home birth

Natural Birth Isn’t As Scary As You Think It Is

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I can completely identify with being petrified of going into labor. For me, it was the issue of the unknown. When would it happen? How fast or slow would it happen? How would I react? Would I make a fool of myself? The fact that everyone and their mom (literally) chose to share their birthing horror stories didn’t help.

Before having both of my kids, I decided to have natural, or unmedicated, births—the first at a birthing center, and the second at home. (Note: While I know that the term “natural” is offensive to some women, for the purpose of this post, I am using the common term “natural” at times to describe an unmedicated birth experience.)

Both times, I knew what I was getting into, and yes, I was still apprehensive. But overall, I had positive and moderately fast birth experiences; as far as unpleasant labor goes, you could almost say that I “enjoyed” myself both times. No, I didn’t have an orgasm in the birthing tub. No, I didn’t meditate as I sniffed scented candles. I had run-of-the-mill unmedicated births that involved some discomfort and pain, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be.

A very close friend of mine, Melissa (who is also a loyal Mommyish reader), had a similar yet completely opposite experience to me. I find her bad ass birth story fascinating, and she was kind enough to share it:

My natural birth was unplanned (the natural part, not the birth), and went too fast to be very scary. I went in to see my O.B. that morning for a routine 38-week checkup, and when she asked me how I was doing I replied honestly: “Ugh. So uncomfortable. So ready to have this baby”. She offered to check my cervix, and when she did she started to laugh and told me I was already 5 cm. dilated. I had been planning on going back to work for the rest of the day, but now that seemed like a fairly bad idea. I raced to the school where I work to grab a few things and make arrangements to get coverage for my classes, and as I walked back out to my car I felt my first real contraction.

Twenty minutes later, by the time I got home and got my 20-month old, my husband, and our “go-bag” into the car (have your go-bag packed, people!), my contractions were painful and coming fewer than five minutes apart. Screw our plan to drop our daughter off at my parents on the way to the hospital! I had my husband drop me off at the hospital entrance and waddled up to the admissions desk and informed them as calmly as I could, “I’m having a baby. Like right now.”

Once in triage I asked if it was too late for an epidural, even though I knew the answer. The nurse very kindly told me no effing way lady, or something to that effect, and I bawled, my dreams of a blissfully numb birthing experience evaporating. Thirty minutes and lots of eardrum-piercing screams later, my beautiful daughter was born right there in the triage room, just an hour and a half after my first contraction. Would I recommend an unmedicated birth to someone who has time to get the sweet, sweet epidural? Hell no! The pain is excruciating—like being ripped in half—pretty sure anyone who says it’s not is lying or has a very bad memory. But if your labor goes anywhere near as fast as mine did, it is totally doable.

Whenever I bring up the topic of natural or unmedicated birth, it is often difficult to do so. Many times, because of crazy natural birth advocates, it appears that discussing one birth method is automatically shaming the other. This is not the case. But I do want to talk freely about my birth experience and tell any women considering natural birth that it may not be as scary as it seems.

I loved hearing the story from my great friend Melissa because, while her unmedicated birth wasn’t planned, she still survived and has an adorable baby to show for it. You too may have an unmedicated birth on purpose or accidentally. Whatever you choose, or however the cards fall after that first contraction, take heart—there’s no way to predict the outcome of any birth, but an unmedicated birth isn’t that bad.

(Image: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock)


  1. chickadee

    July 14, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Unmedicated births are more difficult for people with slow labor processes. Both of mine were over 25 hours, and you simply cannot labor productively without sleep or useful rest for that length of time. I ended up having pitocin and epidurals both times, the latter made necessary because of the former. It sucks more than I can describe to start labor with contractions less than 5 minutes apart that go nowhere. After 4 hours of that kind of labor, I had dilated about half a centimeter. That is bs.

    • BexleyS

      July 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      I’m with you on this! After 33 hours of labour and no food or sleep I went to the hospital to be told I was 3cms… Go home. 8 hours later I returned to be told I was 3cms… Go home. After having a shot of pethidine I managed to get to 6cms in a couple of hours but by that point I was done. I wanted an epidural just to be able to sleep (which I didn’t because I was too giddy to not be feeling the pain anymore) she was finally born after 56 hours of labour and al it’s 3 hours of pushing. I really wanted an unmedicated birth last time and I still have faith that I can do it this time but if it’s long again then I know that in reality it’s not all that possible because it’s simply too tiring. Thankfully nobody has ever called me pathetic for taking all the drugs but if they did, I’d be questioning how they think they’d cope after 2 and a half days of labour!

    • chickadee

      July 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Oh yeah, no one ever criticized me either, but I had 2 hours of pushing with my first, and that is a freaking nightmare. My dentist, of all people, suggested that I have a low pain threshold and that Braxton-Hicks contractions, for me, felt like the real thing.

      But progress was so. slow. It’s just useful to know in advance that if your labor is demonstrably slow, drugs may be necessary.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      The second one is supposed to be way faster! Either way, no one should be in pain for that long without some relief.

    • BexleyS

      July 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm

      My first is only 16 months old and I’m due in 3 weeks so I’m hoping that my body just thinks “Hell yeah, I remember this shit. Let’s do it!” 😀

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      I will send you short, happy labor thoughts!

    • Jenna Nieves

      July 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      I had my babies 18 months apart. The second one decided to wait two extra weeks. I had to serve an eviction notice but after they started the drip, it only took about 4-5 hours for her to pop out. I asked for the drugs right away because those were some intense contractions. Good luck to you!

    • Kala

      July 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      I hope you have a much faster labor this time. I was lucky. Both times my water just broke at home and then contractions were 3 min apart. My first daughter was born after 7 hrs and my second after 3 hrs. The 3 her labor was crazy as hell. Almost had her in the parking lot

  2. momjones

    July 14, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    After reading all the Mommyish discussions on childbirth, I asked my husband to remind me – were our 2nd and 3rd children natural childbirths? (seriously, I couldn’t remember). I know I had a spinal after 14 hours of labor with our first daughter – there was fetal distress and the doctor had to use forceps – this was in 1980. But for the 2nd one, after 5 hours of labor, he confirmed that she was born naturally, And our son was born naturally after 3 hours of labor – he almost missed it because he was suiting up and he got there just in time. I guess my point is 30 years later, I had to have my husband remembers clearly what I thought happened!

    • Bethany Ramos

      July 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      You are hilarious. 🙂

    • CMJ

      July 14, 2014 at 1:27 pm


    • momjones

      July 14, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      What I will never forget about my favorite Baby Girl #2 is that when we brought her home, she nursed like a champ, and she slept for 5 hours straight the first night. I woke up in a panic, scared to death you weren’t alive!

    • Megan

      July 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      I don’t know what your husband does for a living, but when I read “suiting up” I had a very clear picture of Superman in mind.

    • momjones

      July 14, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      …I guess teaching high school Biology for 38 years – 25 of them in junior high – qualifies him for Superman status 🙂

  3. LBD

    July 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I think there is room for balance in what we tell people. I’m now the horror story mom, after a failed attempt at unmedicated vaginal birth. I don’t whip it out unless people ask, but after all my hippie birthing classes and prep, I wish someone had prepared me more for a cesarean, rather than being all, “Most are unnecessary, and you’re young and healthy, so you likely won’t need one.” Then…posterior? Acynclitic? What? Hippie birth instructor said I just have to use all the positions and they will totally turn! (NOT!) Unfortunately, there is a bit of luck involved, that I wish was more acknowledged. I now tell people, what is most important is that you feel loved and supported and respected through your birth, whatever that birth may be. I had that, even if it wasn’t the birth I wanted or expected.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      There’s more than a bit of luck involved in birthing. From my experience, we have nowhere near as much control over how and when our babies will be born as we wish we did.

