Childbirth Choices

posted by Andrea | 07/30/2013

one day old

I was actually planning to do a post about canning today — because you know, it’s THAT time of year already!

But over the past week since the big Royal Birth, I’ve seen and read so many snide remarks on Facebook, Twitter, and in the news (about how Kate didn’t use any pain medication for her birth) and I felt like I just had to share some of my thoughts today.

I think it’s great that Kate had a relatively “normal” and uneventful labor and delivery (and honestly, I’m a fan of the royals!) however, I DON’T like that so many people are making rude comments like:

“Even Kate had a natural delivery.”

“If royalty can do it, anyone can.”

These remarks (many of them from my own personal Facebook friends) seem to be implying that any woman who DOES use pain medication during childbirth is somehow less of a woman or not as good of a mom.

Obviously, that’s pretty¬†judgmental.

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Now, before any of you start thinking that I’m simply venting about an issue that’s hitting a little too close to home, let me be very clear…

I did NOT use any pain medication during Nora’s birth.

However, I don’t think women who do are bad, wrong, or wimpy.

My plan was actually to have an epidural, but since I was only in the hospital for a total of 4 hours before Nora was in my arms, since my pain was relatively manageable, and since the anesthesiologist wasn’t available right away, it just never happened.

Looking back, it was nice to not be numb and to be able to get up and walk around right away, but I’m also quite confident that if my labor would have been much longer or more painful, I would have gotten an epidural ASAP.

You can read Nora’s birth story here… and although there was definitely pain and discomfort, I had a really easy labor and delivery compared to so many people I know.

During the short time I was in the delivery room, the doctors and nurses kept saying, “This is a textbook delivery. Everything is going exactly as it should.” They even brought in a few interns so they could watch my “textbook delivery”.

Great, just what I wanted, more people staring at me while I’m pushing out my child!

brand new

In the weeks and months after Nora was born, I found it very odd that I was CONSTANTLY asked if I had an epidural or not — sometimes people would ask me this question before anything else about her birth.

When I explained that I did not have an epidural, I got one of 2 reactions:

  1. “way to go, real women can handle the pain”
  2. “you’re crazy, the epidural was the best decision I made”

Obviously, these responses were either from women who did not, or women who did, have an epidural (respectively) and felt they had to justify their choices to me — even though I honestly could have cared less.

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While I feel blessed to have had a relatively “easy” labor, I’ve also heard enough crazy (and really scary) childbirth stories from other friends, family, and acquaintances, that I know it’s not always so uneventful.

I know women who have labored for 38+ hours before having an emergency C-section. I know women who have been so adamant about having an all-natural childbirth that they inadvertently put themselves and their baby in extreme danger until the doctors finally talked some sense into them. I know women who have required numerous surgeries after childbirth and were then unable to have children “naturally” ever again.

None of these women elected to be part of such scary and painful childbirth experiences — and I certainly don’t think they are weak or wrong for taking pain medication as a result.

Yes, I realize there are potential side effects of an epidural or other pain meds — but honestly, there are potential side effects of almost anything now days.

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I’m NOT trying to lobby “for” or “against” using pain medication during childbirth, I just think we shouldn’t judge the decisions of others or make snide comments when we most likely don’t know the whole story.¬†

For the record, I never thought I’d write anything about the royal family or about pain medication and childbirth on my blog — never say never I guess :)

Oh, and if you’d rather read about canning, head on over here!

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45 comments

  1. Theresa

    07/30/2013

    I had received negative comments from one of my doctors because I choose to have a C-section. One of my twins was breeched and we didn’t want to put anyone at risk. Needless to say after that appointment that doctor was not allowed around my pregnant body.
    Motherhood is hard. Negative comments make it even harder. I wish the world would offer support to fellow mamas and lift them up instead of trying to tear them apart.
    Thank you for being a positive voice, the world needs more women like you.

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  2. Miranda

    07/30/2013

    My first birth was a lot like yours. 6 hours in labor and no epidural becuase it went too fast and manageable pain until a point. My second labor was 28 hours long and I labored a long time before I screamed and pleaded for an epidural. My body was so tense that it didn’t want to progress. An hour after the epidural, my son was born. Another plus was that my recovery was MUCH better than with my first. I’ll never judge another mom’s decision to get an epidural again!

