Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is Labor About How "Tough" You Are?

Just a quick observation: I have several friends and acquaintances that are avid runners and train for marathons and triathlons. I cannot emphasize enough how awful and painful this sounds to me. I was a two-pack a day smoker for more than 10 years -- smoke-free for 15 years now -- so I never developed a love of exercise, unfortunately.

I routinely have people comment on how high my pain tolerance must be, or how "strong" I must be to give birth without medication. I have to just laugh! This is coming from people who run for three hours straight! I would rather give birth several times over than run to the end of my street!

This is the misconception about labor and birth -- that it is about the pain -- how much you can take. It is about education, as I have said over and over. I truly believe that with conviction, education, and a supportive birth team, ALL women can give birth without medication.

I am pretty sure, however, that I could not run a marathon! Labor "pain" serves a purpose and when a woman understands that, she does not fight it, but works with her body to help her baby out. Labor is hard. I never try to fool women into thinking birth is painless, but it is the most joyful experience in a couple's life.

Anything that is difficult in life ultimately challenges our will and our mind, and often our bodies. I guess I am simply pointing out that women do hard things all the time -- don't miss this opportunity to truly bring your baby into this world with your own awesome power! You CAN do it!

17 comments:

Carmen said...

As my husband has stated- I’m the weakest person he knows when it comes to tolerating pain. A simple toe stub and I am crumbled to the floor after letting out a loud scream.

But there is a difference when it’s “pain with a purpose” and birth is the best purpose I can think of to be quite honest. You bring up a wonderful point that I always use when people say that I am tough for having giving birth naturally and it’s that we were properly educated. Without proper education/practice prior to attempting to birth naturally it can become a very difficult journey. I say that because I have encountered people who say they intended to go natural, but it was too hard so they went the epidural route midway and upon inquiring how they prepared they say they attended the hospital classes.

Knowledge is power and in this case it gives husbands and wives the power to work together with their child in unison for an amazing birth!

Donna Ryan said...

That's funny that you mention stubbing the toe, Carmen. My husband always tells me, usually when I'm complaining of heat or cold, that I could never have made it across the plains!

Nancy said...

Having done several triathlons and giving birth naturally, I can say that the two are very similar. With both, it's all about your training. Taking the time to fully prepare makes all the difference in the world. Both are painful, but well worth it in the end. Of course, I'm far more proud of my natural birth than I am the 7 tris I've finished. And the trophy is much cuter... :)

Shannon and Casey said...

When I informed people of my mission for a drug free child birth, I had few supporters at first. Then when I explained the benefits for both baby and myself, people started to understand, but still pretty much said..."wait until that first contraction!" I think it's all about your mind set. From the day that I decided to have a natural delivery (week 26 of my pregnancy), that is all I thought about and prepared for until the delivery. Education IS the key! I wanted to make sure it happened no matter what. I feel like I prepared myself for so much "pain", that it turned out much easier in the end, because it was "pain" with a purpose. I kept telling myself I could do anything for 1 day, and it's true. Anyone can do this if they are prepared and educated. I have had friends since my baby's birth tell me they were going to "try" natural delivery. I always tell them that they can't just try, they have to commit. You wouldn't just show up at a marathon without training before hand and try to make it 26 miles.

publichealthdoula said...

I agree! I always try to educate people (& write blog posts that show) that the goal of unmedicated birth is NOT about how much pain you can take. It seems that most women who plan an unmedicated birth just think "I will wait to see how much pain I can take, and when I can't take it anymore, I will ask for an epidural. If the baby is about to emerge at that point, then I will have had a natural birth." If nothing else, transition usually trips up that plan! If you want an unmedicated birth, it will almost certainly require education, preparation, and commitment. If not, that's OK too but I hate to hear women who never prepared for unmedicated birth slamming those who did as "martyrs" or "NCB nazis".

KBH said...
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KBH said...
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KBH said...

I love this post and just linked it to my pregnant cousin!! I had a natural hospital birth with my son and a natural home birth with my daughter. With my son I was one of those that was going to 'try' to do it naturally and see how things went. I mean, I'm a woman. I'm supposed to give birth, right?! But, I got to an 8 and asked for the epidural, luckily my body nor baby had time to wait for the anesthesiologist. It was a HARD labor (short 2 hours 15 minutes) BUT I didn't have proper support, education or preperation (other than "I'm gonna try")to do it naturally. Then with my daughter I decided to do natural labor again and I researched all the why's, how's and who's. My husband and I decided on a homebirth with midwife. My labor was 5 times longer than with my son, but so much more managable and even, dare I say, enjoyable!! Yes, it was still painful, but I HAD GREAT SUPPORT!! (Plus I had armed myself with information and preperation that went beyond a hospital Lamaze class). In fact, my midwife and I talked about how pregnancy was the training for the marathon of the birth!

KBH said...

*Just in case you're wondering, those were my deleted posts. I kept finding typos and they bug me.*

Donna Ryan said...

Loved everyone's comments! Thanks for sharing your experiences. Not one person has said that labor IS about how tough you are. Interesting, isn't it?

Sarah said...

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!

Alisa said...

I just talked with someone yesterday about labor and being tough. After hearing that I had 4 children unmedicated she said (no surprise) "wow, you must be tough." I laughed and said far from it. That is not what labor is about.
She then said "well, if it is not about being tough, what is it about?"
I only had a few minutes to try and explain- but it left me thinking how the majority of people do not understand the intent of not having medication in labor.

Kendi said...

I also got comments about being tough after my natural birth. I've never thought of myself in that way; however, after becoming a mother, tough has a new meaning to me. Tough means doing things you don't really want to do for your kids no matter what and being strong enough as a person to deal with anything. Tough means going natural because it's best for you and the baby. I'm not tough in most areas where doctors and hospitals are concerned(I nearly passed out a while back when getting a shot - too funny when I told the nurse I could have a baby without an epidural!). But, with childbirth it's different, like you said - it's "pain with a purpose!"

Kelly said...

It's also about your support system. Even the most prepared/educated woman can reach the point in her labor where she says(and believes!) she can't do it. But if she has a great husband/midwife/doula, or all of the above, to help get her head back in the right place...she can get back to focusing on the task at hand.

Kristi said...

I am certainly NOT tough and I had an unmedicated birth. My friends teased me after saying, "I can't believe you did that when you can't handle (fill in the blank." For example my husband likes to pop my fingers for whatever reason and it hurts! He'd tease and say, "I don't know how you're going to have a baby if you can't handle me popping your fingers." Now it's, "You've had a baby and I still can't pop your fingers!" My reply is the same for everyone,"I had time to prepare my mind for birth!"

In short, I was not tough before birth, I did not feel tough during labor and birth and I do not feel tough now. It just was not about that for me.

Lia Joy said...

I gave birth unassisted, and I hear these things all the time -- tough, brave and one of my favorites, "what are you trying to prove?" My response: I can't imagine giving birth to prove a point. :D It's not half as "tough" as being a mom, and it takes more "bravery" to share my experience publicly and listen to others' judgements than it does to birth how I KNOW is best for *me* and *my* family.

Seeker said...

Ironically enough, it was my natural birth that gave me the confidence to start running. I never thought I could be a runner, but after giving birth naturally I decided that my body was probably capable of much more that I originally thought.