    • Bethany Ramos

      July 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      Great point. And thanks for lending your story, sister!

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      As I said before, it gave me something non-poop or boob-related to do for like 10 blessed minutes, so I am the one who is grateful to YOU! 🙂

    • kcore

      July 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Thank you so much for saying this! I’m at 32 weeks, and am trying to just prepare to be unprepared for whatever will happen. It’s definitely a strange feeling.

    • JAN

      July 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      I think I was lucky in that my Lamaze Instructor (who had six children herself) was very balanced. She instructed us a lot in breathing and distraction techniques but also about C-Sections and what to expect if we had to have one and that it wasn’t any kind of failure.

    • LBD

      July 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      Ha. We ran out of time on the day we were supposed to cover cesareans. She kept saying we’d cover it another class, but never did.

  4. Harriet Meadow

    July 14, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    My sister had two unmedicated births, one at a birthing center and one at a VA hospital (where she had to fight tooth and nail to get the doctors to listen to her!). They were very positive experiences for her. They went quickly and smoothly. She said the contractions just felt like bad period cramps (well, for her first; the second was a little more painful). So it’s definitely possible for that to happen!

    My experience was quite different, but hey, that doesn’t mean I need to go around scaring pregnant people!

  5. Melissa

    July 14, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I got SUPER LUCKY that my unmedicated childbirth was so quick. As my father-in-law put it after my husband told him about my 1.5 hour labor: “That’s not having a baby, that’s going to the bathroom!”.

    • Bethany Ramos

      July 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      Maybe pop out a few more…

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm


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  6. Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    July 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I love hearing people had good natural birth experiences. I am more of a ‘Give me all the meds’ kind of girl, but I think it is good for other people who are considering natural birth to hear that it isn’t as horrible as they think.

    • Greta Young

      July 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      I agree. I also think the picture gets painted waaaay too black-and-white, where if you don’t aspire to some crunchy organic raw vegan homebirth with a private midwife then you’re just another voiceless cog in the machine with no patient rights and better just sign yourself up for a c-section right now! This attitude is hardly helpful. I think more women need to know about the in-between options that are available to them as well, like CNMs that practice in hospital settings, freestanding birth centers run by OBs, birth centers attached to hospitals, epidural-friendly midwives, wireless fetal monitoring & jacuzzi tub birthing suites, etc. Not everyone who wants a natural birth can afford to hire a private midwife for a homebirth, nor do they need to.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      July 14, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      Yes, most definitely. There are so many options available – many of which you won’t hear about unless you go looking for them. If I relied only on my Mom’s birth experience as a benchmark for my options, for example, I’d be missing out on everything outside what she experienced 30 years ago. And I definitely agree that the attitude surrounding natural/medicated/whatever births can be off-putting and intimidating, particularly to first time Moms.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      I agree, but the other side is that if you don’t want an epidural as your plan A, you’re automatically lumped in with the idiots who want to birth in the woods with no assistance because, hey, the deer do it. Everyone needs to worry a bit more about themselves and a bit less about others, and then everyone would be happier.

  7. ELK

    July 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I had a fairly short labor. I was induced and didn’t progress for the first twenty-seven hours. Then my water broke and less than seven and a half hours later, I had a baby.

    People weren’t joking about how painful contractions get when your water breaks. I tried for a natural birth, but I couldn’t do it. It was so painful I couldn’t breathe and I had to lie in bed — I couldn’t walk or bounce on that stupid ball or anything, I wasn’t allowed to move. Before my epidural, the blood pressure cuff went off during a contraction (I was induced for preeclampsia at 39 weeks) and my blood pressure was 195/155. I needed the epidural.

    I was lucky, though. My epidural wasn’t very strong, so I felt the birth (just not as much as if I hadn’t had an epidural). It helped me get that baby the hell out of me.

    I’m pregnant now and I’m going to try for a natural birth again. No worries if I can’t do it, though. I don’t need that kind of pressure.

    • Bethany Ramos

      July 14, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      GREAT attitude. 🙂

    • Greta Young

      July 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Hahahahahaha the “move around, switch positions, breathe through contractions, use the birthing ball” is such useless BS anyway. Useful for early labor perhaps? Not so much the throes of full blown contractions every goddamn minute. When I was in the midst of my unmedicated transition, I was clutching that bed rail for dear life and you couldn’t have paid me to attempt bouncing on some silly ball. Slow, deep breaths got me about as far as 7cm and after that I was like NOPE I’M SCREAMING AND MOANING AND SWEARING NOW, TYVM. If only that bed rail had had a throat punch mechanism button I could have pressed for the next person who wanted to tell me I was “doing great!”

    • JA

      July 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      I really don’t want people to speak to me, touch me, or even breathe too loudly when I’m in transition!

    • Obladi Oblada

      July 15, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      I’m with ya. I had a minor stroke during labor so a c-section was necessary. My bp was through the roof and it was no picnic. No more babies for me.

  8. Megan

    July 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I feel like most people are happy with their medicated or non choice, but has anyone ever done the natural and for a subsequent birth decided to get the meds or vice versa? I’m curious because my dr wanted me to get the epidural in case I ended up needing a c section (and I did) but I was a little bummed before the birth because I wondered if I “could have” done it without the meds. Judging from how I felt before the meds came, probably not, but I still wonder.

    • atmtx

      July 14, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Me! I had an unmedicated birth with the first and was open to unmedicated for the second. However, in the delivery room I was all “umm…eff that shiz give me an epidural.” It was the best decision ever. I was so much more relaxed and more present for my second child’s birth. With the first, I was confused, exhausted and just happy it was done. With the second, when they announced the gender, I sat up excitedly to see my baby. I remember every moment vividly and thank the epidural for that. I did perfectly fine without an epidural the first time (no screaming, no being out of control), but am so glad I went medicated the second time. I had more energy in the first hours, and was able to breastfeed easily (that baby was a MUCH better nurser than my first!).

    • My2bits

      July 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      I was induced and had an epidural with my first. I had a natural water birth with my second. We are done having kids, but I would definitely do natural again if I was going to have another. I felt better leaving the birth center 3 hours after my delivery than I did going home 2.5 days after my first.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      I had an epidural with my first and planned to with my second, but, alas, there was no time for that. I didn’t think I could do an unmedicated birth after I felt how painful transition was with my first before the epidural kicked in, but when you’ve got no other choice you just get through it somehow. I had a moment of utter terror after being told it was to late for an epidural, then it was like, oh what the hell–let’s get the baby out as quick as possible so I never, ever have to do this again!

    • Megan

      July 14, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      And now that you’ve done it both ways which would you choose if you did it a third time! ( if you don’t mind me asking)

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      I’m almost certain I would choose the epidural. The only thing that, for me, made the pain tolerable was knowing I had no choice. I don’t think I could bring myself to do it again unmedicated by choice, but again, that’s just me. Everyone’s experience with birth and the pain involved is so vastly different.

    • JAN

      July 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      I wrote about my experiences above but I had an epidural for my first and not for the subsequent two. My SIL had her first two unmediated and had an epidural for the third (he was occipital posterior and she had lots of back labor) and plans on an epidural for the last one that’s due in November but mostly because she’s also getting a tubal ligation.

