May of 2010. My daughter (although I didn’t yet know she was a she) was due on the 22nd. Apparently she wasn’t quite ready to vacate the premises just yet. I had taken my leave from work about 5 days before my due date. And to be honest I was kind of bored sitting at home and waiting. So on the 26th I was out and about with a friend and her new baby boy. We made a trip to Walmart and then stopped for lunch at a local diner. I was feeling quite good for being more than nine months pregnant and ready to pop at any moment. I did notice that my back was hurting a little but it wasn’t bad enough to concern me. After our lunch I headed home. It wasn’t until I got home and was relaxing on the couch with nothing to really occupy my time that I considered that this back pain could be early stages of labour. We had gone to all the classes, I had friends who laboured for days, so I figured if this was indeed labour it’s probably very early and I shouldn’t get to far ahead of myself and do something silly like call my husband and go to the hospital. So, instead, I drew myself a nice warm bath and had a soak. About 10 minutes into the bath I realized, with certainty, that I was in fact in labour, and maybe further along in the process than I thought. I phoned my husband (while still in the tub) and told him he should probably come home because I might need to go to the hospital soon. I started trying to time my contractions. They were coming faster and harder all the time. Luckily it only took my husband a few minutes to get home. I got out of the tub and got dressed (with his help). We grabbed my prepacked bag and headed to the hospital (which also was only a couple of minutes away).
When we arrived at the hospital we went through the booking process and headed up to the mother baby unit. They put me in a room and a nurse came in and asked me how far apart my contractions were. I told her they were too close together to really time. After a good eye roll she checked me. She was just as surprised as I was to discover that I was already a good 6cm dilated. So off I went to a delivery room. My doctor and I had previously discussed what my plans were as far as pain management in the delivery room. My husband and I had also had this conversation. As someone who had never given birth before I didn’t really have a solid plan because, honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. It doesn’t matter how many video you watch, you don’t really know until you’re there. So my rough plan was to see how I handled the pain and I was open to pain management (aka an epidural) if I felt I needed one. By 7cm I knew I needed one. The problem was there was nobody available to give me one. I was going to have to wait until the anaesthesiologist was out of a c-section. Ok. I can do this for a little longer. I was able to soak in another bath, which really didn’t help at all. The nurse offered me nitrous oxide which did nothing for my pain and only made me feel slightly icky. Time passed. Quickly. And it didn’t look like I was actually going to get the pain management that I had hoped for. And then suddenly he arrived. He being the doctor that would stick a giant needle in my back with not only my consent but my blessing. And I will forever love the nurse I had that night who may have fudged just a tiny bit about how dilated I really was because I was slightly over the limit where they say nope you’re too far along to get your epi. So I got my epi. And I am so grateful I did. Especially when we realized my daughter had the cord wrapped around her neck and we had to get her out of there quickly at the end. That involved scissors and a fair amount of stitches, that luckily I didn’t really feel.
So, in the end, I went through a solid 90% of my labour and birth experience without any pain management medication. Do I wish I had made it through that last hour without any intervention so I could get a “natural birth” badge of honour? Nope, not for a moment. Because here’s something you need to know. Epidural or not. My birth was completely friggin natural. I mean I had a baby. She’s 100% human. The doctor didn’t exclaim “It’s a healthy baby droid!” I mean it is possible that she is in fact super natural and her powers have yet to manifest. But she is not unnatural and neither was the way in which she arrived into this world. I told you about going out with my friend and her new baby the day I went into labour – her little bundle of joy was born via c-section. After hours and hours and hours of just not wanting to come out the old fashioned way. Still, natural. He was all baby, no computer chips or off/on switches. Just a baby.
This whole idea of “natural” birthing is probably the most grotesque form of mommy shaming that exists. Seriously, it’s time to find a new term for having a baby via your birth canal without medication to help with pain. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe, here’s a thought, we don’t actually need a word or a phrase to describe birth other than – wait for it – BIRTH. It’s all just birth people. Look, no two women are the same. No two births are the same. The only things we should be concerned about are this:
The birth technique we choose in the end (because things change along the way) is safe for baby.
The birth technique we choose in the end is safe for the mother.
We respect the mother’s right to choose and follow her birth plan as much as possible without risking the first two considerations.
These are the things that matter. Safety of mom and baby and treating labouring mother’s with respect and honesty. Period. I mean, hell, my mother had the most “unnatural” birth you can think of – she adopted me. No tedious hours of labour. No “ring of fire”. No rips or stitches or screaming. Does that make her less of a woman? Less of a mom? Of course not. And I don’t think it’s wrong to feel good about going into labour with the idea that you’re not going to have any pain medication, or c-section and being pleased if you actually come out the other end having accomplished that. If everything went exactly as you planned that is awesome! Of course you should be pleased with that. I was pleased I was finally able to get my epidural. The bottom line is this – there is no “wrong way” to give birth (assuming you are keeping safety and common sense in mind). There is no right way to give birth. There is just birth. Language is important. Really important. And using the term “natural” to describe only birth that doesn’t use interventions or medication is divisive. We really don’t need to any more division in motherhood. Making mothers feel “less than” right off the bat is horrible. We all know what those early days of motherhood are like. Let’s not make it any harder. Ok?