Confession: I feel angry every time someone brags about their natural childbirth experience.
I’ve never heard of anyone else admitting this, so maybe I’m alone here. But I need to talk about it.
You know the well-meaning Facebook/blog posts: Over-brimming with joy at having had such a beautiful experience, bursting with pride at having stuck to the birth plan and literally pushing through the pain, gushing gratitude for supportive birth coaches, and subtly suggesting natural birth is the absolute best.
Don’t get me wrong–major props to any lady who ends up delivering naturally, whether they were planning on it or not. Because it doesn’t seem pleasant. Not that giving birth is ever pleasant, but epidurals make it more bearable. What bothers me is the attitude of elite-ism that sometimes attends natural childbirth. Natural is for the mentally tough and epidurals are for the quitters.
It’s a cultural thing: epidurals and c-sections are what happens when natural doesn’t work out. Natural is optimal, and everything else is sad second place. I know that’s how I felt going into the birth of my son. It never crossed my mind to say, “Yeah, I’ll probably get an epidural.” What a wimpy thing to say! All along I said, “I’m shooting for natural, but I’m open to an epidural.” Because I’m not a quitter.
But I quit. It was 3 am, hour number 6 of active labor, and I was exhausted and in a lot of pain, so I quit and got an epidural. And it was wonderful. And even though it wasn’t natural, it was a great experience. And even though it wasn’t natural, I was proud of myself. And even though it wasn’t natural, my labor/delivery nurses were fantastic. And even though it wasn’t natural, I’m 100% on board with getting an epidural next time I give birth. That doesn’t really feel like quitting.
But I certainly don’t have bragging rights. Because there’s nothing special about getting an epidural. And I guess this is what bothers me so much. I was pregnant just as long, was in labor just as long (maybe longer—it was 16 hours), and in the end I also got a beautiful baby. Would more pain, more endurance, and more tenacity have made the outcome—a sweet newborn—more special to me? I really don’t think so. The birth isn’t the important part. It’s the baby. But somehow this has gotten mixed up.
I don’t have a great conclusion to this post. No moral. No solution. I’m not asking natural birth women to brag less. Nor am I asking epidural and C-section birthers to brag more. I’m not asking for attitudes on birth to change. But I’d like to know I’m not alone.