Birth is not always, imminently dangerous. There is no responsible birth worker who would say birth is always safe and uncomplicated. Or that would guarantee you a safe and healthy birth. There is no denying that birth, like anything on this planet, carries some risk. But this is not the majority. Most of the time, a laboring mother is not in immediate mortal danger (nor is the child). Any experienced, trained birth attendant watches for signs of the things that could go wrong. Just like anything else your body does, you don’t medicate it for something that might later be a problem. Most people wouldn’t get their appendix removed because it may become appendicitis later in life. Doctors no longer routinely recommend tonsillectomies to avoid throat problems later, though they absolutely do them in cases where the tonsils have become a problem. Shouldn’t we therefore treat birth in the same way?
Birth isn’t fun and easy, believe me, we know! It also doesn’t have to be as bad as the horrible portrayal in movies, TV shows, and the horror stories of your over-sharing coworkers! Knowing more about the birth process and understanding both what is going on and some strategies to help it feel better/work better improves your birth experience. If you go into labor, lie down on your bed, have no idea what to expect, and tense up for each contraction, it will be horrible. If you go into labor feeling confident that pressure and pain aren’t always the same, have a great support system and some ideas of how to ease the sensations and make them more productive, it’s still going to be hard work, but it might not be the torturous experience so many dread. But why bother? I can’t answer that for you. People run marathons and climb mountains. They earn doctorates. They build buildings. Why bother? These things can be time consuming and painful. Exhausting. Thankless. So why do them?
Medical interventions aren’t inherently bad, or good. They are tools. A hammer isn’t bad or good. It can pound in a nail to hang a family photo or it can be used to take a life. Epidurals, Pitocin, Cesarean Sections, and more – these all save lives! Sometimes one intervention prevents a more serious, riskier invention down the line. I had an epidural that absolutely allowed me to avoid a Cesarean birth, a much higher risk and more invasive option! We are thrilled that doctors have so many options to help prevent or respond to some of the challenges of birth. That doesn’t mean that it’s always the right call for every mother at that stage of labor. Medical options should be just that – options to be utilized when the situation calls for it. Not standard operating procedure. All medical procedures have some risks and possible side-effects. Every one of them should be fully explained as clearly as possible in the individual situation.
No matter how birth happens, a new family is created. Even if a mother already has children, adding a new child creates a new family. Lives are forever altered. Birth should be a day that you look back on with pride and accomplishment. Your birth should reflect you.
If your idea of birth is that it’s a medical procedure, only safe in a medical setting with constant monitoring and interventions, that you can’t safely give birth without an IV in, and that you have to be on your back with your legs in stirrups, I challenge you to change your thinking in this New Year. Especially if you are a woman planning to have children, learn more about how birth is, can be, and maybe should be. We have a list of recommended books here, or feel free to post questions. You can even call and email us, as several of our doulas are certified childbirth educators!