I was pregnant for the second time in my life and nervous about everything. I had lost my first child to preterm labor and worried my second pregnancy would go wrong, too. I watched The Business Of Being Born, read about Hypnobirthing and the Bradley Method, and researched articles that discussed, at length, “natural birth.” An unmedicated birth seemed beautiful, ideal, and the "right way to go." However, and upon closer inspection, it’s not always the best option. In fact, there are more than a few reasons why people need to stop romanticizing “natural births," including but certainly not limited the need to be honest about childbirth in general.
Emphasizing the need for a natural birth can be problematic for many pregnant woman. While there certainly can be some benefits to avoiding interventions, like excessive monitoring and pain medication during labor, that doesn’t mean opting for said interventions is a terrible idea, or even harmful and unnecessary. Every pregnancy and every birth experience is different.
I wholly respect moms who want to try to a water birth or don’t want a hep-lock administered or want to be able to eat during labor. However, I also respect moms who decide that maybe an epidural is the way to go. Romanticizing one type of birth experience as special and beautiful and essentially "perfect," is in no way helpful to women who, like me, are terrified something in their pregnancy will go wrong and, as a result, just want to receive fact-based information that allows them to make the most informed decision. Here's why:
It Shames Moms Who Want Or Need Interventions
From the get go, the term “natural birth” shames parents who schedule and/or need c-sections and other interventions, by classifying their birth experiences as “unnatural.” I mean, who is to say what “natural” is, anyway? Really, it’s a lot like the term “natural” on food labels: it means nothing.
It Can Pressure & Endanger Moms Who Are High-Risk
Lots of parents might want to have an intervention-free birth or home-birth, but can't due to specific circumstances related to their pregnancies (that are entirely out of their control). I was one of those people, and because of all the hoopla surrounding how “amazing natural births” can be, and because I was surrounded by people who really and truly believed interventions are the devil, I wound up putting myself and my son at risk when I decided to try to have a home birth. It’s something I live with daily and do, in fact, regret.
Your Labor Might Still Be Long, “Natural” Or Not
Some folks believe that having an unmedicated “natural” birth can result in shorter labor. Well, someone should have told my son that. I was in labor for roughly 12 hours, all “natural.” I guarantee you, there's nothing short about 12 hours of relentless contractions.
A “Natural Birth” Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Experience Birth Trauma
My midwife tried to convince me that birthing my son at home would be a much more intimate experience, and less traumatic than my previous hospital birth. However, when things weren’t going well and I realized I needed to be transferred to the hospital, my previous trauma was triggered and new traumas occurred.
A “Natural Birth” Doesn’t Protect You From Birth Injuries
For me, one appeal to a “natural birth” was having a midwife who would help protect my perineum, reduce tearing, and help me birth my child. It was a great theory, but my midwife failed me and really didn’t do much to help me out in the perineum department. So, when I was rushed to the hospital, the OB- GYN essentially ripped me in half to get my baby out. Worst pain of my life.
A “Natural Birth” Doesn’t Guarantee A Healthy Baby...
By the time I was ready to give birth, I’d convinced myself that a “natural birth” would give my son all the proper chances at being a healthy baby. Unfortunately, things can happen beyond your control. My son was born with persistent pulmonary hypertension. If it happened to me, it could happen to anyone.
...Or That You’ll Have Zero Problems Breastfeeding
My son was sent to a NICU across town, which complicated breastfeeding from the very beginning. Add an incredible amount of stress to the mix, and quite possibly undiagnosed insufficient glandular tissue, and breastfeeding was nearly impossible. Did I mention labor and delivery are, at the end of the day, mostly out of our control?
You’ll Get To Bond With Your Baby No Matter What
At the end of the day, I have had three years to bond with my son (and countless more years to go). I may not have been with him the first two days of his life, but I have stuck by him ever since.
There Are Other Ways To Feel Empowered
I don’t think that you need to experience “natural birth” to feel empowered. Carrying a pregnancy is a feat in and of itself. You should already feel empowered, and more so once you become a mom and hold that baby. The labor is short lived, and in the end, the most important part is parenting that child.