Ten hours. That’s how long I spent in the throes of painful labor, before waving the white flag and demanding an epidural. That’s how long I let my pride convince the rational parts of my exhausted mind that I needed to push through (literally) a “natural” birth. That’s how long I kept myself awake, unable to sleep due to painful surges radiating through my body every two minutes. That’s how long I rocked back and forth or positioned myself on all fours, trying desperately to ease the pain with nothing but body motions and mindful mantras. That’s how long I walked the hallways or rolled on a birthing ball or slid in a tub, attempting to find the relief that would not come.
And that’s how long it took me to realize that every delivery is natural — from unmedicated to epidural to c-sectioned — so please stop telling me my birth wasn't.
All too often, usually by women who chose to birth their child without the assistance of medication, I’m told that the way in which I helped my son enter the world made his birth “unnatural”. And while I applaud the women who were able to bring life into the world sans pain-numbing drugs, I’m just not sure what having an “unnatural birth” means.
I didn’t birth an alien, despite how my son looked directly after he exited my vagina. I didn’t birth a technologically advanced robot, although the ability to unplug my kid in the middle of a tantrum would be nice. I didn’t birth a superhuman with magical powers, like levitation or mind-reading, but how awesome would that have been?
No, I just gave birth after a needle was inserted into my back and medication was administered and numbness took the pain away and, because of the way I gave birth, women are more than happy to remind me that it wasn’t “natural”.
A human being was born. That makes my son’s birth a natural one. And to suggest otherwise is to shame women for making the best choice for themselves, their bodies, and their children.
Those who speak of non-medicated births as “natural” attempt to empower women and encourage them to experience labor and delivery with the least amount of medical intervention possible. It’s an admirable mission, no doubt. However, instead, women are left feeling weak and ineffectual at a time in their lives when they should, arguably, feel the most powerful.
Instead, women are made to feel like they are less than. Because their birth isn’t classified as “natural”, they start to view their body and the start of their parenting journey as irregular or artificial or peculiar.
Instead, women become mothers under a cloud of judgement, second-guessing one of the first choices they’ve ever made as parents. Instead, women are left defending their right to feel comfortable, safe, and secure when bringing another life into this world. Giving birth, especially if it’s for the first time, can be a scary and nerve-wracking thing. If pain management makes a woman feel more confident when it comes time to push, then pain management is exactly what she should receive.
And instead, women are told they don’t have the physical or mental strength to deal with a bodily function that, according to society, defines them as a woman.
So, yes, 10 hours.
That’s an amount of time no woman should feel she must endure in order to prove a point. It’s an amount of time that can be safely circumvented by the magic of modern medicine, without judgement or shame. It’s the amount of time that — whether spent birthing at home or laying down in a hospital bed or prepping for surgery — every mother can say she has experienced in her own unique and powerful way.
Every birth is a natural birth so, please, stop saying my son’s wasn’t.