This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
Long before I met Nik, I knew that if I was ever blessed to be pregnant, I wanted to deliver naturally. I had the beautiful examples of my mother, sister, and sister-in-laws to inspire me that a natural childbirth was the better way.
However, until I was pregnant with Ellie and learning more about pregnancy and childbirth, I didn’t understand why natural childbirth was better. I just thought, “Clearly, delivering a baby the way God designed the process to work is the best.” In my research, however, I learned about the incredibly intricate and fine-tuned process that a labor and delivery truly is. I learned about the cascade of hormones that helps the mama and baby work together to have a successful birth. I learned that when a woman is allowed to labor how she wants to, the vast majority of the time, there are no complications.
I also learned about how an epidural completely screws up this fine-tuned system, rendering it ineffective. This in turn leads to a number of complications, including longer labors (usually with much longer pushing sessions); increased complications with the delivery, and increased rates of perineal trama, including more tearing. There is also lots of anectodal evidence that epidurals lead to more C-sections, although there’s some controversy attached to this assertion and I don’t think it’s been statistically proven. (I know there are times when an epidural is medically necessary and beneficial but those are rare.)
(There’s lots of info on the web about the science of labor and delivery so I’m not going to link to any specific sites. If you’re interested in this, the best book I know of is called Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, written by a pediatrician.)
I became convinced I wanted to have a natural labor, not just because it was cool, but because it was the safest and best thing to do for my baby and for myself. Nik and I never managed to find a childbirth class to take* so we just read and re-read our books**, practiced breathing, talked through what I wanted in terms of help (which ended up being not at all what I wanted!), and prepared ourselves at home. We also made the decision to deliver at Special Beginnings Birth Center. The more I read, the more nervous I became about delivering in a hospital. I was scared that I would be forced to accept interventions that I didn’t want and not allowed to do what was best for my body during the delivery. When I was 26 weeks pregnant, we switched to Special Beginnings and were immensely grateful that we did.
Ellie at about a minute or two old (I don’t think we even knew she was a girl yet!) Read Ellie’s birth story here.
Many times, I hear women saying (to another woman who delivered naturally), “Oh, you’re really strong and amazing. I’m just not that tough.” Or, “I could never do that. I can’t take the pain.”
This saddens my heart because I truly believe that those are lies that Satan feeds to women through our culture, lies that diminish their self-worth, that cause them to think that their bodies are inferior, that cause them to question the wisdom of their Creator God who made them perfectly. The problem is that our current medical system is set up to cause women to fail if they want to deliver naturally. If you deliver in a hospital, you have to fight to be allowed to walk around, to eat, to not be attached to a monitor, to not push on your back. All of these things force women towards needing an epidural and possibly a C-section.
The other day, Nik, Ellie, and I were out for dinner in a very small restaurant and there was another family there, including a pregnant teenager, maybe seventeen years old. She was due in a couple months and I so desperately wanted to tell her,
Your body is perfectly created to give birth. You ARE strong enough to do this. If you let your body do what it was designed to do, you will be able to do it. Trust in your body! Trust in yourself. Trust in your baby.
I didn’t say anything and maybe I should have. But part of the problem is that hospital policies don’t let women’s bodies do what they are designed to do and so they do desperately feel the need for pain relief measures and there’s no shame in that.
Some day, I would love to be an advocate and helper for women as they undertake one of the most amazing tasks of their lives. In the meantime, every pregnant woman I meet, I try to say,
“Isn’t it amazing the way our bodies are created to do this? Giving birth is one of the coolest things I ever did. I’m glad you get to do it, too.”
Thoughts? Reactions? Let me hear them in the comments!
*Note that I am NOT recommending that you skip a childbirth class! I still wish we would have taken one!
**Our favorite pregnancy/childbirth books:
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin – if you only read one book, this is the best one.
The Birth Partner, also by Penny Simkin – a lot of the information is repeated from her other book but it’s nice for the dad to read – because it’s written from the birth partner’s perspective
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin