When women mention their plans for a natural birth, they are bound to hear a wide variety of responses.
“Oh, just you wait! You will be begging for that epidural!”
“Well, I don't know why you would want that. I loved my c-section.”
“Hmm...we'll see what you say when you actually are in labor.”
“Well, I loved MY epidural.”
“My induction went great! And I loved knowing just when my baby would arrive.”
Sadly, these words (that are frankly very put-downish in nature) are often uttered by those closest to the pregnant woman in question. Mothers, sisters, best friends; these are the people that are most often not supportive, but mocking of a woman's desire to have a certain type of birth.
I once sat at a baby shower for a first time mom and listened to another mother who had already given birth talk for at least half an hour about how awful labor and her resulting c-section was. Then, just when I thought she was done, she began discussing the horrid nature of breastfeeding (with some humiliating stories to boot) and how that didn't last very long. Her end message: it didn't work for me, so it won't work for you.
Women aren't made of tissue paper. They are strong enough to withstand a little bit of rejection, mocking, and even ill wishes from a close loved one. The words of others need not destroy us.
But what is bothersome about the above scenarios isn't just the smug attitude of those who didn't have that natural birth, but the self-centered and somewhat ridiculous idea that just because that ONE person had a certain experience, that means EVERYBODY else will have the exact same experience.
Let's be honest- we hear the same ignorant, “This is what happened to me, so it will also happen to you” attitude coming from all kinds of natural proponents. Ever uttered the following phrases? I know I have, or at the very least thought them.
“I just eliminated fear and then I had a wonderful, painless birth. If you weren't so afraid...”
“I LOVE breastfeeding!”
“I wanted a home birth, so I just found a way to make it happen. If you want something bad enough...”
“I did XYZ and it turned my baby. I bet that would work for you.”
“I had a natural birth in a hospital! You just have to go in with the right attitude!”
And it doesn't stop there. I have even heard respected medical professionals projecting their own experience with their own families onto all other people. If only people thought, did, acted as I do, then they would get the exact same results!
Alas, the truth is much more depressing, and much less clear cut.
- Some people love their c-section. Some people hate it.
- Some people love natural birth. Some think it sucks.
- Some women adore the epidural, while others feel powerless and alone.
- Some people can have a wonderful breastfeeding relationship if they put a lot of work into it, while others will find that nursing comes easy. Still others will find that no matter what, breastfeeding won't work for them.
- Some women have a wonderful, quick induction with a great hospital staff, and others have a long, excruciating experience that ends in surgery.
- Some women say they want a home birth but don't really want it enough to pay for it. Others would love to have a home birth but sincerely cannot afford one.
- Some women will go into a hospital well prepared and with a great attitude and find that the hospital will roll them through like cog in a machine and they will be crushed. Some women will find that their preparation yields them a fabulous natural hospital birth.
- Some women will do everything right for a great birth, and it just won't happen for them.
The truth is that women have all different kinds of experiences in birth and in life. Some we can control (and should) and some we can't. This is sad, and it can be hard, but it is just how it is.
Now before you go and stop telling people about your birth or your joy or your triumphs because I made you feel guilty about it- DON'T STOP! That is not what I am saying. We need more good stories and more women out there who are actually...well, nice, kind, positive and thoughtful.
Share the good. Share the bad. Share the triumph and the disappointments.
But please remember that these experiences are not universal. Just because something went one way for YOU, doesn't mean that it will go the same way for EVERYBODY. There are a million factors involved in every single birth and every single life choice. Don't project your triumph or your failure onto somebody else.
In truth, we really have no idea how things will go for others. We just have to step back, let go, and let them enjoy the ride that they are going to take.
Sarah Clark is a mother of four. She isn't near as wise as she sometimes thinks she is. She teaches natural birth classes in Sonoma County, trains natural birth teachers for Birth Boot Camp, and blogs about mothering and natural birth at mamabirth.blogspot.com.
(Photo courtesy of Birth Boot Camp Inc, all rights reserved, used with permission.)