I Had A Natural Childbirth, But I’m Not Sure I’d Do It Again
Most mamas-to-be stress over the decision to have a natural, vaginal childbirth, yet all birth is natural. What we should be focusing on is not the details in how our babies come to us, but how we can best be supported before, during, and after childbirth.
If you’d asked me 10 years ago if I’d have a medication-free, vaginal childbirth, I’d have shrugged- as the question seemed small at the time. I had no idea what a loaded question this is or what a huge decision it is for a mama-to-be. On top of the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy, pregnant women have to navigate the “are you gonna do it naturally?” question and all the heavy and complicated pieces that go into making such a choice.
When I became pregnant, I was a health coach and former yoga teacher, so I was a big fan of doing things the natural way. I rarely went to the doctor and used supplements and nutrition to handle almost any ailment. Plus, the messages I heard about childbirth were “your body knows what to do,” and “natural birth is such a beautiful experience.” So at the time it only made sense to plan a vaginal, medication-free childbirth. Plus, I was lucky to be a candidate for a vaginal birth with no medical issues and baby was head down.
Yet, I didn’t take this decision lightly. I was well aware of the many scary things that could happen during childbirth no matter what your birth plan says. I considered the pros and cons of different interventions, medications, and procedures, and I had no judgement toward any mama who chose to use them- it just didn’t feel right for me.
I wanted to avoid interventions and medications to protect myself and my baby from any negative side effects, but most of all- I wanted to avoid a cesarean birth. I mean how could I live if my baby didn’t get that special stuff she needed for her gut microbiome by coming out of my vagina?!
Fast forward to 40 weeks and 5 days along, and I was in labor for 12 hours and pushing for 3 hours straight. I could not figure out how to push her out (my body was supposed to just know what to do, right!?). At one point I was convinced that I was going to die, yet I didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to do anything about it.
Nothing went wrong that day from a medical standpoint, yet, the level of pain I experienced is indescribable and at 16 months postpartum, I still feel sick when I think about it. In fact, I sought treatment from a therapist for months after my birth to process the trauma from the experience.
Eventually, and with the help of my midwife, I was able to deliver my daughter vaginally and without any pain medication. Luckily, (and I do believe a lot of this is luck), I didn’t have any tearing, however I am still to this day rehabilitating my pelvic floor from all of the strain from so much pushing.
There were beautiful moments, and I will forever be grateful for being able to experience my baby on my chest immediately after birth with my team by my side. Yet, now I see that most of my plans were based on the belief that a real, respected, and honorable birth is a vaginal, non-medicated birth. This is simply not true. All birth is natural. If you are having a baby- you are doing something natural. We need to support moms no matter what decisions we make or whatever happens in birth.
Now that I’ve gone through all of that- I’m not sure I’d do it again. In the future I’d probably be more open minded about using medication or interventions to assist me during labor and birth. After all, suffering is optional (some of the time). Yet, an open mind is key as most of what happens in birth can’t be planned for ahead of time.
Now I’m not writing this piece to scare you away from having a medication-free, vaginal birth. I’m only suggesting that we have an open mind. Some moms have a wonderful, even pain-free experience, with vaginal childbirth, and some moms have a frightening near-death experience. There is no way to know ahead of time what your experience will be like. When people ask you “are you going to do it naturally?” the only answer I can suggest is “I don’t know.” Because you don’t know- really. Surround yourself with the environment and people that you feel safest with and keep an open mind. That is the best advice I can give to a new mama-to-be.
The real question we should be asking ourselves is “how can I best be supported for whatever birth brings?” Everybody needs to do what’s right for them and their family and feel supported. You are the keeper of your body and only you know best what you need to feel supported- before, during, and after birth. So many factors play a role in how a baby is born and it seems to me that what all of us need is a lot of luck, a great birth team, some thoughtful planning, and a lot of flexibility to change the plan at a moment’s notice.