  9. talaricg

    July 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I’m hoping I take after my mom… in about 3 months, i’ll be (hopefully) trying for an unmedicated birth mostly cuz i’m absolutely terrified of an epidural. My mom’s longest labor was 3 hours, and she accidentally had an unmedicated natural birth with my brother… she had him in an hour and a half, and although she actually GOT the epidural, it didn’t kick in until after my bro was already born. she doesn’t talk about it like it was sunshine and roses- but she survived and had another baby after that, which makes me feel a little bit more comfortable trying it out!

    • Erin Murphy

      July 14, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      You can totally do it! Just prepare yourself. Read, talk to women with positive experiences, know your options and the risks as well as the benefits. I’m happy to talk to you privately if you need it as I had a positive unmediated hospital birth.

    • talaricg

      July 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      i’m a total “researcher” so i’ve been reading about this since I found out I was pregnant. I really think that i’m way more scared of the epidural than labor though, so the pain is gonna have to be REALLY unbearably awful for me to want to try it. I am gonna do the best I can, and hope that the baby comes quickly!

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Is it the big needle that scares you about the epidural? Because it’s not that bad and besides, you can’t see it going in. My big surprise with the epidural was that it wasn’t instant relief. The nurse told me to think of it like a dimmer switch that makes the pain gradually fade. I was very disappointed by that aspect of it!

    • talaricg

      July 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      It’s partially the needle (I really really hate even having an IV needle in… Any type of needle in my body if I can see it or not is no bueno)… And it’s also a completely irrational fear of ending up paralyzed. I KNOW that is not gonna happen, yet, still scared of it. I admit it’s irrational but that isn’t helping me get past it.

    • The Kez

      July 15, 2014 at 4:42 am

      Me too! I had two unmedicated births, not because I’m brave, but because there is no way I was letting anyone put a big needle in my spine. It was pretty intense, but I’m really glad I did. After my babies were born and the first feed was done I could get straight up and have a shower, which was awesome.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 14, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      I’m the same! I read EVERYTHING! I was also terrified of the epidural. My logical brain knows I wouldn’t have to run while labor but I could not get it out of my head that I wouldn’t be able to move. I found that being able to move was really helpful. I do recommend a doula if you can afford it. Mine was awesome.

    • footnotegirl

      July 15, 2014 at 1:12 am

      If it makes you worry less, I found that while the pain in labor was really awful, my body and brain did an AMAZING job of erasing it within moments after it was all over. I only have flashes of memory, no deep connection to the pain, and the testimony of my husband (apparently, when told that another woman had given unmedicated birth to twins within an hour after walking into the hospital, I told them to bring her to me so that I could PUNCH HER IN THE FACE) to let me know that the pain was that bad.
      And quite honestly, the pain of the birth itself was a relief compared to transition.

  10. val97

    July 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    I was in labor for 24 hours, threw up twice, and cried for probably 12 hours straight. I was a horror show. Even after they broke my waters, my progression was super slow. I was begging for an epidural, but since I was on Medicaid, they did not want to give me one. On the other hand, I will say the delivery part was not as bad as I thought. A couple of pushes and out. By that time, I was like, this shit is ending now. So, basically, nobody should ever ask me about natural birth unless they want to be scared for life.

    • Alanna Jorgensen

      July 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      They denied you pain medication after begging for hours because you were on Medicaid? That is awful. I was on temporary pregnancy medical through the state of Washington after losing my insurance and I was covered for everything including dental work if I needed it. I’m sorry to hear you were treated that way.

    • Jenna Nieves

      July 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      What state do you live in? I had to use temporary pregnancy medicaid both times and they gave me the epidural without hesitating. It sounds like your hospital was staffed with assholes.

    • val97

      July 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      It was in Florida over 15 years ago. There was one clinic in my small town that accepted medicaid, and they specifically told me from the beginning that epidurals were not included as part of the care unless medically necessary. The only other place you could go was the public health clinic – I’m not sure if that would have been any different. I thought I was ok with the no epidurals rule until I had been in labor for so many hours, with contractions less than five minutes apart but no progression. My nurse midwife was actually really great, but my boyfriend at the time told me that the regular nurses were rolling their eyes.

    • Jenna Nieves

      July 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm

      The regular nurses were assholes. I cannot imagine rolling my eyes at someone in that amount of pain who is being denied drugs. Good god. I am sorry you had to go through that awfulness.

  11. guest

    July 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I just had my fifth each one was very different but all were too short to get epidural, except my first each time I think I’d rather have longer labor with epidural then short with so much pain!

  12. rachel

    July 14, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I don’t understand why for every other medical procedure that causes intense pain we are medicated or sedated but for birth women are expected to “tough it out.” I got an epidural, because like the birth story above, I felt such intense pain I thought I might die. I’m so happy I was able to enjoy and relax during my labor experience.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      Everyone’s different. My “labor experience” really wasn’t so bad, and I didn’t have an epidural. For me, I dislike pain medication, don’t like how it makes me feel, and have a high tolerance for pain. That, combined with the fact that for me birth, while painful, just wasn’t THAT bad. For some, it is, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting an epidural if you need or want one. No one gets a cookie for how they give birth, they get one because their families are nice and brought them. Pro tip: bring the new mom cookies.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Because childbirth is our punishment or whatever. Thanks, Eve.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 14, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      For me having a baby is not a “medical procedure”. As much as people hate to hear it, having babies really is what we’re designed to do. Yes, some people have complications and need a variety of interventions. Others choose interventions and that’s A-okay too. I read everything I could get my hands on and felt that an unmedicated birth was best for me and my family. I found the discomfort of labor preferable to the risks of intervention. I also find it frightening that one has to do a lot of independent study to even learn the risks of inductions, epidurals, and C-sections.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 7:50 pm

      Childbirth is a medical event, whether you think it is or not. It has been and still is a leading killer of women worldwide. We are not “designed” for anything. We evolved, and nature doesn’t care if you die or are injured during birth, because the species survives without you.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      You are correct. Childbirth is the second killer of women worldwide.
      http://www.maternityworldwide.org/the-issues/1114-2/ However, it must be noted that it isn’t pain that kills. Bleeding and advanced maternal where women are far from medical professionals and often not allowed access to birth control are.
      Per the CDC website pregnancy and childbirth were the sixth killer of women in the US in 2010 (most recent data).
      This statistic includes unsafe abortions and C-sections. These numbers have increased since 1998 (I’d go back further but those numbers aren’t easily available). In 1998 childbirth was 9th and even 10th for some age groups. I don’t think the species evolved that drastically in 12 years but the rates of C-section increased an astounding 53% from 1997-2007 (again most current data from CDC).
      Bottom line. There is no easy way to get a baby out of a body. Women should be allowed to chose the way that works for them but they should be provided adequate information from medical professionals and women who have had both positive and negative experiences.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 15, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      The countries with high maternal and infant mortality rates are countries where legal, safe abortion and c sections aren’t available. Childbirth is not a leading killer of US women BECAUSE of access to legal, safe abortion, contraceptives and c sections, not in spite of them. We still have worse outcomes than other developed nations because of our barriers to access to health care for poor women, but that is changing with Obamacare. However you look at it, pregnancy and childbirth are huge medical events in the lives of women and girls, and pain is pointless. The pain of childbirth his no more beneficial than the pain of a broken leg or a burn, and we are no more “designed ” to tough it out than anyone is for any pain in our lives, which are all natural.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 16, 2014 at 2:18 am

      I saw from your other comments that you had a very negative labor experience and I’m sure that being denied pain medication only compounded that.
      We’re going to have to agree to disagree but I’d like it noted that I 100% understand that our access to superior medical care saves lives and I am in no way against any type of intervention. I simply feel they are overused and I opted not to use them as is my right.

