I must admit that this post has been building in my mind/heart for quite some time now. This is not the typical subject I blog about but I can’t help but write down my thoughts, especially because it is such a huge focus of my life right now.
I am 21 weeks pregnant as of this week and I couldn’t be more excited/scared about starting our little family!! We are having a sweet baby boy and my husband and I are constantly discussing things related to this little man…his name, his nursery, what he will be like, if we will be good parents, etc. It is a really special time in our lives, and we are loving every minute of it!
Like many expecting moms I think, I have been reading different blogs/articles/books about having a baby and all that comes along with that process. One of the things I have put a lot of thought into is what I want my birthing experience to be like. As I read about some of the different options of childbirth, something began to really bother me about the information I was presented.
From the very beginning of this process, I have been very comfortable with the idea of having an epidural to alleviate some of the pain involved in childbirth. It was a personal decision that I felt like I had made based on at least some knowledge and understanding of the process. But obviously, I felt like I should do some more reading and studying to find out what was best for my baby and I. It was at this point that I found myself feeling guilty about my decision. And here is the crazy part…it wasn’t because of scientific or medically based research that I found, it was because of the hurtful comments, and sometimes unintentionally degrading opinions of other women. It was interesting that after looking at the medically based research of using epidurals I felt confident in my decision to receive one before giving birth, and yet, after spending some time reading the opinions of women who believe in a strictly natural birthing process, I was left feeling like less of a woman because of my decision.
Now I have to say that I am not at all an expert on this subject. Yes, I have done some light reading, but I would never pretend to know all there is to know about the process of childbirth. From what I’ve seen there is research to back up both sides of the issue of whether or not epidurals should be used, and it would be easy to come to a conclusion on either side. I have very close friends who have decided to have completely natural childbirths and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them! I am a firm believer in doing what feels right for you in your personal situation.
What I have a hard time dealing with is the fact that I felt like only one side of the issue being presented was trying to make women on the other side feel bad. I read comment after comment that said things to this effect:
“I am so happy to see that there are women who are willing to get back to the natural process of childbirth!”
“Women who give birth naturally are so strong! That is the way it is supposed to be!”
“I want to applaud you for having the courage to give birth the right way.”
“Having a natural birth is the only way to ensure that your baby will be healthy.”
“If you were truly educated about the natural process of childbirth you would never dream of drugging your baby.”
I even read an article on a midwifery website that described the process of getting an epidural in this way:
“Not until long after she has verbally agreed to the epidural and the IV is loaded and the woman is beached in bed with her monitor, only then will a distant, impossible-to-track-down anesthesiologist appear. Like street drug pushers, the anesthesiologist often seems to makes him or herself scarce. In the same monotonous tone, without ever making eye contact, the anesthesiologist pushes the consent form and pen into the woman’s lap, rattling off all the possible bad effects of epidural while the woman is sitting up on the bed, already in position to have the epidural, and often while having a contraction and unable to pay attention to what is being told to her. The anesthesiologist is reluctant to answer questions. In response to questions, there is usually a “I have better things to do” tone of discourse.”
So wait, am I not a real woman? Am I not giving birth the right way if I choose to get an epidural? Does getting an epidural make me a weak person? Will my experience be less of a miracle because of it? Am I not educated enough because I don’t want to experience so much pain? What about the women who don’t have a choice to have a natural childbirth? The women who, for the safety of their baby, have to have a C-section and receive aneasthesia for the procedure? Am I being selfish by choosing an epidural?
Those were some of the very real thoughts that crossed my mind as I read these things. I am not in any way trying to say that all women who want to have a natural childbirth feel this way or look down on other women who choose not to. But the reality is that people do make these kinds of comments all the time and it can be very hurtful to women who feel otherwise or who end up not having a choice in the matter. I just think it would be helpful if people were a little more sensitive in the way they talked about childbirth. It is important for people to have and voice their own opinions, but I don’t think those opinions should diminish someone else’s experience.
For the record, I don’t think one way is more “right” than the other. I have heard a million stories about people who suffered horrible things because they had an epidural, and have heard a million more stories about people who had wonderful experiences because of their epidural. I have heard horror stories of the problems an epidural will cause your baby and I have seen/heard a thousand birthing stories where epidurals were used and perfectly healthy babies were born.
The point is, I don’t know everything, but I do know how I feel.
I know that I am carrying a human being right now. I know that I want to have a peaceful experience in the hospital while I am giving birth to him. I know that I want to be surrounded by medical professionals who have many years of education that qualify them to help my baby and I through this process. I know that childbirth is a natural process, but I also know that advances in medicine have created safe opportunities for me to avoid unnecessary pain. I know that I have a qualified doctor who will answer my questions to the best of her ability based on her medical training. I know that I don’t want to be in so much pain that I can’t appreciate the beauty of what is happening. I want to enjoy my family and I want to enjoy the companionship of my husband. I know that Heavenly Father has blessed me with one of his children and entrusted me to raise him and care for him. I know that not every woman has that opportunity and I am grateful and humbled that I am able to go through this process in this life. I know that I am making the best decisions that I can for my body and my baby. I know that I am an educated woman who is strong and determined to ensure that my baby is healthy in every way that I can. I know that I can’t control everything and that I will do my best to handle any situation or difficulty that I may have to face as I become a mother and care for this precious baby boy. I know that women who have their children naturally are brave, but I don’t think that I am any less brave for choosing not to.
And I know that my husband and I are a part of a miracle and whether or not I decide to have an epidural or any other source of pain relief will NOT cheapen my pregnancy and will NOT make me any less of a woman or this experience any less of a “real” childbirth. I will have carried my baby in my belly and I will have experienced all of the crazy emotions and feelings that go along with that. I will love and cherish this experience and pray for a safe delivery and healthy baby boy. I will not worry about whether other women think I’m brave or strong or healthy enough, and I will make an educated decision about my birthing process when the time comes and it will not be based on anyone else’s opinions or beliefs.
And I hope you will too!
We should be celebrating the beauty of this process for all women, not just the ones who do it a certain way.