Every time I hear the phrase “But you had him the REAL way, I could never do that!” I cringe a little. It’s always meant as a compliment, a way of recognizing the hard work of natural labor and birth. Trust me, I take the compliment! Unmedicated labor is hard work.
Often it is the result of months of education, planning, practice, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It demands both physical and mental stamina. It requires a team of support. However, natural childbirth isn’t how I define having your baby the “real” way.
There seems to be a misconception that women who choose to labor without interventions, or unmedicated, look down on women who do not. Let’s set the record straight: just because I chose these options for my pregnancies doesn’t mean I’m judging your experience. My husband likes mustard on his sandwiches. Even typing that makes me want to gag. That doesn’t make him wrong. As long as he is getting what he wants, that’s what is important. January Harshe said it best, “I do not care what kind of birth you have…a home birth, scheduled cesarean, epidural hospital birth, or if you birth alone in the woods next to a baby deer. I care that you had options, that you were supported in your choices, and that you were respected.” I can give you a laundry list of the reasons I choose to labor the way I do, but statistics and lists (especially when unsolicited) aren’t necessarily going to convince you to change your preferences any more than they would convince me to like mustard.
When I ask to hear your birth story, it isn’t because I want to see how long you made it before your block. I’m not secretly judging the fact that you ended up needing a c-section. I haven’t had your experiences, and I really want to know more about them. Actually, I like hearing birth stories for the same reasons I love to hear engagement stories. Both are so full of love, hope, and newness. Both give me goosebumps. Most importantly, both these love stories are so intimately unique to the people in them.
No one else has a story quite like yours. Whether your story is picture perfect, or a complete hot mess: they are all special in their own way.
Let’s not forget the second half of that statement: “I could never do that!” Oh honey, sure you could! Given a typical healthy pregnancy, you most certainly could! Obviously there are women that because of XYZ, a “natural” labor isn’t an option, but that doesn’t mean that those women are weak or “unable”, it just means they didn’t have the opportunity. Just because you didn’t have the opportunity DOESN’T mean you COULDN’T.
Finally, let’s all be real here: “natural labor” means something different to almost everyone. Insinuating that only natural labor is “real” labor degrades the journey of not only women who delivered with medication, intervention, or via c-section, but also those who adopted, used gestational carriers, became parents through marriage, or were blessed with a child in one of seemingly endless ways. They are the ones that I find most heroic, impressive, and fascinating . If you really want to be blown away, spend some time listening to these mothers and their unique stories. They’ve been faced with trials and roadblocks that have tested them far beyond anything many of us will ever know.
Tell me you are proud of my hard work. Give me a high five. Take a note from my first birth and bake me a cake if you want! But, be prepared that if you tell me ” You had him the REAL way, I could never do that!” I will likely give you a little lecture. Or a pep talk. Or both.