So the other day I was chatting on the phone with my one high school friend that I keep up with on a semi-regular basis. (Open letter to my other high school friends: I still love you, I’m just horrific at communication. And now that it’s been like four and a half years I feel weird being all “Hey, we should chat on the phone because I’m human and terrifically interested in all of the gossip and stuff going on in your life that you are unwilling to put on facebook where I can facebook creep it out of you.” Also I am moderately ashamed of myself for it since I’ve known most of you for like 7-13 years. Sincerely, Eliza) She’s the one I flew out to Virginia to go to her wedding in May, which was also a thing that happened that I have yet to sufficiently blog about.
But getting to where I was going with this post, I was telling her about the birth of Ruby and she asked me why I had wanted to do a natural birth. Evidently she knew three or four other couples who had done the same thing, but she didn’t really feel comfortable asking them about their decision (or something like that). As I tripped over myself trying to explain why, I was finally able to put into words why it meant so much to me.
I mean, there’s certainly the research. The fact that in America, despite spending the most money in the world on health care, we’re like 40th (that’s right, with a zero) in the world for maternal mortality rates. (Seriously, something like 99% of births in America happen in hospitals, but despite its touted safety. mothers in the US are dying at alarming rates compared to other first world countries.) The fact that you don’t actually get evidence-based care for your delivery and postpartum period in most hospitals. For example, did you know that pitocin, the synthetic hormone frequently used to induce or augment labor is actually not FDA approved for non-medically necessary inductions because the associated risks are considered too high? That means that every mom that is induced at less than 40+2 weeks for being “overdue” and all moms whose labors are augmented with pitocin are receiving it in a fashion not approved of by the FDA.
But while things like this informed my decision, they still didn’t get to the heart of why I did it. I mean, let’s be serious, I’m the girl that never did cartwheels when I was a kid because they sounded dangerous. I haven’t run a mile since the last graded one in 10th grade six years ago. When my in-laws inevitably suggest a post-Thanksgiving hike I’m the one in the back going, “Wait, I thought this was supposed to be a holiday. Hiking doesn’t sound like a holiday. Hiking sounds like WORK.” (But I keep quiet because protesting means being seriously out voted). Despite knowing better, my health habits do cross over into “Appalling” territory. Running a marathon sounds like something that people do because they’re masochists. I mean, I barely go out into the sun. It’s not like physical and healthful activities are high on my agenda. I come from the Wright side of my family–I’m a thinker. That doing thing sounds awfully hard and unattractive.
So why natural birth? Why birth, which I have been told since childhood is pretty much the hardest thing I will physically do ever? And why NATURALLY for heaven’s sake? Because as I looked into it and considered my options, I began to believe that even I, Eliza, class-A wimp, was capable of natural birth. And the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it for myself. I’ve only ever visited hospitals when people were dying or in the ICU. This may sound stupid, but I kind of associated hospitals with dying. Birth is about life. I didn’t want to give birth in that sterile, cold, environment unless I had to. Motherhood has always been my aspiration in life. I wanted my birth, the beginning of that process, to be a personal, meaningful, life-changing experience that I had control of. I didn’t want to be afraid of the process. I didn’t want to labor and give birth tethered to a bed by IVs and an epidural catheter. (And let’s be honest, if I’d had to labor on my back in bed I’d have been knocking down the door for an epidural, too. Laboring like that was excruciating for me, and I only tried it in active labor, before the really hard transition and pushing contractions started.)
I wanted to have a natural birth because I wanted to have some measure of control over the experience (apparently my inner control-freak won out over my inner hates-physical-things freak). Because I wanted it to be beautiful, and I got to define what beautiful meant for my own birth. I wanted it because it was right for me.
And you know what? I did it. With nothing more than a tub, a Kyle, and a class on comfort measures to control the pain, I had the birth that I wanted. I was blessed with a precipitous labor and the ability to cope very well with labor. I may have coped less well with pushing, but when it was hard Kyle and Nichelle were there to guide me through to the end of it. From the second she was born, I got to spend the day my baby was born snuggling her to my chest and breastfeeding, instead of having her whisked away for a newborn screen. My health care providers were able to monitor her health and transition into life while I held her close. I got to see my placenta (guys, my body grew an entirely new ORGAN and then kicked it out when it was done with it. Isn’t that awesome?). And at the end of the day, I got to say that I did it. All by myself, me, the class-A internet addicted wimp, I labored and delivered a small little baby into this world.
And nobody can take that experience away from me.
THAT is why I had a natural birth.