    • Danielle

      July 15, 2014 at 10:55 am

      Women weren’t designed to give birth, we’ve evolved, and not particularly well, either. Evolution involves tradeoffs, and in our case, the narrow hips needed for bipedal walking (coupled with giant baby human heads) makes for a mismatched situation.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 16, 2014 at 2:12 am

      Please share where you found this information- I’d like to know more.

    • Danielle

      July 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      It’s usually referred to as the “obstetrical dilemma” and I’m going to link Wikipedia even though I always tell my students not to:


    • Lilly

      July 14, 2014 at 11:01 pm

      A lot of woman don’t actual feel the pain your are describing, I had an un-medicated birth and it barely makes top 5 most painful experiences for me. The most painful is a broken hand with a bone reset needed, which was done in a hospital without pain meds, so while a lot of painful medical procedures are done with pain meds a lot aren’t (including childbirth).

    • TheGiantPeach

      July 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      I broke my hand just this summer, and I was offered when the doctor neede to set, x-ray and then reset the bones. I declined, because after the initial fall I’ve had very little pain from the two broken bones and didn’t need it, but I don’t know why it wasn’t even offered to you.

    • footnotegirl

      July 15, 2014 at 1:09 am

      Because for every other medical procedure that causes intense pain, there isn’t another person who could be affected by those medications through the placenta and/or be endangered by how a body reacts to that procedure. Which is by no means to say that epidurals (or if we were in Europe, laughing gas) is a BAD thing, only that there are reasons, even good medical ones, for child birth to occur without them when possible. In my case, it was on my doctor, perinatologist, and OB/GYN’s orders that I NOT get an epidural for a number of reasons, including but not limited to known allergy to lidocaine, blood thinners during pregnancy, and inability to perform c-section without general anesthesia. Thus my extremely slow induction and unmedicated (other than pitocin) birth.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      Epidurals are safe for mother and baby in most cases.

  13. kiki

    July 14, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    I was in labor for just under 6 hours. My water breaking woke me up, and by the time I got to the birth center 3 hours later I was at 7cm. Spent transition in a tub, then pushed for 1:40ish. It wasn’t the worst pain I’ve ever felt (bursitis in my shoulder was), and while yes, it was painful, it was productive. I don’t remember screaming, I didn’t swear much after we got out of the car (active labor in a moving car after your water has broken is not fun), and I cracked jokes between contractions during pushing (my coping mechanism). Everyone’s different. My story is not everyone’s. But still, for me it wasn’t really all that bad. She was ready to be born, so I was ready to have her.

    • Greta Young

      July 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      Laser hair removal was way more painful than natural childbirth. By far.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 3:17 pm


  14. M.

    July 14, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Yes, this! I hear so many women that are just TERRIFIED of giving birth, and I think so much of the pain experience is mental and based on expectation. There has been some research in this area that shows that, in countries where more medicalized births are more normal women actually report higher levels of pain during childbirth than in countries where most births are unmedicated because the expectation of pain is higher going into it. So I could totally see how having an unplanned unmedicated birth would be scarier and more painful than the same birth experience for someone planning to go that route.

    I planned an unmedicated birth with my first and am doing the same with my second. I had a wonderful birth experience with my son, but I was also lucky that he was in perfect position, labor lasted under 12 hours, and my water didn’t break until the push before he was born, all of which probably contributed to my good experience and feeling like the pain was totes manageable. I absolutely don’t think going that direction is for everyone, and would never try to convince someone otherwise…everyone should do what they are comfortable with.

    At the same time I get SO SICK of seeing birth portrayed in the media as this horrifying thing where the woman is screaming bloody murder and in intense pain. Of COURSE people are going to be scared when that’s all they see. I can think of 3 examples right off the top of my head of women in tv/movies (Lily in How I Met Your Mother, Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up, and Helen Hunt in Mad About You) who planned natural births and then screamed for an epidural during the labor. Just once I’d like to see a woman giving birth on tv without all the histrionics. End of rant 🙂

    • Bethany Ramos

      July 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Really, really agree with this.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 14, 2014 at 2:29 pm

      This 100%

    • SA

      July 14, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      Oh God. I was the woman giving birth screaming for an epidural. Never really pictured it going down like that.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm

      YES to all of this! The fear I had of how bad the pain would be (thanks maybe in part to Hollywood portrayals of natural birth) was worse than the pain itself. That said, I was still screaming bloody murder during every contraction and I even wailed the stereotypical “I can’t doooo thiiiiis!” at one point.

    • M.

      July 14, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      Oh, I totally went through a whole “I can’t do this!” phase during my birth too…I was begging my midwife to reach in and pull him out for me, lol. He was born like 2 minutes later.

    • My2bits

      July 15, 2014 at 8:54 am

      I said the same thing at the very end, “Just pull her out!” I did the induction and epidural route with my first. My natural birth was sooooo much better, but the last few minutes were pretty painful. I can remember hearing the midwife say at one point that she wished everyone could see my labor who was trying to decide whether or not go the natural route because mine was so easy. I was thinking, “This is easy?!”

    • the_ether

      July 16, 2014 at 1:02 am

      It’s a super common feeling/reaction to have right towards the end!

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      Birth is still a common killer of women in poorer countries. It kills even more newborns. Pain is not in a woman’s head and it is not about attitude or expectations. Pain is neither virtuous nor punishment for fear. In fact, fear of childbirth is appropriate and expectation of pain is realistic and pain management is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t make you a better woman or a better mother to decide to forgo pain management order to decide that your attitude can ward off extreme pain. Childbirth is one of the most painful experiences humans can endure, and I think that the idea that it is virtuous not to have pain relief is deeply misogynist. If you had an easy labor with no pain management, you were lucky. That’s all.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 4:54 pm


    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      Still making underwear milkshakes 5 minutes later

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm

      Who here has said that anyone is a better woman or mother for how they give birth? Or that birth with no epidural is virtuous? Different people handle pain in different ways. For some people, mental state can most definitely influence how much pain they feel or how they feel it. Doesn’t make them any better or any worse than anyone else, and really, you’re the only one I’ve seen suggest they think it does.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      No one has outright said that, of course, but it’s there between the lines and not very difficult to see. Saying you want to see childbirth portrayed without “all the histrionics” implies that women in pain are just being dramatic for attention. Saying pain is a social construct and that it’s all in our heads is just…crazy talk, frankly. Giving birth felt like being torn apart, it felt like my butthole was going to explode, I thought I was going to die. There’s nothing I could have done to prepare for that, it wasn’t “in my head.” All the language surrounding unmedicated birth implies that women who have them are superheroes, and saying that the pain is totally manageable reads like you’re trying to diminish the very real pain of childbirth. Sure, it’s technically manageable and the pain won’t kill you. But why are we even talking about that? Unmedicated root canals are manageable too.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 6:35 pm

      You make a really valid point about how real and not imagined or exaggerated the pain of birth is and the implication, however subtle, in society that doing it unmedicated is heroic. Even the doctor who delivered my baby gave me a symbolic pat on the head when he told me afterwards “Now that’s the way to do it!”. Yeah, I bet you wish all babies were delivered quickly and unmedicated-ly because you just made how many thousands of dollars in the whopping 1/2 hour you spent telling me when to push?

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Yeah, everyone told me what a great job I did and what a “champ” I am. It was gross.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Well, if surviving a third degree tear doesn’t make you a champ for real, I don’t know what does!!

