11 Reasons Women Shouldn't *Have* To Try For A "Natural" Birth

For both of my deliveries, I was very open to the idea of a medication-free, vaginal delivery. It was my first choice, actually. Many "natural" birth proponents praised me for this "superior" birth plan. As it turns out, I wound up with a C-section the first time around, followed by a medicated VBAC years later. A "natural" birth didn't work out for me, and hey: that's OK. Frankly, it would have been fine for me not to even try. Women shouldn't have to try for a "natural" birth and, moreover, shouldn't have to defend that decision to anyone.

Truth be told, I didn't really have super-detailed birth plans for either of my deliveries. I wanted a medication-free vaginal birth, honestly, because it just seemed like the most straightforward way of getting a baby out of my uterus. I generally subscribe to an "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach to life, and a "natural" birth went alone nicely with that philosophy. But, truth be told, I wasn't passionately committed to my preference. Because I recognize that, as humans, we don't know what we don't know. Maybe a med-free birth would be my path of least resistance. Or maybe the pain would be incredibly intense and I'd want an epidural. I also appreciate that life in general is fairly unpredictable when it comes to the details, and I didn't want to get too attached to anything that was not guaranteed.

For a lot of people, "natural" birth is an important, profound, empowering, magnificent experience. But that doesn't negate the fact that it's also highly romanticized in our culture and, as such, many women often fell pressured to strive for this experience. So with that in mind, here are just a few reasons no one should feel compelled to attempt this sort of delivery:

Because She Doesn't Want To

This isn't like when you're a kid and you just have to try your broccoli. You're a damn adult and you're under no obligation to try anything you don't want to, particularly when it comes to something as personal and important as birth. "I don't feel like it," isn't always a good reason not to do something, but it's a great reason not to try for a particular type of birth.

Because She's Been Advised Not To

There are a lot of reasons that giving birth "naturally" isn't a great or even good idea. Placenta previa, unfavorable fetal position (breech or transverse, for example), a pre-existing medical condition (such as hypertension or genital herpes), or any number of other physical or medical peculiarities are all reasons a vaginal birth may be inadvisable. An OB-GYN or midwife has undergone years of training to be in a position to make these calls and while there's certainly room for discussion between them and their client, in the end they know way more about this than your pushy cousin Amber who "just really thinks you should try."

Because What Even Is "Natural"?

Seriously, how are we defining natural? Vaginal? Or do you need to forgo pain management? What if you forgo pain management but need some other medical intervention, like Pitocin or an episiotomy? Does fetal monitoring count as "natural"?

"Natural" doesn't really mean too much, practically speaking. It's ill-defined and up for interpretation. If the idea of a "natural" birth holds meaning or empowerment for you: cool, great, awesome. You go with that definition! But it's your definition that has meaning for you. It doesn't have to be important to anyone else (except your care provider).

Because She's The Only One Doing This

Pressuring someone else into attempting a "natural" birth is like telling someone: "You know what you should do? Shave your head!" And when they're like "No thanks!" you keep pressuring them, talking about the benefits of a cooler neck and less morning maintenance. And when they're like, "You're not wrong, but it's just not for me" you scoff and tell them how selfish they're being.

Ummm... what? It's their head, so you don't get to tell them whether they're being selfish with it. And when it's someone else's birth, the same rules apply.

Because Babies Don't Especially Care How They're Born

Ask any baby, dudes. They're just going to stare at you blankly and maybe blink once or twice in a way that will make you feel like an idiot. They're very chill about it. And once they get to the age where they could reasonably answer you, they don't even remember being born, so it's sort of moot.

Because It's Not A Contest

I personally know a lot of women who felt pressured to attempt a natural birth because someone else had done it and so they felt they had to as well, which is sort of weird but also understandable since women have been pit against one another for centuries now. But, seriously folks, this is not a contest, no matter how much you try to make it one. That's not how this works.

Because She Doesn't Have To Prove Anything To Anyone

A laboring woman doesn't need to prove that she's "tough enough" or "strong enough" or "selfless enough." She's enough in and of herself and whatever choices she makes about her own birth experience are valid and should be honored to the greatest extent possible and medically advisable.

Because Her Body Is Not The Place For Anyone Else's Agenda

Literal wars are waged on women's bodies. If you don't believe me, just ask Helen of Troy! Our anatomy and the idea of who gets to control it and what it should be doing is the source of a lot of Big Moods. The very femininity and worthiness of our bodies based on what they do or look like is often the subject of debate.

But you get to decide what happens with and within your body. Only you. There's no room on or in any of our bodies for other people's motivations or notions of womanhood.

Because There's No Wrong Way To Have A Baby

The point of birth is that the baby comes out, you guys. Everything else is largely a cosmetic difference.

Because There's No Need To Suffer

If you want a natural birth, and accept the pain that comes along with it, that's not suffering. You're making a choice that the pain involved in childbirth is going to be part of your experience. That doesn't invalidate the pain, but it's not suffering. You're taking charge of your experience. That's empowered.

Suffering is when something is foisted on you that you didn't want. Or taken from you that you did want. If you wanted a medication-free birth and someone sneaked them to you (which doesn't and can't happen, but for the sake of argument), even though you didn't feel pain that would be suffering. Because your autonomy was taken away.

If you really don't want to feel the pain of labor or birth to the fullest extent, but are pressured or forced to, that's suffering. No one should suffer.

Because You're Not The Boss Of Her

So, for real, back off.