Labor Rant

With my due date 10 weeks away, I’ve obviously been thinking a bit about labor and delivery.  Of all the things that can go wrong, the scary stuff, my hopes and our fears.  But I’m healthy, the baby is healthy, I’m having a good pregnancy and there is no reason to plan for any medical interventions.  They are there if necessary, but given my history with M there is little reason to believe I will need them.

So, yesterday I got a bit riled up when not one but 2 birth-related things surfaced on my interwebs.  The first was a link to this People Magazine article about Gisele Bundchen’s birth experience and the reaction was to lash out at her for being awful. I’m the first to admit it’s totally over the top to believe that she felt no pain.  But to assume she’s a liar-McLiarface because she had a low pain and easy birth experience? I just don’t understand.  I did much of my labor in the water with M and, as Mark can attest, while in the tub my pain level went way down.  It’s not much of a jump for me to see how a water birth would have been pretty low pain for Gisele. (Okay, okay I will call her a Liarface on her quote that says she does her own dishes – riiiight).

Then later in the day an old high school friend posed on Facebook asking other mothers about birthing classes. Within just a manner of minutes, there were a dozen comments all basically chanting “Forget the classes, get the epidural! Get it before your water breaks! All you need to know is E-P-I-D-U-R-A-L!”  So I posted the following:
“…And you don’t need an epidural, I opted to try without one (always having the option to get one if I wanted) and found I didn’t need/want it. Everyone’s different and you never know what you can handle until you’re there.”
And of course that was followed by a chorus of “you must be superwoman!” and “you’re a superstar for trying” and the like. Those comments, while said with good intentions drive me nuts because I just know that while they are saying it they are thinking “what a crunchy-granola-eating-hemp-wearing hippie freak”. I’m not a superwoman or a hippie – I’m just a woman who trusted the medical staff with whom I had worked with for 7 months and my own body to do what needed to be done and react to things as they happened, not before they happened.

Was my labor with M any less truthful or real or gritty because I was able to do it without any medication? Is it less meaningful because I didn’t have any intervention or last minute scares that I could share with everyone in the months after her birth? Why should I feel like I have to whisper that I enjoyed her birth and it really didn’t hurt all that much?

I went into having M with my eyes wide open and I know I was lucky in that it went so well.  I knew the risks and possibilities involved, but I also knew that it was an experience I had never had before so there was no medical reason for me to take measures to prevent something that we weren’t sure would even happen (i.e. intolerable pain). I don’t get up every morning and take a Tylenol “just in case” I get a headache later, why would I take medication in at the start of labor before I knew how bad the pain was?

Look, I totally understand that everyone has their own tolerance for pain and has their own medical history and assorted fears/issues they bring with them to a labor ward.  But I really and truly don’t understand the condescending backlash and accusations of being a liar against woman who admit that 1) labor wasn’t all that hard/painful for them or 2) was actually kind of wonderful and not at all as scary and harsh as they had anticipated? And yes, asserting that someone is a “superwoman” or saying “I could never do that” is condescending to all involved.  How do you know you could never do it until you tried?

Just so we are all clear I am far from an earth-mama hippie. Yes, I had a medication-free birth with M by choice/luck/effort/education and hope to do the same again.  I also have eaten sushi, soft cheese and had an occasional glass of wine while prego and sometimes let the TV babysit the girl.  Yes, we use cloth diapers, breastfeed, use non-toxic cleaning products and recycle.  But I will also drive to the grocery store 3 blocks away instead of walk if it’s cold or I’m tired. I also use probably highly toxic extra-strength deodorant, not a rock, and hate the smell of patchouli.

9 thoughts on “Labor Rant

  1. I hope to do the same thing once I’m pregnant. I completely understand that everyone has to make their own choices and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to opt out medication just because that’s what I wish to do, but until I started doing my own research I had no idea what the pros and cons were to both. People need to be informed. It’s too bad that any method is dominant instead of people just being presented with options.

  2. JMH says:

    I never had an epidural either. With M, her delivery was fast and (yes, I will say it) pretty easy. So, I thought A’s birth would be the same. Not so much. His did hurt (a lot) but it was too late for me to have any medical intervention for pain. I guess I see both sides of the story. I think everyone should be informed and make their own decisions. But, as we all know, the moment you get pregnant, someone will be judging you for every decision you make.

  3. Linds says:

    I know I’m biased as one of your best friends, but Kate, that is one of the most touching, honest, and soulful bits of your writing. Less of a rant and more of a love letter to motherhood. Thanks for putting it out there for those of us following you.

  4. GREAT post. I went in thinking I would take things as they come. I ended up getting an epidural b/c more than anything else they told me I would sleep afterwards and I hadn’t slept in days at this point. Well the epidural didn’t work. They placed it wrong. So I did 9 hours of back labor w/ no pain relief and no ability to get out of the bed b/c of the non-working epidural. So to all of those people saying that all you need to know is E-P-I-D-U-R-A-L what happens if it doesn’t work? It’s never a bad idea to be educated and flexible.

  5. Kate (kakaty) says:

    @Jess – from what I’ve read on your blog, I know that you will research every option to death, just like I did. Being informed is huge…I went to our hospital’s birthing class (which after having read and discussed so much with my Doc was kind of lame) and I couldn’t BELEIVE how many women said they wanted an epidural but were shocked and repulsed when they learned it went in your spine. I wanted to smack them – take some control over your health care choices!

    @Sourire11 – wow, such a good point to make about being flexible in how you hope things go…you never know what is going to happen during labor and having at least some idea as to options and alternatives can make a huge difference.

  6. I am the same as you – I was willing to get an epidural if need be, but wanted to try it naturally.

    Graham got stuck and they thought I’d have to have a C-section, so I had a full spinal at the end before the forceps got him out. Because of how huge he was (9/12 on his due date), I was induced 10 days early with the other two.

    Apart from the induction, I was drug-free and breathed through it all. I’m in no way a Superwoman – my body just does well with labor and delivery.

    Looking forward to hear how your next one goes. 🙂

  7. I know nothing about any of what you mentioned other than I have a million questions about everything regarding child birth. Lots of them. I often ask my pregnant friends so if my time ever comes, I won’t be incredibly surprised.

    My friends that have gone through it will share stories. Like the “Holy I didn’t know THAT would happen.”

    My mom was drug-free way back in 1983 when she had me. Granted, things were different, but she said it wasn’t anything terrible that she couldn’t handle.

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