Monday, February 22, 2010

My Choice

Today I share a guest post from my sister. She has also chosen unmedicated birthing, but her experiences have been quite different from mine. Here she shares some of her thoughts and reflections on her birth choices.

My friend and neighbor had her fourth baby on Tuesday. She was induced one week early and had an epidural, just as she did with her other three kids. She just likes it that way. The whole idea of scheduling a birth, going to the hospital without any labor pains and having a baby a few hours later, just boggles my mind. It is so strange to me that I can’t stop thinking about it. I know that it is very common for women to be induced as well as for women to have epidurals, but this time, with this friend, it bothers me more. What bothers me? It’s hard to say. I have had many conversations with this friend and we agree about many things, but we do not agree on birth methods, and somehow that is a big thing. It is such a big thing that it’s almost as if it drives a wedge in our friendship, distancing us and preventing us from some more complete measure of friendship. This is the case with other friends as well. The opposite is also true. Many times I have learned that a new friend or acquaintance has natural births and immediately there is a connection, a pull toward friendship. There is a feeling of “you have felt it too!” For some reason birthing methods makes a big difference in the strength of understanding and friendship for me, probably because it’s something I am passionate about.

Yet there is something else that bothers me. What is this feeling that I get when I learn of someone’s medicated birth? Is it a feeling of self-rightness, a sense of “I’m right and she’s wrong”? No, I know women have their agency (and I wish more of them would use it instead of letting “health care professionals” make personal decisions for them! But that’s another topic). It’s not right and wrong; it’s just different. Then what is this feeling? Is it jealousy? Am I jealous that she had an easy, pain free experience when giving birth is so difficult for me? Is it that it’s not fair? But I know I have the choice, too. It’s just that I’ve done the research for myself and I know it’s statistically safer to do it naturally without intervention, and that is what I have chosen. Is it self doubt? Do I doubt my choice? I find myself thinking, “am I insane?” Why do I choose to suffer when there is a pain free option? I remind myself of the many reasons, but then I wonder if it’s worth all the fear that I feel. I never want to go through that again, and I think about it every day. Have I really made the right choice?

I watched my friend return home from the hospital today. I felt a great distance between us, despite the close proximity of our physical persons. I do not understand what she just experienced. And she does not understand what I have experienced at the most excruciating, life changing moments of my life. As I see it, she has not experienced the culmination of being a woman. She is choosing to miss it! The birth of my babies will be forever etched in my memory; moments of pain, yes, and also of relief, strength and power. I am a woman. I birth my babies the way God intended it to be. That makes me powerful. I watch my friend walk with her baby to their door. No, I do not comprehend what she just experienced, and I guess I never will.


Eternal Lizdom said...

I had an epidural with both of my births. I went into labor on my own and I labored without medication for as long as I felt comfortable.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape. I had many conversation with my OB about my fears- that the pain of childbirth would cause flashbacks to the pain I experienced in my childhood. I did not want my birth experience marred by that possibility. My epidural was my security blanket.

I labored naturally for as long as I felt I safely could. There are few situations in life where my abused past is in my face. But pain eminating from my vaginal area? The pressure and tearing sensations? Just reading about the ring of fire caused me concern. It wasn't worth the risk. I wanted my birth experiences to be wonderful and they were. And I know that part of why I was able to relax and focus on them is because I felt "protected" by medical intervention via epidural.

I admire women who birth naturally.

I admire women who have c-sections.

While I don't understand scheduling and inducing or scheduling and c-sectioning... I think there are times it is appropriate. I've known military wives who schedule the birth so that their deployed husband could come home and be present and part of the experience.

I get that we all have feelings, gut reactions. I don't understand how someone could choose formula over even attempting to breastfeed. But I will not look down on the person who makes that choices because it's not my business to know what that woman's story is.

And I shouldn't ever have to justify my reasons for choosing to have an epidural. But I share the reason for my decision because it's a different point of view and might shed some light on the deeply personal experience that is birthing.

Julie said...

It is amazing how each of my 4 children's births were so different. after each one I thought "I can do this with out pain meds I'm sure". Well, the truth is I know I can but on each of my deliveries I chose to get an epidural. That doesn't mean I didn't experience the pain of delivery. Believe me I felt it. I had to be medically induced on my first 2 deliveries but I don't feel like any less of a woman because I did so. I had 4 epidurals and I do not feel like any less of a woman. I'm in awe of women who give birth with out pain meds. I however love laughing my way through delivery which I would not be able to do if I were trying to breath my way through every contraction.

Mallory said...

Those are familiar feelings!

nicole said...