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  3. Rachel

    07/30/2013

    Oh, what a controversial topic!! Right up there with breastfeeding for getting the arguments and subsequent guilt flowing!! The trouble is, every woman and every baby is different, and we are surrounded with so much conflicting information these days that expectations get a bit warped. I planned a ‘natural’ birth with my firstborn ten years ago…..and ended up with a 36 hour labour, forceps (he was that stuck there wasn’t time for a section) and a massive blood transfusion afterwards. ‘Natural’ labour would have killed me, and possibly him, and I’m so thankful we were in a hospital with everything modern medicine had to offer. I couldn’t bear to hear the story for months afterwards, it was so traumatic. My daughter also came after a long labour and epidural, in hospital again. My third, well, when he eventually decided to put in an appearance, I didn’t have time for anything other than gas and air……but I defy anyone to have an 11lb 8oz baby without a little bit of pain relief!!!!! Motherhood isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a competition, but there is just so much pressure on mums….magazines here in the UK are already writing about Kate’s weight loss regime, I mean, come one, give the poor girl a break!!!! She can’t win though, if she’d walked out of the hospital stick thin she would have been criticised, but as she came out with a mummy tummy she’s still been criticised!!! As I said, we are all different, have different experiences of childbirth even with our own children and I really wish women would support each other instead of being so critical about each other, after all, no mum is going to chose a route which would deliberately harm her baby (I hope) so what difference does it make if she breast or bottle feeds? uses washables or disposables? ‘natural’ birth or C-section? as long as mother and baby are healthy and happy, what else really matters?

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  4. Leanne

    07/30/2013

    loved this post! in all honesty, if you love and care for your child, and it doesn’t harm his or her welfare… then it’s no one’s business whether you bottle feed, breastfeed, co-sleep, sleep train, have no meds birth, home birth, C-section, epidural, organic baby food, etc, etc…
    I wish people spent as much time going on and on about how to actually BRING UP children versus bringing them “out”…. :-)
    I love your posts, Andrea! thanks!

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  5. Debby

    07/30/2013

    Well said once again. Although, I didn’t choose to have an epidural either time with either child, I would never judge anyone who does or does not have one. Why can’t we just support one another? I didn’t have one due to my hatred of needles, but if for one instance my girls’ lives were in jeopardy or mine, I would have gladly taken it. The rude comment I got everytime someone asked me if I had one and said I didn’t was, “Oh well you must not have had the pain I did?” For real?

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  6. Vivian

    07/30/2013

    My mother always preached that having an epidural brought on hard labour immediately and no control of it. I did not have an epidural not out of choice but because I was too far along into labour. I don’t regret not having it but I do not make judgement on other’s choices because each labour and mother is different.. Thank goodness that we have good medical care that women and children as a rule do not die in child birth.

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  7. LR

    07/30/2013

    As a newlywed, I am more and more amazed of things that should be private being openly asked me. Will we be waiting to have a child, are we even “trying” to have a baby, and on and on the list goes. If God decides to give us children, I now have been warned about natural vs. not natural birth and all that.

    I agree with so many writers – it’s different for everyone, and what about letting the husband and wife decide what is best for them and their family?

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    Katie Reply:

    Whenever I hear about newlyweds being asked questions like that I tell them what I tell people who ask me that (they NEVER stop, by the way).

    When asked when we’re having another baby, I reply “Not today!”

    When asked how many kids we’re having, I reply “One at a time.”

    Inappropriate questions deserve vague answers and a quick change of subject. Good luck!

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  8. Heidi

    07/30/2013

    100 years ago the risk of a mother dying in childbirth was so high I am surprised people decided to have babies at all! Then the infant mortality was so high as well. Sheesh!

    I am just thankful that medical science has advanced to where both of those numbers are low and if the end result is a mother and baby that are both alive and doing well we are 100% ahead of the game.

    Unless the baby comes out of your nose I would consider that a “natural childbirth”

    As far as pain meds go…each mother and pregnancy is different. I am the mom of 5 kids and not a single birth was the same.

    1.) long labor ended up needing Demerol because I was hyperventilating and depriving the baby of oxygen. It made me sleep and while I slept I went from 4 to 10 centimeters dilated and ready to push!

    2.) long labor but a bit easier. We were actually able to use the lamaze breathing, focal points and all that jazz. She was my biggest baby at almost 9 lbs but the easiest as far as labor goes. I was not against drugs but ended up being able to manage the pain OK.

