The moment I found out I was pregnant I knew I wanted a "natural" birth. I thought the alternative would be cold, impersonal, medical, and, in the end, make me less of a woman. I hired a midwife, watched documentaries, and read everything I could about childbirth. But when I needed to be induced my birth plan went completely out the window. And while I had pretty much the opposite of a "natural" birth, choosing pain relief and needing medical care are just a few of the things that don't make a birth “fake.” Like, at all.
Watching your birth plan circle the proverbial toilet isn't easy, but I will say that remaining open-minded and flexible during labor and delivery taught me a few clutch lessons that have aided me as I continue to parent my children. For example, I realized that the inadequacy I felt regarding my specific birth was largely due to unrealistic expectations and relentless shaming from other moms. It seems like the moment you get pregnant people start asking you if you plan to have a "natural childbirth," which always means going into labor on your own and having a vaginal birth sans pain medication. This kind of birth is deemed superior and ideal, and if you choose or need to have a different kind of birth, for whatever reason, you are made to feel like there's something wrong with you.
Honestly, I wish the phrase "natural childbirth" would die in a fire. What's the opposite of natural, anyway? Unnatural? Fake? Less than? I've come to understand that when people say "natural childbirth" they mean "good childbirth," as if there's a hierarchy involved when bringing human beings into the world. The idea that one kind of birth is preferable to another is ableist, classist, and overwhelmingly misogynistic. Childbirth may be a natural process, but before we had science and medicine to help things along it was also a dangerous, painful process. We have got to get past the idea that feeling pain means but you’re "better" at birth, or a stronger person, or more adequately equipped for motherhood.
Above all, I wish all moms could view their pregnancies and births as amazing and badass. Birth is not a contest, and my births weren’t "fake" by any means and regardless of the interventions I experienced. They were beautiful, and empowering, and they were everything my body, and my baby, needed. Yes, despite not being entirely "natural."
I was terrified when I found out I needed to be induced. One of my friends actually advised me to "not go" to the hospital for my appointment, and I hate to admit that I seriously considered it. But now? Well, now I'm so glad I didn't make the arguably dangerous decision to go against medical advice and put my baby and my health at risk. Going into labor "on my own" wouldn't have been worth it.
Induction wasn't as scary or horrible as I thought it would be, and it certainly didn't make birth "fake."
Getting An Epidural
Before I had my daughter, I was terrified that having an epidural would be painful, harmful, and ruin my birth experience. I went to the hospital scared out of my mind. I didn't feel empowered at all. But, thankfully, midwife was totally supportive of me choosing to forego pain medications or, if I wanted, choosing all the medications a hospital would allow me to have.
And after 18 hours of back labor and no sleep in over 36 hours, my threshold for pain and exhaustion was surpassed. After I got that beautiful epidural, I was transformed. It was magical, empowering, and pretty much made my birth experience. It didn't, however, mean that birth was fake. Epidurals make birth supernatural, if you ask me.
Having A C-Section
C-sections are magical, medical miracles. If my mom hadn't had one, my sister and I wouldn't have survived childbirth. I am so tired of hearing people say that C-section moms "took the easy way out," or, worse, didn't really "give birth." The next time you decide to shame a mom for having to have a C-section, or choosing to have one, think about all of the moms and babies who didn't make it before we had this option. C-sections are badass, and having one definitely doesn't make your birth "fake."
Having A Hospital Birth
If you asked my friends in the "natural" birth community, hospital birth is terrible. I thought it was going to be cold and unfeeling, but it actually wasn't like that at all. It turns out I didn't have to birth with a midwife in a field of flowers or in a tub at home to have a "real" birth. But, because of the prevailing myths about hospital birth, I worry that pregnant people do unsafe things (like attempt unattended births at home when it's not recommended) to avoid it, and that is so sad and scary.
Having An OB-GYN Instead Of A Midwife
I have given birth three times with three different providers. In the end, the birth experience that was the most empowering and wonderful was the one I had in the hospital, with an epidural, IV antibiotics, and an awesome OB-GYN. Science — it's like magic, but real.
Scheduling A Delivery
Why is it that whenever women do things for their convenience, they are shamed for being selfish? It's so messed up and misogynistic. If your doctor or midwife says it's safe or necessary, scheduling an induction or C-section won't make your birth fake. It just means that you might have some time to prepare or relax and do some self-care before the main event, which is amazing.
Being Monitored The Whole Time
If you ask the "natural" birth crowd, my last birth experience was the most "fake" of all of them. I tested positive for group B strep and was hospitalized for an injury about a week before I delivered. Because of the amount of pain I was in, I had to have an epidural before the doctors started my induction. I received IV antibiotics to protect my baby from strep, and had to be monitored the entire seven hours I was in labor. Other than it being a pain in the ass to have to have the fetal monitor readjusted every hour or so, the experience was so relaxing and wonderful, and then intense and emotional. It wasn't even close to fake.
Not Following Your Birth Plan
Going into birth with a super specific birth plan is like planning your plays in a card game before you see the hand you’ve been dealt. It’s a recipe for disappointment. According to research, birth plans don't really change birth outcomes and can definitely impact your experience and how you feel about labor and delivery. Not following your birth plan is not a sign of failure, it's a sign of flexibility, and it certainly doesn't mean your birth is "fake."
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