Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Nobody thinks you're a hero"

A comment from this site has got me on the defensive. So I'm going to spill my thoughts here.

I did NOT choose to give birth without drugs because...

* I wanted people to call me their "hero."
* I wanted to prove something.
* I wanted a reason to feel superior to other women.

As I've mentioned before, when I was a newlywed, I didn't even know people still had babies without drugs. The only experience I had with anything like that was the "crazy lady" who lived behind my grandma's house who had her babies at home. Ha ha. I didn't become interested in drug-free birthing until an acquaintance told me she was planning a natural childbirth and mentioned that there were benefits to avoiding drugs. It was the benefits that piqued my interest... not the dream of proving my supposed superiority to the world.

In fact, I don't know a single woman who chose natural childbirth for the reasons listed above. All of the women I know who have actively pursued a drug-less birth have done so because they recognize the many benefits. It may be controversial to say it, but I really do believe that the best way for (most) babies to be brought into this world--and for new mothers to be born--is through natural childbirth. (Before anybody gets upset, recognize I said MOST, not ALL.) I know that the birth process was designed as it was for our benefit.

I wish I could spend the day listing all those benefits with references to research backing them up. But I have two young children and a newborn, so my writing time is limited these days. But I do want to list some of the benefits I have experienced through my attempts to give birth as God and nature intended.

Choosing to give birth without drugs makes sense because...

* It reduces risks to both mother and baby. All of the drugs available for pain relief have very real (sometimes severe, sometimes long-term) side effects. Often one intervention leads to many (and more invasive) interventions. I know several women who traded the temporary pain of childbirth for long-term daily back pain after their epidurals.

* It enables a woman to be more aware of her instincts and urges. Pain in childbirth serves a physiological purpose. When a woman feels her labor, she can allow it to prompt her movements and changes of position. Women who can be mobile in labor will almost always move their bodies and adopt positions that will facilitate and speed-up the birth process.

* It facilitates the release of hormones which prime mother and baby for smoother delivery, bonding, and breastfeeding.

* It instills confidence and self-worth in a woman. Women who have given birth without drugs often describe the experience as life-changing. I believe God knew that new mothers would benefit from the trial of labor because it would allow them to see the strength and power within them. What better way to begin motherhood than on a springboard of power and strength?

Now I realize that this last reason may appear similar to "proving something to the world." But I believe there is a clear distinction between 1) Choosing to take a difficult path because you believe it will be beneficial to you and teach you important things about yourself AND 2) Choosing to inflict pain on yourself for future bragging rights.

I chose to accept the birth process and the possibility of intense pain because I knew it was best for me and my baby. But I think it's impossible to come out the other end of natural childbirth without feeling the euphoria of achieving something beautiful. Childbirth is one of the most physically and emotionally difficult challenges many women face. How could a woman NOT feel enormously fulfilled and proud of herself for her labor of love and endurance? Why do so many fault us for that sense of fulfillment? Why do some want to belittle that achievement as merely "nuts"?

I do hold my children's births in my heart as some of my greatest accomplishments. Does that make me prideful, macho (but in a female way), or full of myself? I don't think so. Just like I don't fault my husband for the joy he feels in completing a marathon or anyone who tackles something difficult and feels gratified upon overcoming it. Aren't those kinds of achievements the makings of our heroes? Is it not in our witnessing of human strength and endurance that we find our own desire to reach higher and push further and grow stronger?

I didn't pursue natural childbirth so people would call me their hero. But people have. Does that make me feel superior to other people? Of course not. I feel honored that my experiences have inspired other people because I believe wholeheartedly that the same strength I drew upon to birth my children lies within all of us. We are all strong. We are all heroes-in-the-making. We all have opportunities to discover our strength. Childbirth just happens to be where I discovered mine.


HollySteffen said...


Anonymous said...

Tell whoever left you that "hero" comment to read "Your Best Birth" by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein. It supports everything you wrote in this entry. :)

Buscando la Luz said...

Thanks, Anonymous. :-)

Actually, the comment was from an article about Ricki and Abby's book. And the commenter claims to have read the book: "I have read Ricki’s book and I think she’s nuts. I’ll take a hospital and an epidural thank you, will see who has the easier birth."

Cassie said...

Ricki Lake sums it up best when she says, "Childbirth is not something that needs to be numbed, it's something that needs to be experienced."

I don't think badges should be given out to mothers who birth naturally, but I think they should be shown a certain level of respect for choosing to put their health (and the baby's health) above pain.

Cassie said...

"will see who has the easier birth."

(I'm biting my tongue not to correct the grammar here...)

I think this person confuses "easier birth" with "the-birth-the-hospital-says-I-should-have."

Sarah H said...

Great post! That must be a wonderful feeling to accomplish natural childbirth. I hope to someday, not to brag about it, (i don't know anyone who has bragged about it) but for all the reasons you said. I esp. want to feel that my body works and I can do it.

Faithful Lurker said...

I agree with everything you wrote 100%.