I recently read a post (and a slew of supporting comments) on a popular parenting blog about birth plans and why you shouldn’t have one. Yes, you read that right — why you shouldn’t. I get where the author is coming from. Can birth be unpredictable? Sure. Can having a vision of your ideal birth set you up for disappointment if it doesn’t go exactly as you had planned? Absolutely. The birth of a child is, after all, a day that most of us have thought of and wondered what it would be like since we were children. I know I did.
But you know what is likely even more disappointing than maybe not getting your ideal birth? Getting railroaded into unnecessary interventions during your birth because you didn’t know you could say “no.” Feeling completely and utterly unsupported during your labor and delivery because you unknowingly picked a hospital with an unprecedented 50 percent C-section rate. Suffering birth trauma or postpartum depression or anxiety as a result of what happened to you in the hospital on a day you spent years dreaming about, but no time planning for.
Let me begin by saying I don’t care what kind of birth anyone else in the whole wide world has. I don’t care if a woman plans for an epidural or ends up getting one when the pain is more than she believes she can take. I don’t care if she gets induced or plans her c-section months in advance. I don’t care if her birth experience is a series of interventions (as long as everyone comes out safe in the end). Her body, her prerogative. Right? Right.
I do however believe that the way we birth is a choice and in recent years that choice has been taken away from us in an often frightening and forceful way. But as long a woman’s choices are informed and not being forced upon her then it’s really no one’s business but her own what kind of birth she has. Hopefully, that much we can agree on.
But with that being said, people these days, specifically women, really don’t seem to like the idea of unmedicated or “natural” birth as we’ve come to call it. Mention you are planning one and you will no doubt be met with eyerolls and “what if”s and “what are you trying to prove”s? Or simply “why?” Or even the forceful “why in God’s name would you ever want to experience that kind of pain!? Are you some kind of martyr?”
Having an unmedicated birth can be about a lot more than just trying to prove to the world how strong you are. You grew a human so we already know that anyway. There are all kinds of reasons that birth remains important to many women and we shouldn’t feel badly about that. Of all the things we are taught to feel badly about as women, this really, really should not be one of them.
Here are ten reasons why I’m planning a natural birth that have nothing to do with something to prove.
1. Because I want to feel my baby entering the world. Yes, I want to feel it and not because I’m a martyr but because, well, how is that not an incredible thing to feel? It’s a once or twice or maybe three times in a lifetime chance and as long as nature intends, I’m going to take it.
2. Because having a baby is nothing like going to the dentist. It’s not the same as getting a root-canal without being numb (as I’ve heard many argue). It’s just not because where are the perks to that!? I pretty much avoid going to the dentist (when I can) but birth on the other hand, I’m looking forward to. And I’ve done it once before and it basically sucked altogether so that’s saying something.
3. Because I believe the experience has value and is one that every woman should get the opportunity to experience (if she wants it). I believe the experience can be life-changing and I’m a sucker for feeling (and writing about) the real, painfully beautiful parts of life.
4. Pure curiosity. I don’t know about anyone else but unmedicated birth is a huge point of curiosity in my life. It’s something women and mammals have done for centuries and yet it evaded me once, multiplying my intrigue by about a million.
5. Because needles in my spine and other interventions take longer to heal from, both physically and emotionally. The battle scars from my first birth were all from the interventions that occurred, not from the natural course of things. Pain in my back where the epidural went in for about two years, an unnecessary episiotomy that took months to heal properly, not to mention feelings of distrust towards medical professionals who seem to undermine women’s choices (and sometimes health) for the sake of their own agenda.
6. To create the ultimate bonding experience with my child. To feel the oxytocin running through me, the hormone rush, the body’s natural response to childbirth. To not be numb to those things like I was once before. To have that “golden hour” with my offspring to begin our journey together.
7. Because at the heart of it, I’m not really afraid of birth. I have nerves about the pain of birth, yes but most of that comes from the lack of control I had during my first birth. I wasn’t scared before that and so I know that is where my fear comes from. When I really look deep down, I have far more confidence about birth than I do fear.
8. Because I was built for it. I can read all the books that Amazon has to offer, but when it comes down to it, my body knows so much more about birth than my brain and it always will. It has literally been preparing for it since before I was born. I don’t doubt what it can do when nature takes it’s course.
9. Because pain is beauty. I believe that sometimes we have to go through difficult things in life to reap the rewards.
10. Because it just feels right. In my head, in my heart and in my body (here’s hoping). They might not agree on much, but they’re all aligned on this one.
Five years ago, I found myself pregnant with my first child. I was 24 and didn’t know squat about babies and labor and all that hootenanny. Like a lot of women, I desired to have a natural birth — but I soon learned that I had no idea what I’d be up against to achieve one in a hospital in the state of Maryland.Had I done my research (more diligently), I would’ve learned that the hospital I chose (a reputable one in Baltimore and also the one where I had been born) had close to a 50 percent C-section rate. Though that number seems outrageous, it’s not that far off from the U.S. average.