Friday, April 5, 2013

Choices in Childbirth

First Child: Hospital Birth
Second Child: Home Birth

“Those among us who deliver ‘naturally’ strut around like war horses.”

This is the line from Bringing Up Bebe that upset me. For one thing, the author was not living in the U.S. and  viewed American women who chose natural (drug-free) childbirth from across the ocean through magazines or other media. There was no indication that she knew anyone personally who had delivered naturally--let alone who strutted around the fact. Women like that might exist somewhere, but they are not the norm. It does not even come close to my own experience or what I've seen with other women who chose natural childbirth.

I rarely volunteer that I delivered naturally. I'm not ashamed, but it rarely is met with kindness or even neutrality. Sometimes people are merely curious, which I'm fine with. But most often people think you're crazy at best and a bad mother at worst.

Just a few days ago I walked into a conversation about another mom who had delivered naturally because she "likes pain." The person speaking then saw me and said, "Well, you know. You did it." I didn't really respond, but the idea that women who deliver naturally enjoy pain, or even have higher pain tolerance, is not true in most if not all cases. I normally have very low pain tolerance. And I complain a lot. If my toe hurts or I have a headache, you're going to hear about it. I didn't choose natural childbirth because I wanted pain. I chose it because the pain (and there was a lot of it, and I screamed bloody murder during the pushing phase) was worth the easier recovery to me.

My sister delivered both of her children drug free and she says that people don't trust her experience as much as they do mine. I delivered one with an epidural in a hospital and one completely naturally in my home. Experience number two was infinitely better, pain and all. For me. Doesn't mean it would be better for you. And I'm very careful that I don't tell anyone what they should choose with such a personal decision. (I have met someone who tells everyone that they need to deliver at home--funny enough it was a man telling a woman.)

Part of why I'm so careful about judging other people for their childbirth choices is because I've faced so much judgment with mine. Why would you endanger your child like that? Well, obviously I didn't feel I was endangering my child or I wouldn't have made that decision. A friend who chose natural childbirth with her first child after years of infertility was urged to not take a chance on her first child. As if those who get pregnant more easily are willing to risk a baby's life. Or as if she would love a second child less than her first.

So bring your curiosity, but try to keep your judgments to yourself. Because choosing a path different than the norm is difficult. And a choice of a different childbirth path is extremely personal and is often met with hostility even years after the choice was made.

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