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      I just don’t feel like I am more or less of a champ than any woman who gives birth with or without an epi, or by cesarean. It just felt icky to have all the nurses congratulating me in a manner I’m pretty sure they reserve for unmedicated births.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      I wanted an epi and they wouldn’t give me one (gave birth abroad). I never brag about the “natural” childbirth I had, because I’ve realized my suffering was pointless.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 9:45 pm

      That’s horrible, I’m so sorry.
      I feel the exact same way. For both of my births, the epi either wore off super quickly or flat out didn’t take, so I’m honestly terrified of having more kids. I just gave birth 4 weeks ago, the pain is FRESH in my mind…and the rest of my body 🙁

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 9:53 am

      That’s terrible for both of you. I’m sorry that you weren’t able to have epidurals that you very much wanted. EVERYONE should have the birth they want, no matter which way it goes down.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      That was your experience. I had a different one – for me it was just not that bad. Other commenters and the blog post author have each had their own experiences because everyone’s body and mind react differently to pain. Sharing one experience, or even one person’s experience with or opinion on pain and pain management is not an automatic attack on others.

      And yeah, Hollywood dramatized birth just like they dramatize everything.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      Well that was luck, that wasn’t because you’re some bad ass who can just buck up and deal with it (not saying you think this, just saying that’s the very obvious message from the NCB community and ultimately our society at large). I felt like I was being torn apart because I was–I had a 3rd degree tear. In what other situation where someone’s body is being stretched so far that they literally tear apart would you tell them that their pain was a social construct and it’s actually totally manageable?

      And no, I don’t find the media’s portrayal of birth to be dramatic at all. Childbirth is excruciating for all but a very lucky few.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      You’re choosing to see that message in it, and that’s up to you. You’re choosing to see anyone who talks positively about birth with no epidural as a zealot who’s judging you, secretly or otherwise, and that’s up to you as well. Chances are, for the majority of people, they’re not. Chances are pretty good that they’re just as weary of the discussion as anyone else is, and that they’ve gotten just as much crap (along the lines of “you wouldn’t have XYZ surgical procedure without anesthesia, why no epidural” or “oooOOOooo, you think you’re special, don’t you?”) as you have.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 7:12 pm

      lol no. Offensive things are just offensive, it’s not in my head (much like childbirth pain!). The message in “pain is a social construct” is pretty plainly divisive and snobby. How is saying something like that NOT judging someone else’s birth experience? You’re outright saying that the very real, enormous pain I experienced was in my head and if I just meditated and lit some candles, it would have been totes manageable!!

      And well, you wouldn’t have surgical procedures without medication so it’s a valid point. It IS misogynistic to imply that women who don’t want to suffer through childbirth are somehow inferior. For me, there was no benefit to having an unmedicated birth…except that people pat me on the back for it, even though it wasn’t my choice and completely the fault of a failed epidural.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      For me, personally, my mental state has a fair bit to do with my ability to tolerate pain. That’s just how it is for me. I’m not saying that’s how it is for everyone, and I don’t think it makes me better than anyone. For the billionth time, everyone reacts differently physically and mentally to pain. They just do. If you find that offensive it’s because you are choosing to do so, and that’s up to you. Not everyone needs an epidural, not everyone wants an epidural, not everyone thinks it’s the worst pain ever, and they are not all martyrs and idiots and misogynists, just as no one who gets an epidural or any other kind of medical intervention is weak or “less than” or anything else equally stupid. Live and let live and all that jazz – but it goes both ways.

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      That’s totally fine and I think it’s great that you had a painfree childbirth (like, I really do. My great-grandma had 8 kids and had a couple of lucky labors thrown in there, I know it happens and I’m infinitely jealous). The whole thread started from your reply regarding a comment full of generalizing and demeaning statements about childbirth, though, and that’s what I find offensive…not anyone else’s childbirth, which I couldn’t give a shit less about.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Yeah, it was totally pain free. That’s exactly what I said. lol. I didn’t think the initial comments were demeaning – but my personal experience aligns with them; yours doesn’t, so I guess I see how you could read enough into them to find them demeaning. I don’t think one person’s opinion, unless it directly makes a negative statement about others (like, I don’t know, saying people who view drug-free childbirth favorably are misogynistic), is innately judging others. It’s not. Otherwise, you’re going to see what you want to see, so I’ll end this with “Have a pleasant whatever-part-of-the-day-it-is-for-you.”

    • Cruelty Cupcake

      July 14, 2014 at 8:23 pm

      Well while you’re splitting hairs, that’s not what I said either. I said viewing women who choose to have an epi as inferior is misogynistic. But whatever, have a good one.

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 9:52 am

      NOBODY said that women who choose to have an epidural are inferior.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm

      My MIL had twelve kids with no pain management. Some births hurt less than others. She never goes around saying she has a great mental attitude toward pain in regards to child birth. She goes around saying that it is a pain like no other and that some births are much easier than others. Stop minimizing other women’s pain. My daughter suffered third degree burns- should I have told her she could control it mentally?

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Are you on drugs now? When did I minimize anyone else’s experience or pain? I simply related my own, and I’m not the person you originally replied to. And I said multiple ways that everyone’s different, no one’s better than anyone else, pain is impossible to quantify, etc. Calm down.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      You wrote very plainly that if Hollywood didn’t show women in childbirth with “histrionics” then we’d realize it isn’t so bad. That is misogynist BS.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Nope, I didn’t. But OK.

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 9:49 am

      I “said” that, only that’s not at all what I said. I said that the dramatization of birth in Hollywood contributes to the fear women have of childbirth and to the pain they experience. Of COURSE everyone’s experience is different and some births are more painful than others. I even listed several reasons why my birth was probably more comfortable than others, I fully understand that my experience is exclusive to ME and I didn’t say it applied to everyone. But portrayals in the media, not just of birth but of many aspects of life (photoshopping already thin women thinner, anyone?) affect the way we see the world whether we want to admit it or not and I think it’s a shame that birth is portrayed as only being one way. That’s all I was trying to say.

    • WriterLady

      July 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      I’m going to approach this from a slightly different angle. To preface my birth story, it’s important to know that I generally have a high tolerance for pain. I’ve foolishly allowed several rather serious medical problems to go unattended for moderately lengthy periods of time because I’ve been fortunate in the sense that certain types of traditionally painful conditions do not have a significant on me (meaning that I could physically withstand the pain long enough for my insurance policy to kick in so as to avoid the exorbitantly high cost of medical bills). I don’t recommend anyone doing this because it’s frankly quite risky, but I foolishly held out, and it was only by sheer fortune or luck that I didn’t experience more debilitating episodes of pain during the waiting time. In these instances, my situations were not the norm, but I did not go about patting myself on the back.

      When it came to childbirth, however, I kind of suspected that the cards would be stacked against me due to genetics. Both my mother and grandmother had incredibly intense back labor that nearly did them in (this was back before c-sections were commonly performed). My mom has told me horror stories about her two childbirth experiences in which she was in so much agony that she literally thought she would die. This was also the same woman who was hit head-on by a car that had veered onto the sidewalk outside of the county prosecutor’s office where she worked, knocking her back about 10 feet and slamming her body against the pavement. She was released later that same day (on her insistence), with severe full-body bruising and a broken arm. One type of pain obviously trumped the other—while she barely made it through childbirth, a major accident that may have been extraordinarily painful and difficult to recover from for many people was not terribly strenuous for her to cope with. The important takeaway here is that she was neither ashamed of her childbirth experiences nor prideful/boastful of her innate ability to endure the pain of a fairly serious accident.

      When I went into labor almost 5 years ago, the spasms came on hard and strong. I was immediately given Pitocin because my labor wasn’t progressing after many hours, which, of course, exacerbated the pain. I’m not really sure there is a way to adequately describe the way the contractions associated with my back labor felt like other than to say it was pure hell on earth. I wasn’t screaming or crying. Instead, I was in so much pain that I could barely talk or move. After my first failed epidural, I nearly passed out, and my blood pressure skyrocketed (thereby causing my son’s vitals to drop). As a result, it was determined that I would require a c-section. A couple of hours later, the second epidural was administered, and I thankfully had a quick and successful surgery.

