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.