Having given birth surgically twice, my feelings about “natural” childbirth have changed immensely. And not because I “failed” at what people call natural birth, either. When you actively seek a natural birth, you actively seek out people who are proponents of it. Sometimes those people are so narrow minded it can be mind-blowing in retrospect.
I fully support the idea that many women can birth without the help of interventions or drugs. The thought of having a child this way has always appealed to me. Those images of women seeing their children for the first time and bursting into tears of joy are deeply ingrained in my psyche. Having struggled with infertility before my first child was born, and having five years to dream about what it would finally be like to give birth put an immense load of pressure on the experience.
I, like many women who research birth, saw The Business of Being Born. The statistics presented in the documentary are real – and they are disturbing. The thought that many doctors had never witnessed a totally unmedicated, unassisted birth boggled my mind. Image after image of women in hospital crying and being wheeled into an operating room really scarred me. I began to believe the notion that most OBs were against natural births and were really just surgeons laying in wait to cut pregnant women open.
My first child was born via emergency c-section, so my dreams of an unmedicated birth flew out the window. I was there. I heard his heartbeat almost come to a complete stop. I saw the hospital staff rushing around me and running me into the O.R. I knew that a c-section was necessary. But when I actively sought out a midwife to assist me in getting a VBAC for my second pregnancy – this was the first conversation that we had:
Her: So, how did your first birth go? Did you have any issues during the pregnancy? Gestational diabetes? High blood pressure? Low amniotic fluid? Anything like that?
Me: No. We were actually joking about how easy my pregnancy had been when my midwife caught something wrong with Lucien’s heart rate and sent me to the hospital.
Her: OH. Hmm. So was it okay when you got to the hospital?
Me: Yes – for a while. They almost discharged me, but then there was an alarming dip again and they admitted me.
Her: OH. Hmm. It’s very normal for babies to experience heart rate fluctuations.
Me: Yeah – but I did hear his heart rate slow to almost a stop, so – that’s when they all rushed me into surgery.
Her: Yeah. That happens with babies all the time. It’s totally normal. Do you ever feel like maybe they rushed you into an unnecessary surgery?
Um, what? Not until right at that moment. I’m reading the look on her face – it’s pity. She’s pitying me. Was I supposed to question a staff of doctors and nurses who thought my situation was so dire that they were actually running me into surgery? I don’t think so.
That is probably the biggest problem I had with all the people I reached out to to help me try to achieve a non-surgical birth. The pity. They were so sorry I couldn’t succeed again. It confused me a little. It made me realize that women who are seeking a non-medicated birth are really between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand are the statistics that c-section rates in this country are way over the top; that’s not okay. And on the other hand are “natural” birth proponents who believe so fiercely in their cause that they sometimes refuse to acknowledge that surgery is necessary. There has to be a middle ground here. We have to do better for pregnant women.
Every woman who gives birth in a hospital has not been “tricked” out of a natural birth. Implying that it’s the case is doing more harm than good.