Motherhood has humbled me in a million ways. All jump-started by the day my son was born – the most humbling experience of all.
I definitely had a plan for his birth. I had seen all the documentaries and read all of the literature. I believed it all. I knew that New York City had a pretty high c-section rate. I was prepared to go into battle and fight for my right to a natural birth.
In the months leading up to son’s birth, I became a self-proclaimed natural birth advocate. I tried to impart my knowledge on any pregnant woman who would listen. I believed that women everywhere were being duped into not having the births of their choice, and I wanted to do my part to turn the tides. I preached endlessly about refusing an epidural, delayed cord-cutting, the negative effects of pitocin. I longed for a home birth. If I hadn’t happened to live above a really loud bar on a main street in Brooklyn – I probably would have planned for one.
I thought the women who expressed no desire to go for the natural birth experience were selfish and uninformed. Don’t you know this is best for your baby? If you’re not willing to experience some pain for the benefit of your child, what kind of mother will you be? Those were real thoughts that were actually swimming around my head. I wasn’t even a mother yet, I hadn’t even experienced giving birth — yet I was still so comfortable judging everyone around me.
I left the gynecologist that I loved in favor of a midwife. I was certain that he was a part of the “establishment” and if I left my birth in his hands it would end up rushed and surgical. I opted instead for the only free-standing birthing center in Brooklyn and put a faith (that I refused to place in a doctor who knew me) in some midwives I had never met.
We took hypnobirthing classes and configured a birth plan just in case we ended up in a hospital. I would be refusing the epidural, insisting that I be able to move around the room, demanding delayed cord-cutting and refusing inductions of any kind. We were ready for everything.
In my 40th week of pregnancy, about three hours after I was admitted to a hospital because my midwife detected and alarming decrease in my child’s heart rate, I was wheeled into surgery. What seemed like minutes later — my son was born.
There were no breathing techniques employed, no contractions, no pushing. The first glimpse I caught of my child was his little body being rushed to a small table in the ER so his lungs could be cleared of the meconium he was swimming in. For those of you who don’t know what meconium is, the easiest way to explain it is — well, it’s shit. My son was born covered in shit. Not really the first image I expected to have of my child.
I fell into a depression after my child was born. I felt robbed of all of the natural bonding mechanisms I had heard so much about. I felt like I failed him and myself. When I told my story to anyone who had experienced a natural birth, or considered themselves an advocate as I had — they always seemed to have the same responses. Oh God. I am so sorry. You know they perform so many unnecessary c-sections nowadays. You really have to be careful where you deliver.
Huh? But it wasn’t unnecessary. My midwife, a natural birth advocate herself, was there to validate the doctor’s recommendations that we get into surgery immediately. Those comments incensed me — but I knew exactly where they were coming from. I felt the same way before I actually experienced the need for medical intervention.
I don’t have a problem with the natural birth movement. I have a problem with the close-mindedness that exists on both sides of the debate. On the one hand, I think women everywhere would be doing themselves a service to become more educated about natural birth options and how those options can benefit themselves and their babies. At the very least, it is good to be informed about your options when undertaking such a huge endeavor as childbirth.
On the other hand, I think a lot of people on the side of unmedicated birth can come off as real condescending know-it-alls. I know, because I was one. We’re already making the assumption that women aren’t doing the best for their children — before they are even born. That is really unfair.
I know some women whose only concern regarding labor is that they don’t experience pain and they give birth to a healthy baby. Is there anything wrong with that? Some women are less married to the process than the outcome. This perspective seems to infuriate proponents of natural birth, who insist that maternal deaths are on the rise because of increased hospital intervention. It is an interesting theory, but one that hasn’t quite been proven yet. There are many factors at play when it comes to our country’s disturbing statistics.
Women on opposite sides of the natural birth vs. medicated/hospital birth debate aren’t benefiting from each other’s experiences. We’re not listening to each other. Just read the thread of comments in a story about hospital birth that was published on this site a couple weeks ago. Women were being downright vicious. Until we stop judging each other’s motivations, we’re not going to make any progress in this debate. There is just going to continue to be a tug of war, with one side shouting Sheep! and the other side knocking the qualifications of midwives and doulas.
A woman who doesn’t have any interest in natural birth isn’t a shitty mom. One that wants to give birth attended by a midwife in her home doesn’t “care more about herself than her baby.” We all want the same outcome: a healthy baby and uncomplicated birth. Now we just need to figure out how listen and learn from each other a little more.
Don’t look at me, though. I have no idea where to start.