Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Labor About How Tough You Are, Part 2

Sarah, a former student, brought up an excellent point which she posted as a comment under the "Is Labor About How 'Tough' You Are?" post. I want to share her comments before I comment:

"I'm glad you addressed this issue, Donna. Funny. It seems many women get told they must be "tough" to have handled NCB. I can't remember *one* time I've been told that. But most people who don't know me well don't know that I do NCB, either. I don't exactly advertise it! (Perhaps that makes a difference?)

Most of the time, if it does get brought up, women will think I must have had really easy labors. (Especially because I'm so positive about it--I'd love to do it again!) Some will even reply that *their* labors were **hard,** so *they* **couldn't** go natural; essentially cheapening all the hard work that went into my "easy" births.
I've said it before, but these responses remind me of a Napoleon Dynamite favorite quote of mine: "Lucky." Like I just *happen* to have NCB! It's annoying and a little demoralizing. I know I'm not alone in this, because I've had this conversation with my sister. But it seems like it's common with your commenters that people assume they're tough.

Like you say, it isn't about being tough. And, like you say, it isn't about labor being easy, either. I feel like all the education and preparation I did is completely overlooked when people assume that it was easy. (I think this may be why I don't advertise that I "do" NCB to general acquaintances.) It feels like a slap in my face, whatever it is they assume about me. And, no, it never has been that I must be "tough." I almost wish it were! At least that would be a compliment, right? The "easy" assumption is by far the usual response I get. Am I alone among your readers? Please address this issue, if you have anything to say about it! Thank you!"

My friend, Janet, after having a 3-hour labor with her second baby, routinely heard other women say to her, "Well, if I had a 3-hour labor, I could do it without an epidural too!" This totally undermines the work of that mother. Sarah has heard me say a number of times that a longer labor is "easier" than a shorter one. Your body builds up to the longer and harder contractions. Fast labors are usually one contraction on top of another, while the cervix dilates very fast.

I rarely have students go through my class who just decide that labor is too hard, give up, and have an epidural. But a few years ago, I had this woman go through my class who had an epidural when she was dilated to 4 cm. I was so surprised, and disappointed. I'll never forget what she said to me: she said that she thought her labor must have been harder than most women's labors. Aaarrhh!

Deep down, I believe that women know what is the right thing to do -- for themselves and their baby -- but they CHOOSE to ignore that intuition or instinct, and make excuses (my labor was too long, too short, too painful; I have a low pain tolerance, etc.) so they do not have to take responsibility for their actions.

I also liked your commentary, Sarah, on the fact that people believe that if you actually ENJOYED labor, it must have been easy. Part of why I enjoyed my labors was because it was HARD, and I did it! You cannot beat that feeling of accomplishment.

Comments such as these are meant to lessen what you have done. When my friend, Alisa, the one I wished would fail at NCB, had her baby without drugs, I easily could have made up reasons as to why she was able to do it and I wasn't. My reaction was different though, for some reason. I thought, "If Alisa could do it, I could do it!" I wish those of us who choose NCB could inspire that sort of confidence instead of these ridiculous comments that people make.


Sarah said...

I've been told that my labor/delivery must have been easy since I did NCB. Start to finish, I had my first daughter in 7 hours. I'm pregnant with my second child so we'll see how that goes (midwife says it'll be faster this time). I tell people this: At one point I was literally BEGGING my husband for an epidural. I vividly remember screaming out telling him I couldn't go any further because the pain was too much. For some reason, even though my doctor listed me as NCB, an anesthesiologist came in our room. I took this as my clear sign to beg even more. My mom told me later that she and Jonathan were both yelling at the doctor to get out, that I had chosen NCB and I didn't want an epidural. Throughout everything, Jonathan kept repeating "you can do this" and helping me focus and breathe. Labor was tough. I wanted to quit (ha! like you've really got a choice to say, "no more, we'll just wait to do this later"). But really, having support is what got me through. I'm not strong, but I went in with no other option on the table. NCB. Period.

Alisa said...

Oh I agree with Sarah.
And I laugh every time, at your honesty, of you wanting me to fail.
(aren't you glad I did not, what would you be doing now?)
Once again, (I left another comment on the part 1 post) I spoke with another woman yesterday about that feeling of wanting to walk away from labor. But she understood what I was talking about. She got it- we had a good laugh.

Sarah said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Donna. I remember you saying that fast labors can be more intense, and it passes the logic test. The amount of time it takes for a woman's body to get from baby being in to baby being out should affect the intensity of the work involved. It is for this reason that I gladly have "long" labors. When it's a journey (not a sprint!), it may be easier to relish labor!

So, speaking of labor length, if you are desiring other topic suggestions, I'd love to read your thoughts on this. I remember from class that you count it from the start of active labor. The problem with labor length is that we don't all measure it the same: some count from start-to-finish, some from when the labor got hard enough that laboring is all they were doing (I think that's how you defined active labor) and some even count it from water breaking--no contractions present! That's why, when I talk about labor, (mine or others) I will specify what I mean by "how long" labor was.
It is interesting how eye-opening it is for women who go through labor for the first time and realize what they hadn't before: that a 20-something or 30-something hour labor is not as bad as it sounded on the other side. (Like it's excruciating pain for every minute of all those hours!) Just a thought on another fun topic to address!

sara- another one! said...

I have been wondering about the fast labors vs. short labors- I just found this post, sorry :)

I had my first daughter in 5 hours- and I loved it! I remember thinking (probably during transition) that I'd be able to understand why women would ask for epidurals, especially if labor was longer. I would say that I was only really in pain for about 1 hour (pushing wasn't painful, but a relief!). I had been thinking that my labor was easy since I don't remember the pain, really, but is that because it really was easier than a long labor or because of my positive viewpoint of labor and childbirth?