"As I see it, she has not experienced the culmination of being a woman. She is choosing to miss it!... I am a woman. I birth my babies the way God intended it to be. That makes me powerful."

Wow... this post seems quite judgemental and self-righteous to me. As if a woman who chooses to have pain medication for her labor is less of a woman somehow?? God also invented modern medicine... and I think a woman should be able to choose what the best option is for her and her baby. I don't think this is a healthy attitude, and if it's driving a wedge between her and her "friend", it's clearly not right. Her attitude is self-righteous unkind, which is probably why she's experiencing such emotional turmoil over this issue. This is exactly the attitude that bothers me about some women who choose to give birth naturally.
I've given birth both ways, and I respect other women for whatever they choose to do. My ego or sense of self-worth is simply not based on how I chose to birth my babies.

Lisa said...

I really can't comment on giving birth naturally vs. with medications, because I probably will never have the opportunity to give birth at all. I wish it wasn't such a divisive issue. My comment is about the idea that giving birth (naturally or otherwise) is "the culmination of being a woman". I've heard similar sentiments expressed in other places recently, and I have to say that this idea really bothers me. I'm trying to separate my infertility/adoptive mom background from this and just look at it from a motherhood/womanhood in general perspective... but even when trying to do that, I still disagree with this idea.

I think there are many experiences, both profound and small, which make up womanhood and/or motherhood. I would never deny that birth is deeply impactful, definitely up there among the top most life-changing events that a woman may experience (with the flip-side being that loss of birth is just as impactful and life-changing; that in itself says something about birth too).

But to say that it's the "culmination of womanhood" is really over the top, to me. First of all, it's subjective, and no one can speak for all women. Second of all, it's one day in the life of a mother (for each child), as opposed to months and years of motherhood that follow. And it's only the beginning of one's mothering journey. If my womanhood has basically peaked on the day my first--or last--child is born, that's pretty sad to me. There's nothing more, nothing left that will ever match that in importance, value, or profundity? Then what's the point of anything else?

There are just so many things that make up being a woman and/or mother. There is no one thing that ultimately defines what womanhood is. Even when just looking at it from the suffering/pain aspect of it, there are many life experiences a woman or mother might have that would mirror that or bring the same lessons. Maybe not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I see many "motherly" experiences for which the work, pain, and joy of birth could be a metaphor or analogy (sorry, not up to date on my English grammar terms! :)).

I think that when people make choices different than what we would make, we just have to try to let go and let God work with them the way He sees fit. Yeah, there are things that I just don't get (formula-feeding by choice being one of them, since I don't get the choice). In my own family there are choices made that are completely opposite of what I might do in the same situation , including people giving up things that I would give anything to experience, yet I have to try to look deeper, to remember that those people, in this case, are dealing with their own inner things and trying to stumble their way through this life just like I am.

katef said...

I am late reading this but I felt compelled to comment anyway...

I actually applaud your sister and you for posting this. It is a very honest look at what can sometimes be a very dividing topic between women.

Trying to tease out the reasons for her feelings and being honest and open about them, even though they might seem judgemental or 'high and mighty' I think goes such a long way to opening communication and really starting a real supportive conversation between women about birth.

I only wish that some of the women I am in contact with at the moment would dare to be so open and honest and really look at their feelings. I think it would make what sometimes feels to me like judgemental fundamentalism more easier to understand, accept and incorporate.

Living in a country where the debate over a woman's right to choose how she birth rages (homebirth laws are being brought in to restrict access and choices in an already poor choice system) this is such a powerful topic for us at the moment, but instead of uniting women it seems to be doing the opposite.

I don't agree with all of what your sister wrote but I feel so strongly that it is a good things she wrote it! Good on you both!

Brasileira said...

I am sorry that so much of what I wrote was misunderstood, and I hope to right some wrong by adding this comment.

I did not intend to judge others, especially not this dear friend, who I love and admire so much! I wrote in an effort to better understand my feelings about my own choice to birth naturally, since writing things down helps me process my thoughts. As I wrote I began to understand myself better, and I was thrilled to actually reach a conclusion, something that I had not expected would result from the writing. For the first time since the traumatic birth of my first baby, I felt peace in my decision to birth naturally. I felt great hope for the future, knowing that if we do decide to have another baby I will not have to live my life in fear of the birth and doubt of my choice to do it naturally. I was so happy about this new-found peace that I gladly accepted my sister's offer to post what I wrote on her blog. I hoped that others might find it insightful or even helpful, as I had done. I am sorry now that I did not edit what I had originally written.

nicole said...

Brasileira, that makes sense. It looks like I misunderstood your intentions. Thanks for clarifying. :)

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