Natural childbirth has become a badge of honor for mothers who endure it. Celebrities everywhere tout their natural bonafides in every birth announcement. Miranda Kerr let the world know that she had to work to get that baby by announcing, “‘I gave birth to him naturally; without any pain medication and it was a long, arduous and difficult labour.” Kelly Preston not only refused drugs, she didn’t even speak. Gisele Bundchen famously irked mothers everywhere when she said that childbirth, “didn’t hurt in the slightest”. Even Jessica Alba proved to the world that she was one centered momma by saying, “I didn’t scream. It was really Zen. The labor was more like meditation.”
So does natural childbirth prove that you’re a better or more committed mother? Does it demonstrate just how willing you are to sacrifice your own comfort for your child’s? Or is it just an all-natural, all-organic, I’m-so-much-better-than-you way to prove your “Top Mama” status?
The CDC reports that 61% of vaginal births in the United States use an epidural. Honestly, I was surprised that the number was so low. I assumed that they were much more common-place.
When I was pregnant, I began researching childbirth plans, trying to find what worked best for me. My biggest fear was going into labor without having any idea what I was doing. I didn’t want the stress of decision-making to deal with while I was trying to pop a child out. I took Lamaze classes, I searched online. After a few hours with a Googled “Natural Childbirth” search, I realized that there were a lot of very passionate people who believed that natural was the only way to go. Natural is the pure and loving way to go through childbirth. It’s the way our mothers and grandmothers went through childbirth. It is the way God wanted us to go through childbirth. I read horror stories about failed epidurals and increased cesarean rates. All of it made medications seem a lot more scary than a little pain.
However, plenty of reputable sources supported epidural anesthesia. My mother was speaking to an anesthesiologist and asked why natural childbirth was pushed so heavily when she had kids. The doctor told her that there simply weren’t enough anesthesiologists working to cover all the deliveries. Many hospitals didn’t have full-time staff, so they encouraged natural childbirth. I asked my mother, if she had the option, would she have chosen medication? “Probably,” she told me, though it sounded very much like, “Hell Yes!”
Finally, I asked the person that I should have spoken to in the beginning, my doctor. He was honest and open about the realities of medication during childbirth. Yes, there are risks to having an epidural or pain killers. The reason epidurals are so popular is because those risks are relatively minimal. Yes, epidurals can bring down the mother’s blood pressure. However, without the medication, the pain of childbirth can dramatically increase a woman’s blood pressure. For a woman constantly fighting pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), that was something to be nervous about.
In the end, I waited until the very last possible moment to decide, which was exactly what I didn’t want to do. I chose to have the epidural. My labor was wonderful and magical and all the obnoxious things beaming mothers brag about. My daughter was happy and healthy. I felt no less proud of my accomplishments simply because I chose some medical assistance. Labor still wasn’t painless and recovery wasn’t any easier.
I guess if I had gone through with a natural childbirth, I would brag about it too. I would want to show the world that I was tough and dedicated and as-natural-as-can-be. But I don’t think it would make me a better mother and I know that it couldn’t have given me a better labor. So, to all those natural mommas, I’m glad you have healthy and beautiful little babies! I’m sorry if your labor was long and hard. But I don’t think that makes it any more special or amazing than my 7 hour, relatively uneventful childbirth. And to every woman still deciding, all I can say is that you’ll find a style that works for you. Talk to people you trust, talk to your doctor, and remember, that little one will make its way out somehow. Then the real fun starts.