The idea of having an unmedicated homebirth seems baffling to many. But when a woman chooses a natural birth, she doesn’t expect an award for her choice.
“You know you don’t get a medal for that, right?”
This question was asked of me as I planned my second birth, an unmedicated homebirth. This question is often asked of natural-birthing women, in a culture which holds a vast misunderstanding about birth and why some women might prefer to have their babies in an physiological, unhindered manner.
This sardonic sentiment frames the issue as a competition — because, when women make choices for themselves, it couldn’t possibly be with their health and wellness in mind, right? It must be due to competition with other women. Surely the only reason a woman would want a natural birth is to prove she is tough and to win a medal. Cattiness, mommy wars, all of that.
When we talk about birth, it’s important to note that our personal experiences do not function as commentary on anyone else’s experience, nor is it a judgment. I’ve found that most birth advocates are advocating for truth and options, not one specific mode of birth, nor one specific location. For us, homebirth is a choice we want women to know about, even if they choose to birth elsewhere. For us, it’s not a desire to be the toughest or the best at birth; it is not a competition or a form of one-upmanship. It’s a desperation to see all women making fully informed choices for themselves and their families.
I had the hospital experience with my first birth, and it was a defeating, emotionally exhausting, somewhat embarrassing event. My pregnancy journey and birth in a hospital environment were disconnected and unempowering. I didn’t like the in-and-out approach of my doctor’s appointments. I didn’t feel heard or respected. I had eyes rolled at me when I talked about my plan to birth naturally.
My plan to birth naturally did not work in the hospital. I was contracting but not dilating. I was tense and scared and unable to focus with nurses coming in and out of my room. I ended up with numerous interventions, none of them life-saving; it was simply what happened because I wasn’t birthing on the hospital’s schedule. When I eventually read about the concept of birth as similar to having sex or using the bathroom, it was a revelation.
For me, the privacy allowed during a homebirth made all the difference in the world. I dilated effectively and without much pain. I was able to create a quiet, peaceful, intimate environment with my husband, who was the only person I wanted around me during labor. I pushed my baby out with ease.
The desire to birth in such a way came from a deep disappointment in my first birth experience, paired with accurate information about the documented risks and benefits of hospital birth versus homebirth. There was no desire to triumph over anyone else’s experience, but rather a longing to have my own empowered experience. There was no element of competition or the desire to brag or sport a medal after the fact. There was simply a yearning for birth as I knew it could be, a birth that was right for me.
So no, I do not want a medal, nor do I expect one. I want a safe, physiological birth. I want to birth in a quiet, private space without multiple strangers coming and going. I want to be able to eat and move freely. I want to limit interventions unless they are absolutely necessary. I want birth attendants who respect the process of childbirth. I want evidence-based care.
I wanted to give birth at home — and it was a personal triumph. No medal necessary.
[Image Credit: Matthew Franco]