Monday, April 18, 2011
When We Want our Friends and Family to Birth Like We Do
Natural birth advocates get a bad name sometimes because people perceive us as cramming our opinions down their throat. The same could be said about all the folks who tell you to "just get the drugs!" They often encourage a pregnant mom to be induced, find out the sex of their baby, and of course, get the epidural. Rarely do I have people sitting in class who say that everyone in their life is supportive of their natural birth choice. Often, class is the only "safe" place where they can talk about their desires for a natural birth and prepare accordingly.
I used to encourage friends to have a natural birth and talk to them about my class. Some cases have worked out great, but more often than not, it backfires. I have learned over the years that the desire to have a natural birth must come from within. I have a friend from church who says of "the other side" that they just aren't ready to hear "the gospel of natural childbirth!"
I heard of a couple recently that took a Bradley® class, hired a doula, and birthed with a group of CNMs in a hospital. She has family members that are natural birth advocates and encouraged her to do all the "right" things as listed above. Now, I don't know this woman, so I am speculating. She ended up with a c-section, one that was very likely not necessary based on what I heard of the story, but I don't think her heart was in it at all. In hearing the story, I've heard the midwives blamed and also the Bradley® teacher. I don't think either is at fault. The mom just wasn't committed to having a natural birth and was subconsciously looking for a reason to abandon the natural process.
I believe that when people want you to get the drugs, it's because it makes them feel better about their own birth. I did this with my friend, Alisa. I had given birth to one baby with an epidural. I didn't feel a thing and narrowly escaped a c-section. Alisa was planning an unmedicated birth. I wanted her to fail. Somehow, that would justify my birth choices. A bit twisted, I know. I think that a lot of women that have c-sections want others to have them as well. They would never come out and say it, but I think it's there.
I love it when women have a natural birth and everyone says to her how lucky she is that her labor was only 3 hours (the hardest 3 hours of her life!) -- "If my labor had only been 3 hours, I could have done it too!" I had someone in my class a few years ago who said to me after her labor, "I just think my labor was harder than everyone elses, so I had an epidural." Women who have natural births are working hard and are committed to the process! They aren't lucky, have high pain tolerances, or have easy labors! It comes from within.
It is interesting to ask people on the first night of class why they have chosen to have a natural birth. Rarely is the answer, "My friend had one and so now I want one." I will admit, however, that was a factor in my decision to birth naturally with the second baby. I knew that if Alisa did it, I could do it too. I don't remember her telling me that I should do it though. Reading the birth stories of Martha Sears in The Birth Book played a big role in my decision, and also the history of childbirth in America.
Ultimately, I believe the reason we want our friends and family to birth naturally is because we have seen how powerful it has been in our own lives. In most cases, it was probably the hardest thing you have ever done, but the joy and empowerment that followed was unbelievable! We also know that they can do it but are choosing not to. That's the most frustrating part of it all. If they would just give in to the process and let go of the fear, they too could have this amazing experience.
Our reasons for wanting our friends and family to have natural births is anything but selfish. We want this experience for them, to feel that they accomplished this amazing goal -- one that most of us will only experience a few times in our lifetime. If they didn't grow into teenagers, I'd have a dozen babies!
So, my natural birth "junkies," lead by example, like Alisa did. Give your friend or sister a book to read full of good birth stories. Be available for questions. Let her borrow your copy of "The Business of Being Born" or "Orgasmic Birth." Everyone is coming from a different place. Sometimes we have to have our own (bad) experience to start listening to other options.