      Now, I’ve heard many women say that the recovery from a c-section is horrendous. This is a reasonable assessment, considering that it’s a MAJOR type of open surgery on one’s abdomen. But while the back labor and contractions in the early phases of my labor were excruciating, my specific experience with the c-section wasn’t that bad at all. I was up and walking within 24 hours, and I only had mild abdominal pain and swelling in the week following the surgery. Heck, I even came home and cleaned 5 days after the hospital stay. But, here’s my point: Pain in humans is manifested in so many different ways. You may have been able to withstand the pain associated with your own unmedicated natural childbirth just fine due to your genes and specific pain threshold for that type of situation, but you may also have had a tremendously difficult time recovering from a c-section (as many, many women do). Or maybe not….who knows?! This is really no different than how one person physically and/or psychologically reacts to a kidney stone or an operation in comparison to another person. I don’t get the impression that you are deliberately trying to make this out to be a contest or some sort of innocuous one-upping of women who have had more difficult experiences with labor (unlike a certain group of judgmental natural birth fanatics), but it’s important to note that our bodies all operate differently.

    • kiki

      July 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Right… everyone’s different. When have I said otherwise? I think I said that everyone’s different multiple times in multiple ways. Is it that I didn’t say that everyone can react to pain differently at different times and in different ways within their own lives so we’re all special rainbow-pooping unicorns no matter what happens, when it happens or how it happens? Is that where the problem is? Because I’ve actually said elsewhere in this thread that everyone should get a cookie no matter how/if/when they have a kid. One person sharing their experience or thoughts on a subject is not the same thing as that person attacking another’s experiences no matter how much some people seem to want it to be. It just isn’t.

    • WriterLady

      July 16, 2014 at 1:43 pm

      Yes, I’ve read all of your subsequent posts. I was referring to your initial suggestion that pain is somehow a mental thing. It’s not. People literally have different thresholds of pain in different circumstances; it is not merely a figment of one’s imagination or a psychological phenomenon that is exacerbated by tropes perpetuated through mainstream media. It seems that you are now understanding that to be true and are realizing that your original statement was not quite accurate. As others have stated, it’s not unreasonable to see media figures going through a very painful event. For all but a very, very small percentage of women, childbirth is one of the most painful experiences they will ever have—even if one chooses (or is forced to undergo) an unmedicated labor and delivery. Going back to my previous post, it would be equally unrealistic to show someone on TV walking around perfectly normally the day after a c-section. The vast majority of women do not have this experience; that’s a primary reason why many employers allow 8 weeks off for cesareans as opposed to 6 weeks for vaginal births. And even unmedicated home births (as well as a birth in the damn jungle as discussed in a recent Mommyish article) that have been aired on Youtube and elsewhere do not depict childbirth as painless or easy.

    • kiki

      July 16, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      Really? You read them? I think we speak different languages then. I haven’t ever said that pain was all mental. No one here has. It is a fact that one’s mental state can have an impact on how pain is perceived, experienced and felt. Does that mean that pain is all in one’s head and pain medications are never needed? No, of course not. That’s stupid, which is why not one, single person here has said it. Not even me, no matter how much you seem to want me to have said it, and if you’re finding it between the lines of anything I’ve said, you’re truly seeing things, and should take a break from the internet.

    • WriterLady

      July 16, 2014 at 2:13 pm

      You have a very rude and confrontational way of speaking to people. Like when you asked someone if they were on drugs, simply because you disagreed with their opinion. Newsflash: Mommyish isn’t the place for that kind of trash. Head on over to Babycenter if you want to be incredibly rude when you don’t like another’s opinion, rather than sticking to the facts and the debate at hand. You did, in fact, mention that one’s mental state was tied to pain in some cases. I firmly disagree. When someone is screaming and crying during labor (or conversely unable to talk or move, as in my case), there isn’t one iota of mental interference contributing to the pain. That can happen when a woman–and especially a new mom–is anticipating labor days or weeks ahead of time, but absolutely not during the actual labor. Anyhoo, I’ve got to get back to writing an EFL textbook for a Latin American educational agency, but it was nice chatting with you.

    • kiki

      July 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Nope, I asked her that because she was repeatedly scolding me for saying something I didn’t say. And there’s no way sarcasm had any part in me asking her if she was on drugs. I was obviously serious. Just like I said that pain was all mental, and anyone who had drugs/screamed/experienced a lot of pain during birth is weak. You’ve got me pegged, your work is done here.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      It’s really difficult, in general, to describe “how much” childbirth hurts, because it’s so so different for everyone I have ever talked to about it. Each of us can only try to describe what we experienced relative to other pain we have experienced (for me labor was slightly less painful than the times I have dislocated my shoulder) but pain threshold and a host of other factors are different for everyone. I agree that describing one’s childbirth experience shouldn’t be seen as on attack on anyone else’s but many of us seem really quick to get defensive about our birthing experiences. Maybe because it’s such an intensely personal, life-altering event? I don’t know.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      Right. It’s different for everyone. And pain of any kind is so subjective that it’s silly to compare one person’s pain to another person’s. It’s also silly to say that anyone who doesn’t get the epidural is an idiot who would have a root canal with no pain meds, or have surgery with no pain meds, or doesn’t isn’t taking care of themselves or risking bladdy bladdy blah, or punishing themselves, or trying to be Billy Bad Ass or a martyr for bragging rights. We all have our own experiences, they are all good and bad for their own reasons, and we all have the right to feel as positively, negatively, strongly or be as apathetic about them as we do.

    • TheGiantPeach

      July 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      I think it’s because the general consesus is natural birth = good, interventions (especially epidurals and c-sections) = bad. Maybe nobody is outright saying it here (although I see the implications in a lot of comments), but that is most certainly the narrative we hear and inernalize from all around us. Somehow an unmedicated vaginal birth has become conflated with being a good mother. It’s your first real test of motherhood, and if you can’t stand a little pain for the sake of your baby what kind of selfish mother are you going to be?

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      I don’t know anyone who thinks this. More than half of women get an epidural for their birth. The best number I could find, on the CDC website, listed the percentage at 61% in 2008. If the “consensus” is that “natural birth = good” then why are more than half of women getting epidurals? I’m not denying there are some judgey mcjudgerson asshats out there, but there are plenty of people who are dismissive of unmedicated birth, too. There are always going to be assholes on both sides of an issue, but I think the majority of people don’t really care one way or the other how other people give birth.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm

      I don’t think it’s possible to dramatize birth. That’s like saying they dramatize war. You were lucky. Stop patting yourself on the back and start acknowledging that other women are not exaggerating. I felt like I was being tortured, and my labor only lasted a few hours. Women are literally torn apart by childbirth. It’s not an invention of Hollywood.

    • Erin Murphy

      July 14, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      And yeah, Hollywood dramatized birth just like they dramatize everything.
      Not everyone is cussing out/attacking the father and it rarely happens in the span of a sitcom or movie!