    3.) induced to try and get that baby boy out for over 2 weeks and he wasn’t budging. Ended up coming at his own time when my water broke while deep cleaning my bathroom (nesting!) But once we got to the hospital and strapped up to monitors it was obvious the baby was in distress. The umbilical cord had prolaped and was cutting off oxygen. Emergency C-section Stat!

    4 & 5) Twins – our hospital is small and does not do VBAC’s and frankly with twins I am not sure I would have wanted to try vaginal birth anyways. I went into labor went to the hospital where I had a another C-section.

    The end result 5 happy and healthy babies who are now 22, 16, 10 and 8 & 8 and at the end of that day that is all that matters. Royalty or not.

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  9. Nicole

    07/31/2013

    So glad to hear some voices of reason out there!! Why do some women seem to be so afraid of other peoples opinions or circumstances? Why do we need to judge each other’s decisions just to make ourselves feel more confident in our own?

    There are all these opinions on the exact right way to do it and yet I don’t know of one person who is perfect. All of us can speak to something we think our parents did wrong, so in no way could any one parent or “expert” have the magic key to childbirth or child rearing.

    When I was in hospital suffering from Post Natal Depression, mostly because I allowed myself to be subject to all the external judgement, I had some of the best insight given to me by a visiting child phychiatrist. It takes actual concentrated effort to do any long term damage to a baby or young child. You have to be trying hard at it.

    So, if you are trying hard to be a good parent then you are doing the right and best thing.

    We just need to give each other a break and stop using judgments of other people to boost our own self esteem.

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  10. Lisa

    07/31/2013

    I was in labor for 36 hours. Yes, there was an epidural around hour 32. By that point this non drama queen thought I was going to die. I always considered myself quite tough but the non stop contractions wore me down,. I was physically exhausted. A day and a half of labor after a terribly difficult pregnancy where I threw up daily multiple times and sleepl was a distant friend. Every experience is different. I say don’t judge because you can not know what someone is experiencing and if we had a little less judging this world would be a nicer place. So I used pain medicine, someone else did not. Does my 12 year child suffer or ever care? She doesn’t, she is living her life and I am teaching her to treat people how she wants to be treated and not to judge!

    You just can’t know someone experience until you walk in their skin!

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  11. Jelli

    08/02/2013

    I just gave birth Monday, no pain meds, but plenty of pain itself. While I had both my children “naturally” I too agree with you that I could definitely understand women who choose the meds. It is an intense experience, especially since it’s still so fresh in my mind. My son was born less than an hour after I got to the hospital, and the protocol was to force women to push while holding their breath to get as many ppl in and out of the delivery room as fast as possible. That made for a quick birth, but pretty painful. I’ll definitely go back to a homebirth if God blesses us with child #3, hopefully also sans meds.

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  12. Julia

    08/02/2013

    This is something I run into quite often. I have had three children (the last was in March). They have all been born via C-section…the first I labored for close to 30 hours with no meds and it ended in emergency C-section after she went into distress (I was actually chastised by my MIL for needing a C-section because she had 4 boys naturally). My second was a C-section because of the placenta being over my cervix. And finally the third…I chose a C-section.
    It is surprising how often I have been told “Oh, you really haven’t had a baby”…”Oh, you had it easy’. Had it easy…try C-section recovery.

    I don’t really care how a woman chooses to have a baby…as long as it comes out safely, it’s all good.

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  13. Linda Riffenburg

    02/03/2014

    Guess I happened go see this one as I read over some of your blogs and had to comment. It really bugs me when people (other women) judge women rather than support them on so many life choices. Choices!? If a woman is fortunate enough to have a choice, then give her support, don’t criticize. I had two pregnancies and two live births. Both were premature and under critical emergencies. Women who think they are so brave to have natural childbirth. How brave would they be to have an emergency c-secton at 28 weeks? I really enjoy your website. Not to get too personal, but have you tried the brushing technique on Nora. It sounds like she may have Sensory Processing issues. My grandson was dx with SPD at age 6 mo. and so many of issues with Nora sounded like his. He is 9 now and doing ok. He is the light of my life.
    Sorry so lengthy.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Linda — and yes, we do the brushing with Nora. I talk about that in later posts — but you might not have gotten to those yet :)

    Here’s one in particular where I talk about her sensory issues.

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