Monday, November 3, 2014

Not all birth is natural

Woot! She came out of my vagina.
From time to time, I am witness to a discussion about the definition of "natural" birth. Some people think that natural birth means unmedicated birth, completely free of medication of any kind. Some people think that using labor inducing drugs, such as Pitocin, while avoiding pain medications constitutes a natural birth. Others believe a birth is natural as long as a baby comes out of a vagina. Some believe that all birth is natural.

I admit it.

I do not believe that all birth is natural.

However, I also do not believe in defining a woman's birth experience for her. I'm not going to tell a woman that she didn't have a natural birth if she insists that she did. I think a lot of people want to pretend like they aren't quite sure what "natural" really means, but I think more people know what a woman is getting at when she says she wants a "natural" birth than would care to admit. I think it is patronizing to tell a woman that "all birth is natural" when she had a Cesarean and wanted with all of her heart to have a home birth. Even if it was necessary. Even if, because of modern technology, she and her baby are alive and well. No one gets to make that call except for the woman. If she feels like it was "natural," by all means, it was "natural." If she feels disappointment in her birth experience and doesn't feel like she even gave birth, that is perfectly valid as well.

I like to compare giving birth to running a marathon. What if someone rode a bike during their marathon? Is that the same as someone who ran their entire marathon? Even if they both crossed the same finish line? Maybe that is the way someone chose to complete their marathon, but biking it is not the same as running it. Completing a marathon is pretty amazing, even if someone runs, walks, bikes, or crawls across the finish line. Even if the end result is the same, running, walking, biking, and crawling are not the same thing. Anyone is allowed to feel pride in finishing the race however they need to, because 26.2 miles is a dang long time, no matter how it is done.

Flutes Rule! Trumpets Drool!
I think part of the problem that people have with the term "natural" birth is that some people perceive "natural birth" as being better than other types of births. And you know what? They are right! "Natural" birth IS better than other types of births if that is what someone wants. How many women praise the benefits of giving birth with an epidural? How many people proclaim the epidural to be the BEST. THING. EVER????

People obviously think some things are better than others or they wouldn't choose them. It is OK for people to disagree on what is better or not. I think brownies are better than ice cream. Actually, I think brownies are better than just about everything. Cheesecake is a close second. I think flute is better than trumpet. Actually, I think flute is better than just about all the other instruments, or I wouldn't have chosen it. But if everyone agreed with me, we wouldn't have a very interesting orchestra. It takes all kinds of different instruments to make beautiful music.

What gets people feeling offended and wanting to blame "natural" birth for it, is when people say, "You chose that? You must be stupid/uneducated/fill in the blank. I would NEVER choose that." And this is where we try to make people who feel bad about their choices feel better by saying things like, "All birth is natural."

 No. It is not. And that is okay.

Look at all of that natural nature. 
You know what is natural? Nature. And I'm not always a fan of nature. I like my modern air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and electricity thank you very much. Sometimes nature doesn't like me very much. It sends mosquitoes to bite me and intense heat to make me sweat. Ew. And sometimes, nature may not want someone to make it through the birthing process, so taking advantage of modern medicine is the best decision. In that case, for that woman, and for that baby, non-natural highly-medicated birth is BETTER than natural birth any day.

And that is okay.

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