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 9:42 am

      I in no way meant to imply that ACTUAL women responding to the pain of childbirth are histrionic. These are actors. Who aren’t in any pain. Many of whom have never actually given birth. I don’t see why they can’t show ONE FREAKING BIRTH that doesn’t come with all the usual tropes (woman screaming and blaming partner, partner *almost* misses the birth, etc.). And I didn’t say that pain in childbirth was in anyone’s head, either. But it is a fact that expectation of pain causes us to experience more real pain. My birth wasn’t pain free either, I tore in 3 places and had to be stitched up with no medication because I’m lidocaine resistant. But I certainly wasn’t screaming at my husband that “he did this to meee!!!!” during all that. I also specifically said that every woman should do what is comfortable for them. My way is not the only way or the better way and I never meant to diminish anyone else’s experience, only to relay my own.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm

      You said movies exaggerate the pain of childbirth. I had a very painful labor. Painful labor is in Genesis, yet you wrote that women are scared of childbirth because movies and television show birthing women in “histrionics”. Let me tell you: screaming in pain during labor and wanting an epidural are not “histrionics”. If you didn’t feel like you would have done anything to make the pain stop, you were lucky. That’s all.

    • ..

      July 14, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Kiki didn’t say that, the original poster did.

    • Ennis Demeter

      July 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm

      Fair enough, I though Kiki was the OP. Sorry.

    • ..

      July 16, 2014 at 4:21 am

      No worries!

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 10:02 am

      I didn’t say pain was in a woman’s head, I said the expectation of pain increases the pain we perceive. It is not the same thing. “In your head” would be if there was nothing for you to feel pain about (certainly not the case in childbirth) but you felt pain. It is a fact that when we are expecting to feel pain we do. And I never said pain management wasn’t a wonderful thing (“everyone should do what they are comfortable with”), I never said that any way of giving birth was any better or worse than any other way (“I absolutely don’t think going that direction is for everyone”), and I never made any mention of one birth being more “virtuous” than another. I simply relayed my own experience and my frustration with a culture that views childbirth as so scary that women are terrified when they go into labor. And yes, birth still kills women, even in this country, but in developed nations it is exceedingly rare and it doesn’t do anybody any good for pregnant women to be absolutely terrified of giving birth.

    • TheGiantPeach

      July 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      The (not-so) subtle implication being that if childbirth was agonizing for you, it was all in your head or somehow your fault.

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      That is absolutely NOT what I tried to imply. It is a fact that pain is a subjective personal experience. What is painful to one is not necessarily painful for another. And absolutely the expectation of pain increases our perception of pain; this has been well-documented. My point is that the portrayal of birth in the media is making real women feel more ACTUAL pain than they would otherwise and scaring the everloving shit out of them in the process. It’s not a matter of it being “in their heads.” I’m talking about how the brain synthesizes and processes information about pain and what is painful, which can, indeed, be influenced by outside forces. I don’t understand why everyone is so offended that I think it would be amazing if women went into birth without fear, without judgement, with the mindset that they can and will give birth to their babies.

    • TheGiantPeach

      July 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Because that mindset implies that you can control what happens when that is absolutely not true.

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Of COURSE you can’t control what happens during your birth and nothing I’ve said implies that. The fact is 99.9% women will indeed give birth to their babies, in one way or another…the fetus will probably not reside in the uterus forever. They should not be so terrified of having to go through an unmedicated birth that it gives them a bunch of stress during their pregnancies. Sometimes epidurals don’t work, or there’s no time for them, or any number of other problems, and a woman who has no other choice but to forge ahead without it should not be terrified to do so but confidant that she will make it through ok. On the flip side, they should also not be terrified if they happen to need a C-section when they wanted an unmedicated birth. We should all go into it without fear, knowing that our bodies will handle whatever way we need to give birth. I’m saying the exact OPPOSITE of what you think I’m saying…that we should be prepared for EVERY outcome and not be terrified of ANY of it.

    • the_ether

      July 16, 2014 at 1:02 am

      It’s an accepted fact not only in the study of pain but in the practice of medicine that culture, expectations, attitudes and support networks all factor into thebpreception of and abilityto tolerate pain. This doesn’t mean ‘you did it wrong if you had pain relief.’ It means you experienced something different and responded/coped differently than someone else with a different background might have.

      You’re not crazy. A bunch of people are being reflexively ddefensive and overreacting.

    • M.

      July 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Here is a government study, for example, that talks about pain perception during labor and how outside factors can increase the pain experience: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093177/

      And here’s one that talks about how fear of childbirth led to more negative birth experience: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21764400

      This is not something I’m just making up. There are a slew of studies and articles out there documenting this phenomenon, seeking to find why women’s perception of pain in labor and childbirth varies so widely. I would post more, but usually all that’s visible is the abstract…you’re free to check them out yourself, though. I’m not meaning to demean or diminish anyone else’s experience.

  15. JAN

    July 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    My first child I was in labor for 31 hours and then got an epidural, which finally allowed me to relax and I had him an hour and a half later. Labor had been rough and I couldn’t hear the thought of eating or drinking and transition had been excruciating and he was born with vacuum assistance and I ripped horribly so I’m glad I had an epidural for that.

    However, I only made it to the hospital 23 minutes prior to my second child’s birth because labor never got that intense, I could always speak through contractions, I ate dinner, then around Midnight I realized I was in transition so we hauled to the hospital! I was an 8 when we got there and she was born in three pushes and the whole thing wasn’t too painful. I hopped straight out of bed afterwards and went to the bathroom on my own.

    With my third I went to an appointment that day, told my midwife I was in labor, she said I was dilated to a 6, so I grabbed some lunch and headed to the hospital. This time I had two and a half hours before my 8 pounder (half a pound bigger than my others) was born in two pushes.

    So my moral is each labor is different and it’s different for each woman. I am so glad I had the epidural for my first but had no problems without it for the other two. Like everything in life you deal with that individual situation in the best way for you and that doesn’t mean it’s best for someone else. I did take a six week Lamaze class and a refresher for my births and I think even if you plan on an epidural you should take a good class because you just never know. I have a girlfriend who had a less than 90 minute labor with her second (compared to 14 hours with her first) and she had a really rough time with no pain medication and she wishes she had taken a class or two. I’m not saying it would have made it better, no one knows that, just saying it’s best to be prepared for every contingency and not rule anything out either way.

    • JAN

      July 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Oh, and my water didn’t break with the second two until they were on their way out, which may also have really helped! It was happenstance with the second and I didn’t let them break it with the third. YMMV

    • Megan

      July 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      I’m amazed how different it can be from one labor to the next ! I’m not having another labor, so this is so interesting to read, thanks for sharing!

    • Tara

      July 15, 2014 at 8:20 am

      Yes, each one can be so different! My epidural didn’t take with my first labor, and I honestly didn’t think it was that bad, mostly uncomfortable, but far from the worst pain of my life. My second I had a perfect epidural and it was still more painful than my first. My third labor was truly the most excruciating experience of my life and I’m so grateful that I was able to get an epidural in time.

  16. SA

    July 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I did go epidural-less, but ended up having some narcotics at 8 cm when I couldn’t stop pushing (it was so involuntary). I did however beg for one even though I had planned on going all natural. I had back-labor and it was relatively quick and intense (6 hours). However, I have no regrets about NOT getting the epidural even though I wanted it in the moment. It was good to be able to move (read: flop) around during labor and they said the epidural would not have helped my back contractions anyway.

    It was painful, but that pain was temporary. Nothing to be scared of.

    • eri

      July 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Bullshit it wouldn’t help your back labor! I had exclusively back labor and the epidural made all the pain go away.

  17. brebay

    July 14, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Epidural is on my top-10 inventions of all time.

  18. Kala

    July 14, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    I agree. Both of my labors were fast (7 hrs and 3 hrs from first contraction to first breath). It wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. And the second was so fast that 30 min after we got to the hospital, she was born. We were too shocked to even think about the pain or whatever else was going on.

