I Didn't Have An Unmedicated Birth To "Get A Medal," Thank You Very Much

Ad failed to load

We all know about the unofficial Mommy Olympics; the way we’re all pushed to compete and parent against one another. These games start early, too, and your labor and delivery plans are considered the opening ceremonies. Will you go the “easy” route and get an epidural? Or will you grit and bear the pain of a so-called “natural” birth? It’s unfortunate that folks have preconceived notions about why we make the choices we do. But in my case, I can assure you, I didn’t have an unmedicated birth to “get a medal.” My childbirth choices were made for a variety of reasons, and proving that I was somehow “better” than any other mom out there wasn't one of them.

Sure, every once in a while you will come across people who tarnish a "movement." No one is perfect, and sometimes people push their choices onto others in a way that's undeniably off-putting. And, to a certain extent, I can even understand why people would raise their eyebrows when folks say they’re planning to experience an unmedicated birth. Why would you choose to experience extreme pain when you don’t have to, right? Medications exist for a reason, so why not use them when they're at your disposal? Fair questions, to be sure. In fact, I used to feel the same way.

Here we are, in the year 2018, at a time when science has made it entirely possible to give birth without having to feel every ache and pain involved. We take medicine when we have headaches and broken bones and torn ligaments, so why wouldn’t we want to do the same for something that’s, as Lorelai Gilmore once put it, “akin to doing the splits on a crate of dynamite”?

Ad failed to load
Giphy

And yes, there are folks who certainly come off as though they feel they deserve something for deciding to feel the pain of bringing a baby into the world. These people tend to belong to the so-called “natural birth” community. To newbies or outsiders, this community can often feel like a place where you’ll be judged for eating a non-organic meal or using formula or relying on pacifiers or purchasing a stroller. When I was pregnant with my son, I actually ended up in one of these groups, so I'm aware that the language can be volatile, the tone can be judgmental, and the "advice" can seem, well, ulterior.

As I struggled to maintain my mental health, and the fear of losing another child continued to mount, the thought of an intervention-free, doula-assisted home birth was sounding more and more appealing.
Ad failed to load

My pregnancy with my son was a high-risk one. I lost my first baby, my daughter Margaret, to preterm labor the previous year, so I was anything but calm, cool, and collected. In fact, I was a nervous wreck; terrified I would lose another baby to preterm labor again. I was under the care of an excellent OB-GYN and a group of perinatologists who all worked diligently to make sure this baby, my son, would not be born prematurely. But they overlooked one important aspect of the entire process: my mental health. During such a stressful time, my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety were running rampant. As a result, I sought the help of a doula; a companion who might listen to my fears and guide me in a positive direction.

Giphy

While no two doulas are exactly alike, and I don't want to paint an entire group of people within the birth community with a single brush, in my experience doulas tend to run in “natural birth” circles. In my experience, most doulas would rather work with midwives than OB-GYNs. And in my experience, many are well-versed in home birthing or in assisting at birth centers instead of hospitals. I had already been considering an unmedicated or intervention-free birth, after having read about the potential risk factors of epidurals and other interventions. So, as I struggled to maintain my mental health, and the fear of losing another child continued to mount, the thought of an intervention-free, doula-assisted home birth was sounding more and more appealing.

Ad failed to load
All we can do is make the best decisions for ourselves, and our babies, at the time we need to make them and with the information at hand.

So make no mistake, I wasn't looking for some medal or a proverbial pat on the back. I had an unmedicated birth first, and foremost, because I was terrified of losing another baby. I wanted to give my son the best shot at a safe and healthy birth. And when I hired my doula and started taking classes at the “natural birthing” center she worked for, I was assured, time and time again, that no medication could be deemed 100 percent safe. I was talked into leaving my OB-GYN to find a midwife who would agree to a home birth, too, and when preterm labor was no longer a risk. In my mind, having passed the threshold and feeling a tinge of relief, the next step was to make sure the birth of my son was as safe as possible.

Giphy
Ad failed to load

In retrospect, this was all very ill advised. But at the time, it’s what I thought was right. It was never about feeling superior to anyone. I never once shamed any of my friends who opted for epidurals or other pain medications when they brought their babies into the world. I never looked down on all my friends who had or needed C-sections. To push the narrative that everyone who decides against a medicated labor and delivery is simply looking to win the Birthing Olympics or Mommy Olympics is, for lack of a better word, garbage. We all have our reasons for choosing how we birth, if we’re lucky enough to have a choice, and my reason was linked to a primal fear: the loss of my child. Even the hard-liners in the “natural birth” community don’t really base their choices solely on a superiority complex. They do it because they feel they’re doing what’s best for their baby and their families. And at the end of the day, as parents, isn't that what we're all trying to accomplish?

I had an unmedicated birth first, and foremost, because I was terrified of losing another baby.

I wasn't looking for bragging rights or a chance to feel, or act, superior to other women. And if I had to do it all over again, I'm not entirely sure that I would choose to have an unmedicated birth again. Because the truth is, there are risks and benefits to all forms of childbirth. Yes, doing so without pain medication can be less expensive, and might make the experience more memorable for some, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s that there are zero guarantees when it comes to childbirth. Anything can, and often does, happen. All we can do is make the best decisions for ourselves, and our babies, at the time we need to make them and with the information at hand.

Ad failed to load

So maybe, just maybe, instead of focusing on an on-going, unnecessary, and painful division among mothers and mothers-to-be, we should be lifting each other up, supporting one another, and striving to understand one another. At the end of the day, all any of us want is our babies in our arms, safe and sound.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

A Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the te…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack