when to go to the hospital, and was a great advocate once we got there. With our first baby, I labored 15 hours, with only 3 at the hospital. With our second, I labored 7 hours, with 1 and 1/2 at the hospital. Although honestly I’m not sure if we will have her next time. She was still great for our second baby, but I could just tell my husband and I felt more calm and knowledgeable the second time around, and I think we’d be fine on our own now. I just don’t know if we could justify the cost if we are blessed with more kiddos.

    I do feel like staying at home as long as possible is extremely beneficial to a mama who wants to labor naturally. Once you get to the hospital, you are on their clock, and it’s much harder to say no to interventions the longer you are there. I decline getting an IV so I have the freedom to move around (and with my first baby I got in the shower so hot water could be sprayed on my back during contractions) but I do allow them to give me a hep lock so that they have easy access in case of emergency. I also drink tons and tons of water when labor starts so that they can’t try to convince me I’m dehydrated and *need* an IV.

    Also, I can’t stress how important it is for mamas to gain as much knowledge as possible about all interventions, hospital policies, etc! The more you know, the more empowered you are as the patient, and the less likely you are to feel pressured to succumb to interventions. If you are knowledgeable about medications, policies, and all the options you have, you can feel confident to make informed decisions when you are in a very vulnerable state, also known as childbirth. Make sure you and your husband learn together! (I’m speaking to a general audience *you*, not just you, Mary Susan, lol).

    My hospital doesn’t have the option of water birth, but I wish they did, because I think it would be very helpful to me. At home I labor in the tub as long as I can and I love it.

    Sorry about the book I’ve apparently written! I am just so passionate about this and LOVE to talk about it, if you couldn’t tell! Haha. 🙂

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