Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Does the birth experience matter?

It's no secret that I spend some time on a few birth related facebook pages each day. One of my favorite birth bloggers asked the question, "What is the point of a "good" birth experience? Is there one?"

Still enjoying my birth high: Lily is two days old
As can happen sometimes, this question got me to thinking. What is the point of a good birth experience? Why do so many women seek to enjoy their birth experiences? Does it really matter? I mean, really really

A common criticism of natural and/or out-of-hospital births is that women who choose to birth this way are putting their babies' lives at risk just so they can "enjoy the experience." You can just feel the disdain oozing out of the computer screen when reading those words. Most of the time the spiel ends with, "All that matters is a healthy baby." 

I don't disagree with that. I don't entirely agree with it either. I do believe that the ultimate goal is to have both mom and baby come out at the other end of the birth experience safely and soundly. Healthy? Well, unfortunately not all babies come out healthy even under the best conditions, but that is another story for another day. But is this all that matters? 

Even though many women choose natural birth and/or out-of-hospital birth for what they feel is a better experience than what they would receive in the hospital, they will do anything to ensure that their babies enter this world safely. Anything. Even if that means loss of a certain hoped-for experience. 

On the other end of the spectrum, many women decide not to choose natural childbirth because, again, they want to enjoy the experience of birth. By choosing an epidural or other pain medications to cope with labor, they feel like they can be more present in the experience and enjoy it much more than if they went without. Is this wrong? Epidurals, and any other chemical we put into our bodies, heck, even food, and sometimes even water, and just about anything nowadays, carry risks. You can't even breathe without risk. There are some huge risks associated with epidurals, however rare. Just look them up, but it's obvious that it's a risk most women are willing to take in order to enjoy their birth experiences. 

So, are women supposed to not enjoy the birth experience? Let's say a woman wants a natural birth. Is she supposed to purposely go get an epidural as soon as she arrives at the hospital to prevent enjoyment of the experience? Is a woman who is set on having an epidural supposed to purposely deny herself an epidural so she doesn't run the risk of enjoying the experience? 

We talk a lot about the birth experience from the perspective of the mother, and yes, the birth experience does matter to women whether they want to admit it or not. But why? Why does the birth experience matter so much? 

Just to illustrate my point a little further, I know a woman who has no desire to have natural childbirths. None. Her last birth went too fast for her to receive an epidural and she was traumatized. From her perspective, she did not enjoy that birth experience, although to me, that is the perfect hospital birth! Arrive at the hospital while pushing? Heck yeah!

Don't even get me started on the women who have been traumatized by their Cesarean births and are dismissed with, "At least you have a healthy baby. That's all that matters." 

So what about the baby? Does the birth experience matter to the baby? I wonder. Does a baby prefer to be put right on mama's chest after birth or immediately whisked away to a bassinet to be wiped down, tubes stuck down its throat and pokes and prods and bright lights and then finally given to mom? Or does the baby prefer to be observed for four hours away from mom before even meeting the woman whose body he inhabited for the previous nine months? Does the baby want to hear doctors and nurses chatting about their running adventures as he is making his entrance into the world (yes I have witnessed this) or does the baby prefer to hear mama's and daddy's soft voices first? Is the baby even coherent or smart enough to know the difference or even to care? Does a baby prefer to be born in a bright, cold and sterile room or a dimly lit, warm and home-like room? Does a baby prefer to be born in water or on land? Does it matter

What do you think? Does the birth experience matter? Does it matter just to mom, or does it matter to the baby too? Are we focused too much on the experience?

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking about this post (and your questions) for awhile too...and I'm finally getting around to sharing my answer!

    I say yes and no. As you know I love, love, LOVED my birth experience. I am so incredibly grateful for it. I was beautiful and sacred. For me, the birth experience is a lot like a wedding, and parenthood is a lot like marriage. Yes, it was important for me to try to have a great birth experience, just like wanted a wonderful wedding. That said, I think in both cases the after is infinitely more important and the point of it all.

    I don't think it's bad to focus on your wedding and having a great one, and I don't think it's bad to focus on birth and trying to have a great birth experience. That said, when there's a focus on that singular experience without the context of the larger picture, I think it makes it hard for those women who are unable to have the experience of their dreams.