    • Kala

      July 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      And I should add that it actually felt good to push. It took me three pushes to get the second kid out. And during my first I kept asking to push but they made me wait in between.

  19. guest

    July 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Somehow “it may not be as scary as it seems” and “The pain is excruciating—like being ripped in half” don’t seem like they belong in the same argument.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      My point was that even though the pain was excruciating at certain moments it was overall tolerable, went super fast, and I don’t feel traumatized by it or anything–thus not as scary as it might seem.

  20. hbc

    July 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I like the point that we shouldn’t be terrified of natural labor, but the take-home message from Melissa could be about, I don’t know, water-boarding. “Hey, the pain is excruciating, but it goes pretty quickly, Not what I had planned, but I still survived.”

    As someone who walked around on a broken leg for weeks, I can say that being scared of pain is limiting, but taking it on just to prove a point isn’t any better.

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      I wasn’t suggesting anyone take on unmedicated birth to prove a point, and I don’t think Bethany was either. I did not choose to have an unmedicated birth, and I don’t expect any cookies for having had one.

    • kiki

      July 14, 2014 at 5:32 pm

      🙁 But anyone who’s a parent deserves cookies. I don’t really care how you get there, you deserve cookies. So do childless and childfree people. Really, anyone deserves, and should have the right to expect, cookies. COOKIES FOR ALL!

    • Melissa

      July 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Okay okay, I’ll take the cookies if you insist 🙂 Seriously though, the amazing L&D nurses sent a huge dessert tray up to my recovery room as my reward for having to give birth in triage.

    • hbc

      July 15, 2014 at 7:38 am

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply you were endorsing it. It’s just kind of funny that the point of the article seems “It ain’t that bad, you’ll live”. I don’t think many people are thinking, “Well, I want a natural birth in theory, but I might literally die from the pain.”

  21. hbc

    July 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    I’m thinking a lot of the discussions about birth (and parenting and whatnot) could benefit from proper modifiers. I don’t tell people that the last trimester is a piece of cake, I tell them *my* last trimester was a piece of cake *for me*. I don’t tell people that epidurals are the best thing ever, I tell them that *my* epidural rocked. And not in a snooty, “you’d think the same if you did things the right way” kind of way, just “here is my personal experience, put it in the appropriate context with all the other experiences people have.”

    I like the stories from the author and her friend. Not so much the end line about natural births being not so bad, given that there are plenty of women and children for whom it is an awful, terrible, very bad thing.

  22. preggy peggy

    July 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Can we seriously stop calling it “natural”? Just because I plan on having an epidural doesn’t mean my child’s birth will be “unnatural”. It’s alienating and rude and inaccurate.

  23. miriamrwilson

    July 14, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    as Thelma
    explained I cannot believe that a stay at home mom can make $7420 in four weeks
    on the internet . more info here C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

  24. Ennis Demeter

    July 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    A quick childbirth is easy by definition. Your friend was very fortunate. That is not an endorsement for so-called natural childbirth without pain management.

  25. T

    July 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I did a 13 hour birth, unmedicated with my 4th baby. ABSOLUTELY not by choice really. he got stuck and the doctor told me if I had an epidural it would stall my labour and I would have to have a c-section. I figured i would rather deal with the pain right away than weeks of healing with 3 toddlers and a newborn.

    It was by far the WORST experience of my life. I seriously thought I was dying. over 3 hours of pushing alone. GAWD i love me some epidural

  26. Erin

    July 14, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Can someone explain why calling it natural is offensive?

    • footnotegirl

      July 15, 2014 at 12:57 am

      Those who call it offensive feel like it is calling other births unnatural.

  27. StoppingBy

    July 15, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Yes! Mine was easy, unmedicated, and on accident. I woke up with stomach cramps; I knew it wasn’t labor because it felt nothing like the first time around. Out of anxiety, I said we should go to the hospital “just in case.” I still didn’t think I was in labor. I didn’t “know” I was in labor until my water broke on the freeway and my body started pushing by itself. Thankfully we made it to the hospital, but keeping that baby IN until we got there was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

  28. footnotegirl

    July 15, 2014 at 12:57 am

    I had a sort of natural, insofar as there was no epidural or other pain-relieving medication, but as I was a week and a half overdue with a high risk pregnancy, I did have to go through induction. After day 1 (cervidil/cytotec) and day 2 (broke my water), they finally went with pitocin on day three.
    Honestly? As a lifelong migraine sufferer, I would put the pain at somewhere around the same level as my very worst migraines. That said, I knew the pain would end (something that migraines often leave you doubting) and the pain was in my groin/back/abdomen and not in my head, so I could sort of cut myself off from it to a certain degree.
    Yes, it was an awful lot of pain, at least transition was. The actual birth wasn’t bad at all. Modern science is wonderful, and every woman should get to do things her way at least insofar as the health of her and the child allows. But I get so tired of the fear tactics that seem to be used to press epidurals. When I was pregnant, several of my friends were RABID about “oh my god, get the epidural, you must, it’s TOO MUCH PAIN.” one literally telling me that anyone who doesn’t get an epidural is a brainless idiot… I mean, sanctimommy’s who pull the ‘my birth was better than yours because I had it naturally at home in a tub with Yanni playing and had an orgasm when I gave birth’ thing are also awful? But at least they generally aren’t insistent about what OTHER people should be doing.

  29. cruiseyman

    July 15, 2014 at 4:36 am

    I did the same for my births, the first at a birthing unit, the second at home. They were both painful, with the first I did the whole ‘I want to die, I can’t do this’ to my husband but I did do it and I chose to do it again. Yes, I did dread it a little the 2nd time but mostly I was just excited and I knew that the pain was just one day and I’d forget it soon enough. I chose this because in my mind that’s how birth is. I do know that I am very lucky that my labours weren’t too long and were very straight forward. But unless it becomes a complicated medical event I would rather trust my body to birth my baby the way it is designed to. That said, if a woman chooses/or needs to have pain relief, that’s her right and her choice and I certainly don’t judge her. However I’m not fan of the argument that we have pain relief for root canals etc so why not for child birth, the reason for this being that birth is the fundamental, life creating event. It’s not a disease or decay or a cancer or a broken bone or unhealthy affliction. Those things are all negatives, birth is a positive and for whatever reason pain (for most women) comes with it. I can’t/won’t compare the birth of my babies to a visit to the dentist.

  30. Aussiemum

    July 15, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I’ve never had the pleasure of an epidural.
    My first labor they gave me a shot of pethidene that sent me straight to sleep!
    My second was 3 hours and considered super fast by my midwife and clearly my son aswell, he didn’t even wait for my waters to break and he was born still in his freaky looking sac!
    3rd and 4th were 1.5 hrs from start to finish. Poor hubs wasn’t even prepared for the last one and just settled into his comfy chair and next thing he knew the midwife was asking him to snip the bungy cord to set the kidlet free!
    Never again for me, the midwife said I’d have to actually be at the hospital or I’ll just cough the bubs out!

  31. Obladi Oblada

    July 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    My dad swore that my mom waited so long before she went to the hospital that my sister was born while he was parking the car.

  32. Daleth

    July 24, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    There’s an interesting study indicating that pain relief during and after labor can reduce the risk of postpartum depression:

    “Controlling pain during childbirth and post delivery may reduce the risk of postpartum depression, writes Katherine Wisner, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine® perinatal psychiatrist, in a July 23 editorial in Anesthesia & Analgesia.

    Wisner’s editorial is based on a new Chinese study that found women who had pain control with epidural anesthesia during a vaginal delivery had a much lower risk for postpartum depression than women who didn’t have the epidural.”


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