Recently I made my very first meme. It wasn’t original by any means, but I was proud of it nonetheless. However, after posting it, I immediately did that thing where I second-guess myself and wonder how people could possibly take it the wrong way. Believe it or not, my posts are meant to encourage and support, not tear down or make others feel bad. Yet, I’ve found we feel so strongly about our own decisions, instead of seeing someone else’s for what it is, we immediately want to take offense. (Think to the whole “curvy is great, be who you are” campaign that backfired – meant to help bigger, curvy women embrace themselves for who they were, yet caused skinny women to retaliate.) As this is a blog, and my own personal thoughts, I feel like I am perfectly entitled to post my meme based on my own personal experiences. Maybe other women who birthed as I did can relate.
1. What My Friends Think
When you become pregnant, you inadvertently open yourself up to a host of (mostly unsolicited) advice. Why women feel the need to heap their WORST birthing stories on a first-time mom is incompehrensible to me; my only thought is they possibly still haven’t dealt with their own personal emotions and subconsciously need to relive the experience over and over until it “makes sense” to them. Or, maybe it’s because they just like to talk.
Especially when I revealed that we were planning a “natural” (for clarification’s sake: our natural birth meant in a hospital yet unmedicated and no interventions) birth, you would think I grew a third eye in my forehead!
“Oh, you can’t do it without an epidural!”
“You’ll cave and ask for pain relief.”
“You can’t even IMAGINE how much it hurts!”
Those were some of the nicer responses. They had all now assumed I had morphed into some optimistic, barefoot pregnant hippy who believed that, with secret herbs, oils and fairy dust, she could experience a sunshine, pain free, unicorn birth.
.Yes – I couldn’t even imagine the pain of labor. But at the same time, was it so wrong to not be AFRAID of it?
2. What My Doctor Thinks
I was lucky enough to have a pretty laidback D.O. (and by” lucky”, I mean did my research and sought him out). He was extremely positive, telling me how great I was doing throughout my pregnancy, how perfect and smooth we were progressing. Until we hit about, um, week 36? That’s when I really gathered up my nerve to discuss in-depth my birth plan (coincidently coinciding with when he wanted to start doing cervical checks).
I could tell he was not happy and that he did not especially approve. I’ll give him credit – he didn’t argue with me or insist on his opinion. Moreso, it was a slight smile, a nod, a look in the eyes that says “You can plan this however you want, but know it won’t happen that way.” It was almost like he was placating a young child who had asserted that babies come from rainbows.
I had prepared myself for a fight, and I still can’t decide if this was worse or not. His demeanor that my desires were old, outdated, and irrelevant and wouldn’t be possible (and that the advances of modern medicine would save me from my own birth) made me feel like someone had inserted a needle and were slowly letting air out of my balloon. I was so empowered – now I was deflated.
(Spoiler alert: While I may not have changed his overall opinion on birth, I was able to avoid my cervical checks AND demonstrate how amazing a natural birth could be!)
3. What Society Thinks
The first time I decided to actually WATCH a natural birth, I hopped on over to YouTube and searched “natural birth”. (I’m pretty smart like that.)
I then witnessed a very realistic, very graphic, yet very serene video of a woman giving birth outside by a stream.
I don’t know if I’m using the term “natural birth” correctly, but I’ve noticed that a lot of media portrayal focuses on the outdoor “by a stream, lake or woods”, National Geographic-esque unassisted childbirth (like that new documentary that was coming out.. has anyone heard any more on that, or I am just out of the loop?!).
Don’t get me wrong – those births are beautiful! I love them. But that’s not the experience I was desiring( for my first, anyway, haha).
4. What My Husband Thinks
Honestly, I’m never 100% sure what my husband thinks. I was blessed so have an extremely supportive husband who was completely on board with the whole “no medicine, no interventions” thing. Really, the only thing he asked was that we go to a hospital “just in case” (now that we have one out of the way, I’m hoping he may be a little more open to a home-birth for the next, lol).
I do know, however, that AFTER the birth, his best comparison is, and I quote, “those egg pods from the movie Alien”. (Note: the photo I used for my meme was of the more popular “alien-chest-birth” scene. Apparently this is a common comparison, at least from what I gathered from one of my favorite BBC shows.)
5. What I Think
What I really wanted was a water birth. My hospital didn’t provide that, and the closest birthing center was 90+ minutes away (definitely too far for a nervous hubby, as the hospital we eventually chose was 40 minutes and that was alarming enough).
I was definitely realistic: I knew that it would be painful in some shape or form. I was the worry-wart mom who researched EVERYTHING and was entirely convinced something was wrong at each prenatal check up (Heart rate? Great. Diabetes? No. Ultrasound? Perfect!). I was also convinced something would go “wrong” during the birth, like I would go past 40 weeks and they would want to induce (didn’t happen) or that my water would break before contractions started (did happen).
However, despite all my concerns, I still had this image in my head, influenced by scouring the web for daily birth stories, of sitting in a giant body of water, surrounded by candlelight and the sweet smell of flower herbs, cradling my newborn baby in my arms in complete and utter bliss.
6. What Really Happened
I blog; I don’t write tearful Nicholas-Sparks-style fiction books. Therefore, my words cannot even begin to express the experience of giving birth to your child riding only on complete endorphins and natural oxytocin. I’ve never birthed any other way, so I cannot compare mine to a woman’s whose involved an epidural, intrathecal, Pitocin, or some other form of intervention.
All I know is that it was the single most powerful experience in my entire life, and my daughter was born more alert that my husband or I thought was possible. Fourteen months later my body has, for the most part, forgotten the “pain”, yet it has retained the emotions. I will never regret choosing to birth my daughter the way I did, and if we ever do decide to have another, there is no doubt in my mind that I will again plan for a natural birth.
For those of you who say “I can’t do it” or “I need the drugs”, let me tell you: You CAN do it. You DON’T need the drugs. Trust in your body. Pain isn’t always something we need to be afraid of or hide from, especially meaningful, deliberate pain that has a purpose. I even hate to use the word “pain”; it conveys such a negative association with a physical experience that is entirely transforming. Childbirth surpasses “pain”.
My intention isn’t to make mothers who birthed differently feel bad. In fact, I want mamas everywhere to feel GOOD. Good about themselves, about their bodies. Confident in their body’s abilities.
Just try it.
You may be surprised.