Saturday, September 28, 2013

Gold stars, heroes, and natural childbirth

This one has been sitting in my queue for awhile now. One of my clients recently reminded me about some of the silly things people like to say to advise discourage be a jerk to make conversation with women who are planning a natural childbirth. I'm not sure why women have to hear such discouraging things about their birth preferences. Why is it that people feel the need to comment when they approach a woman with an obviously pregnant belly? Why are we recipients of such unsolicited opinions? Why do people feel the need to be nosy about a woman's method of giving birth? Why is it so many want to say things that make us go, "Huh?" What is it about that irresistible pregnant belly?

One of my clients recently told me that she went to a hospital birthing class where an anesthesiologist spoke to the class about epidurals. At the beginning of his spiel, he said it was his job to sell the epidural. Honestly, I think if that is his job, then his job is pretty easy. No one needs to sell the epidural. It's pretty much sold already. Am I right? At least he put it right out there in the open.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to have it myself during my first birth. My second birth was too fast to even think anything, much less think about having an epidural. My only experience with anesthesia was probably about a year after Lily was born and I loved it. LOVED it. In fact, I cried when they made me wake up again. It was the best sleep ever. Even though it was only 20 minutes, it felt like days! I cried when I woke up because I was going through a hard time with Lily, waking up multiple times a night. I was so. very. tired. Let me also say I don't hate epidurals. I don't have an agenda to villainize the epidural or moms who choose to have one. However, most of my clients are planning natural births. Some are open to pain medication if they need it, and it makes no difference to me. It's not really my job to have an opinion on their decisions. In fact, if it's something they want, I want them to have it. We talk about ways to get the most out of it and the optimal time to receive it to minimize some of the risks.

But when my client said that the anesthesiologist decided to make that little jab at the natural birthing mamas, "Don't be a hero, " I got a little miffed. Why? Why did he have to go there? Why do people have to go there? "Just wait until that first contraction." "You don't get any gold stars for having a natural childbirth." "Don't be a hero."

And then after the birth. "Did you do it natural?" What is the purpose of all the questions?

When I first had Lily, I was so excited. I couldn't believe I was able to have a baby without any pain medications. I also didn't know much about the risks until after the birth. Do you know what motivated me to have my baby without pain medications? I'm not proud of my reason.


I was scared to have a needle in my back. I was scared of the rare risks. I was scared I would be that one person who would get paralyzed from the epidural.


I think many women can relate to fear being one of the biggest motivators for our decisions. "I am afraid of the pain." "I am afraid of having a Cesarean." "I am afraid of being induced." "I am afraid of the hospital." "I am afraid. I am afraid. I am afraid."

Not once did I think, "I want to be a hero. I'm going to give birth naturally." Not once did I think, "I'd really like a gold star. I'm going to give birth naturally." I can think of better, much easier ways to be a hero and earn a gold star.

I'll admit, though, that the more I learned about it, the more I probably romanticized it a bit. And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud of the fact that I did it! That I don't consider it two of my biggest accomplishments ever. Because I do. My girls are my biggest accomplishments, and I am allowed to think it. I am so very thankful that we shared the birth experiences that we did. I count my blessings that we were all healthy and safe and got to enjoy the experience in the process. Because it goes without saying -seriously- it does not need to be said, that a healthy baby and a healthy mother is the ultimate goal.

No one is looking for a gold star, but I do think most women want to be treated with dignity and respect during their birthing times. I think most women want to be supported and encouraged during their pregnancies. If they are planning a natural birth, I think they would rather hear, "You're going to rock that natural birth" than "You don't get any gold stars for having a natural childbirth." I think it's much more encouraging to hear, "You are amazing, and you are going to have an amazing birth (whatever that looks like for her)" than "Don't be a hero. Just get the epidural." There are plenty of positive affirmations that can be shared with a woman planning a natural childbirth. Learn them. Use them if the situation presents itself. Otherwise, follow Thumper's advice: If you can't say anything nice...don't say nothin' at all.