Why I Don't Mind The Term "Natural Birth" (And Neither Should You)

By
Share
Ad failed to load

There has been a backlash of late, both on this site and elsewhere, regarding the term "natural birth" and why it's problematic. Its critics are not without their fair points. To quote Romper editor Danielle Campoamor (actually, my editor Danielle Campoamor), "there's a big problem with labeling any one way to give birth 'natural.' I realized that it's the same problem women face on a daily basis; a problem that divides instead of connects." But ultimately, with respect to my colleagues and fellow writers, I completely disagree. (Danielle, don't fire me.) I don't mind the term natural birth, not even a little bit. Not even as a mom who's had a c-section. There are actually a bunch of reasons I don't mind it, but they all ultimately boil down to one overarching reason.

So let's start with the idea of what "natural birth" even means. According to some people, I've had a "natural birth" when my daughter was delivered vaginally after I'd had a c-section, a c-section that helped me deliver my son two years prior. To them, "natural" means "vaginal." To others, the fact that I employed the assistance of an epidural (a magical, wonderful epidural) means that I did not have a "natural birth." OK, so what if I'd skipped the epidural and given birth vaginally, but it was a vacuum assisted birth? Or what if I'd had an episiotomy? Or had used Pitocin?

Ad failed to load

Some people consider a natural birth to simply mean a birth in which the mother did not utilize anesthesia of any kind. Others consider any medical intervention to be incompatible with a natural birth. So, are we already seeing a problem here?

"Natural birth" is a pretty useless term because it doesn't have a standard definition (sort of like "all-natural" labeling on foods). It's completely subjective. This is where Campoamor's point about being divisive is relevant and well-founded. She goes on to add that the term "leaves so many women feeling 'flawed' or 'less than' or like they're failures and, as such, 'failed women.'" The answer, she concludes, is to stop using the term. Honestly, that's a fine answer. Personally, I don't use the term because a) I know it can be hurtful to others, even if it isn't to me and b) as stated above, it's completely meaningless anyway.

That said, because it's meaningless anyway, it's worth while to stop and ask one very important question: who cares? Rather than avoid it, why not just accept that if someone is using the term to define their own experience (or, unfortunately, to make you feel crappy about yours) that's telling you more about their thoughts on birth than about birth itself? Why not let this be a "you do you" moment? If someone is talking about their own experience, let's just accept that's how they feel about what they went through. If someone is being nasty to you, why not stare the would-be divisiveness in the eye, smirk and simply say not today, Satan.

Ad failed to load
Giphy

Another reason I'm unbothered by the term natural birth (this may sound harsh at first but bear with me, because it's not): Some births aren't "natural."

By that I mean medications and/or procedures used in some births do not exist in nature and that's all I mean because that's all that "natural" actually means: existing in nature. You know what else isn't natural? Peanut butter. Chocolate isn't either, and neither is television. All of these things, however, are awesome.

Ad failed to load

"Unnatural" doesn't mean "bad" or "abhorrent." It means "contrary to the laws or course of nature." Look, I don't know if you've watched Animal Planet lately, but the course of nature isn't always so awesome (just ask the ghost of an adorable baby seal eaten by a shark). A lot of the time nature sucks. Case in point: friggin' mosquitos. Definitely not as awesome as eating a peanut butter cup while watching Game of Thrones. Herman Melville understood this undeniable fact in 1857 when he wrote The Confidence Man. In Chapter 21, a con-artist attempts to sell an herbal cure to a man with a cough, at which a skeptical man pipes up:

"Because a thing is nat'ral, as you call it, you think it must be good. But who gave you that cough? Was it, or was it not, nature?"

Basically, why I don't mind the term "natural birth" can be summed up in a two words: so what? The term itself is imprecise and devoid of any actual meaning. Yet while it can leave many women feeling defeated (or, conversely, smug and massively irritating) it can leave many other women feeling downright empowered. This tiny little word means something to them, so why take that away? Let them have it. Let "natural" mean whatever it means to them and play a linguistic role in how they share their birth experience and story with the world.

Ad failed to load

At the same time, the existence of this term or this concept, even a more fleshed out, specific version of this concept (like, if we collectively got it together and stated once and for all what constitutes a "natural" birth), doesn't have to delineate between a "good birth" and a "lesser birth." Birth is bringing a baby into the world: everything else is, essentially, a cosmetic detail. This word currently can serve to divide us as parents, but it doesn't have to. Rather than erase the differences between birth experiences, let's get to a point where we can feel confident that the choices we make are the right ones for us, without "natural" serving as a qualifier. I'm not offended by "natural" because to me, it's neutral, and I think it's about time we neutralize natural.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}