When I got pregnant the first time, I was intent on doing everything as "naturally" as possible. I thought "natural" meant better, and it didn't occur to me that so many things can, and do, happen during pregnancy, labor, and delivery that make "natural" childbirth not only impossible, but unsafe. So, when I "failed" to deliver according to my highly detailed birth plan, I felt like a bad mom. That's why I think it's time I reveal some confessions of a medication-free childbirth "failure." I want other moms and moms-to-be to know that I didn't actually fail at anything. "Natural" childbirth just wasn't the right fit for me.
It took me a while to realize that I didn't "lose out" on the labor front. I was hellbent on experiencing a "natural" childbirth, so I hired a midwife, wrote a birth plan, and joined natural birth groups on Facebook. And according to the natural birth community, there was only one right way to give birth — going into labor on your own and delivering vaginally with no pain medication and as few medical interventions as possible. So, when my due date came and went, I tried everything to avoid being induced. I placed evening primrose oil capsules in my vagina, let my midwife strip my membranes, and used a breast pump to try to induce labor at home. And what did I get for my efforts? Messy panties, pain (having your membranes stripped really hurts), and a handful of contractions that stopped as soon as I got to the hospital.
When my blood pressure started to creep up, my midwife recommended induction. I was admitted to the hospital and my natural birth plan slowly went out the window. I had to have I.V. medications, which meant that I had to monitored continuously and couldn't labor in the tub or shower like I planned. And after 18 hours of back labor, I begged for an epidural. But even though I was able to enjoy a much-needed, glorious nap and a beautiful, empowering birth, I still felt like I had failed.
I think the the inadequacy I felt about childbirth was largely due to having unrealistic expectations. I had sufficiently romanticized childbirth to an unhealthy degree. I had fallen for the prevailing idea that there is only one way to birth a baby. I know I'm not alone, either, which is why this has to stop. Not only is this obsession with drug-free labor and deliveries potentially unhealthy, it's ableist, it's dangerous, and it's seriously anti-feminist. We're hurting pregnant people in the process, and that's just not OK. It turns out that the only thing I failed at was helping to perpetuate the myth that there's only one right way to give birth. And for that, I am totally not sorry.
The Pressure Was Intense
The pressure to do things "right" as a mom-to-be is intense. So intense that it makes you do really dangerous things and put yourself or your baby at risk for the sake of an ideal. It's hard to believe that babies and their parents still die in childbirth. I have friends who lost their babies to preventable home birth accidents, and other friends who have almost died, because they refused induction. It's heartbreaking, but shame and a desire to be perfect are powerful forces, and we moms are just trying to do things right.
I Felt So Selfish
It's majorly messed up that we live in a culture that pressures moms to forgo pain medication, and then tells them they are failures if they "cave" and get what they need to make it through labor and delivery safely. So, I felt so selfish asking for an epidural and depriving my baby of a "natural" delivery.
No matter what my friends in the natural childbirth groups on social media say, labor pain was not something I could manage on my own. Back labor made me feel like I was dying. I actually thought I wasn't going to be able to deliver my daughter because I was in so much pain. I might have done it, but why should I have had to? Why do we have this anti-feminist idea that people who get pregnant should have to feel pain?
I Worried That I Screwed Up My Kid
I had heard so many myths about the dangers of epidurals, that I thought getting one meant that I wouldn't be able to bond with my baby. Then, when I couldn't breastfeed exclusively, I thought that my epidural was to blame. Neither of these things were true, you guys, but I felt so much guilt and shame.
I Was So Disappointed In Myself
I felt seriously let down when my labor and delivery did not go as planned. I was a perfectionist, and I thought I failed to achieve perfection, even when I held my perfect baby in my arms.
My Birth Plan Was Unrealistic
So many moms think they have to have a birth plan, myself included. When it came time to give birth, though, my body and my baby didn’t really care about my plan, so it went right out the window. It's OK to have specific hopes or expectations for your baby's birth, but guys, I totally recommend that you consider it a birth "wish list" instead of a plan. That way, if things don't go as planned, it won't feel so tragic and you can cut yourself some slack.
I Actually Loved My Epidurals
Having an epidural was amazing. I loved it. It made my birth experience great and completely changed my mind about "natural" childbirth, which is really amazing, considering how stubborn as I am. I am now an advocate for supporting moms through all kinds of labor and births. No one gets a trophy or a cookie for going medication-free and there are a ton of "right" ways to birth a baby.
I Wish I Hadn't "Tried" To Have A "Natural" Birth
After three different labors, epidurals, and beautiful babies, I actually wished I had never bought into the lie that natural childbirth is the only way you can bring babies into the world. My best labor and delivery experience actually involved getting an epidural before my induction and not feeling any pain until my baby was in my arms and I was recovering. I am no longer ashamed to be a "natural" childbirth failure. I tell everyone about my son's birth with pride. Not feeling pain isn't a sign of weakness. All births are badass, no matter how they go down.
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