In this day and age, it seems many people are fixed on the idea of “natural” birth. No pain relief, calm, lovely, magical birth. As natural as the Earth around us and just like we used to do in the “old days”. It seems to be considered “superior”. I saw an article recently about the amount of women who develop birth trauma because they didn’t get to follow their birth plan.
I have one major issue with this. In the “old days” a hell of a lot more mums and babies died in childbirth. You barely hear of of mothers dying in childbirth nowadays, but only twenty years ago it was somewhat commonplace. And don’t get me started on the amount of mums and babies who died soon after birth because of lack of medical intervention.
When I got pregnant, I imagined I would have a water birth with probably just gas and air as pain relief, but I never said I wasn’t open to what I might need. The way I saw it was I wouldn’t know what I needed until I was doing it, so nothing was off the table. Then my blood pressure went up and the water birth idea went out of the window. Fine with me – I could have fought for it, but the thing was it wasn’t that important to me. Then at twenty eight weeks, Eden was still very much in a frank breech position. I didn’t like the idea of the ECV procedure to turn her and I have seen far too many breech births go wrong, so I got my brain used to the fact that if she didn’t turn, we would be on our way to scheduled ceasarean-ville. Again, it took some getting used to, but I soon adapted to the idea. Then of course, at thirty four weeks, she flipped!
I had to get used to the idea of “natural” (read – vaginal!) birth all over again and for some reason at that point the idea was pretty scary. I had gotten used to the idea of a scheduled surgery to give birth to Eden. Knowing the time, knowing the place and knowing pretty much exactly how it would be going down. Being thrown back out into the world of “it’ll happen when it happens” was quite unnerving, however I started putting together a birth plan in my mind. Normally, I’m a great planner. Tell me I’m going on holiday and I will plan it to the hilt, but for some reason I really struggled to plan bringing Eden into the world. My birth plan ended up being along the lines of –
“I want to be active. I would like an epidural when I ask for one. I would like to use gas and air if possible. I would like delayed cord clamping and for Amy to cut the cord. Immediate skin to skin if possible. Baby can be given IV vitamin K at birth. We will be formula feeding from the start“.
I absolutely did not understand how some ladies manage to come out with several pages of detailed instructions. My biggest concern was that I had never done this before, so I genuinely had no idea how my body would fare or whether things would go as planned. Essentially, I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment by expecting too much and not getting it. I wanted to make loose plans just in case things changed quickly. Just in case something went wrong. I don’t know whether that was my fear from infertility and loss partially making me think that maybe this wasn’t actually happening, but I just felt unable to plan for it.
Then came the offer of induction due to my blood pressure. I accepted this immediately because not only did it give me some kind of a schedule, but by that point I was in for observations basically every other day, I felt like hell and my BP was just going up and up despite the medication to bring it down. I had real fears about pre eclampsia and dragging my butt up to hospital every other day was getting tiring. My induction was booked for two days later at 38+3. I still stuck with the same plan and pretty much got what I wanted when it came to Eden’s birth. Maybe that’s because I had barely any expectations.
I don’t understand why there is so much pressure on women to have a “natural” birth nowadays when in a lot of cases going the “natural” route would mean the death of us or our babies. I’m all for having preferences, but planning a birth to the hilt scares the hell out of me – especially when you’ve never done it before. How do you know how your body will cope? Every single baby and every single birth is different. A lot of women say we are “made to birth” but that is simply not true. If you want to get right back to nature, humans are basically made to die at the age of 30… Just looking at the amount of women and babies who die in childbirth in the developing world proves that we are not made purely to birth.
Modern medicine is fantastic. We save the lives of so many mothers and babies nowadays and that is admirable. Through C section, forceps, induction and other “unnatural” things, we bring a child into the world alive in many more cases than we would have managed before. That’s admirable. Well, it’s more than admirable, it’s incredible! I know quite a few women who, had it not been for procedures like those described above, would not be holding healthy babies.
So, can we quit shaming each other for birth choices or birth necessities? The amount of times I’ve heard someone say that a mother who gives birth by ceasarean hasn’t really given birth is insane. A woman who didn’t “feel all the pains” and chose to have an epidural hasn’t really given birth. A woman who was induced and didn’t “go naturally” didn’t really give birth. A women who has help from ventouse or forceps hasn’t really given birth. A human came out of all of these women, therefore she gave birth. It’s as simple as that. That’s the crux of it.
We need to stop making people feel bad for how they had their babies. How you give birth doesn’t make you a parent. How that baby comes out of your body isn’t integral in making you a mother. Being a mother is more than that and it’s about time we stopped pressurising women to have these “perfect, natural, healing” births. Birth is about getting a child safely into the world with mum safe too. That’s all as far as I am concerned. So much birth trauma comes from pressure to have these low intervention births. I understand why people want low intervention. I understand why women plan “natural” births, but what I don’t understand are the people who refuse medical intervention in an emergency.
So, go ahead with your birth plans. Make them as complicated as you wish. Do your hypnobirthing classes and all of the other things. Bring your essential oils. Or don’t. On the other hand get your scheduled C section, get your epidural, take your gas and air or your pain relief drugs. If all is going well it’s your choice! But just remember, if you or your baby have a medical emergency it will be medicine that will likely save both of your lives, not nature. And remember that your experience is yours alone. Let’s stop shaming and start standing together as mothers. Maybe empowering woman and not having some ridiculous birth “hierarchy” will help combat birth trauma?
Just remember – there are no medals for birthing your baby.