Friday 2 September 2011

Childbirth revolution rant

Every generation needs a revolution. This is how the film One World Birth starts. This social media project, if I understand correctly, called itself a revolution in 2 parts: one regarding the way that women give birth around the world and other one in the way that films are distributed.

The creators of One World Birth asked the most amazing birth experts, such as Michel Odent and Ina May Gaskin, to be part of their project. I'm not here to rant about One World Birth. It actually looks like an awesome resource and I know that, when pregnant, I would have looked at the entire thing with great interest. No, I'm actually going to rant about something that bugged me ever since I gave birth. The film trailer just gave me the pretext to write about it : childbirth guilt!

There is indeed a "revolution" happening in the world of childbirth. Women are getting more aware of their options and their rights. Films such as The Business of Being Born by Ricki Lake helped to start this "revolution". I highly applaud that. However, I personally find that there is a downside to that "revolution". Women of our generation hire doulas, invest in alternative child birth class, read a multitude of books on the subject, make birth plans and day dream about their own personal revolution. I know what I'm talking about since I was one of those women. Don't get me wrong, if I had to do it again, I would not change any of it but I would add a very important chapter to my childbirth and postpartum preparation.

I would add a great big chapter dedicated to the eventuality of a "failed revolution". I find that women have a tendency to be perfectionist...even while planning the way that they will welcome their child into this world. I'm an event planner so, believe me, I was more than prepared...would it be great if I I could have emailed fetus Alice a copy of the "procedure" that I planned for that big day: the Holy Natural Childbirth ;)

As usual, I will be honest with you. After I asked for the epidural I felt like a total failure. Luckily for me, I had people around me who quickly helped me move on and taught me how to be proud of what I was going to achieve. However, it happened a bit as a crash course. I find that we are not mentally prepared for a "failed revolution" and that many new mothers keep a bad taste in their mouth about their childbirth.

Contrary to the women in The Business of Being Born, we are not bitter because we got "forced" to take an epidural. No, we are bitter because WE asked for an epidural and this, my friend, can f**k up any new mother who spent ten months focusing on a natural childbirth.

So yes, I love all those trendy documentaries and books about how women should embrace childbirth and I encourage you to pursue your dream if this is what you want. I just don't want this "revolution" to bring sadness and guilt during one of the most magical moment of your life.

The end!

note about the pictures: Alice's "date" (we were going to a wedding) with her unofficial godfather...our friend who gave us a ride to the hospital at 3am when I was in labor.

* * * * *

courtney: Not funny ;) Well, I do have a wolf t-shirt!!!

lola: I also think that Alice is a classic name. It was on a list of old baby names.

bugheart: A name is important but generally it is not the end of the world (unless you have a very stupid name like, um, Blanket!!!).

di: Ah ah ah! Arlo is, to my opinion, a much better choice!

little gray pixel: Oh, thank you so much :)

one claire day: Totally but still very funny!!!

anonymous: Ah, funny that you are also on that silly list. Wren is super cute.

emily: Ah ah ah!!! I like the good lube comment ;)

jennifer: Oh, sleeping = a happy mom and eventually a happy woman! We also share the bed with Alice (exactly like you and Guy).

paola zakimi: You are so very talented :)

lola: Oh, move to Quebec! We can have tea together :)

sara-ananda: Oh, totally, French grammar and spelling is much harder. And, since I didn't go to an English elementary school, Alice has to go to French school. Anyway, it is not a bad thing!

sarahvine: Hebrew looks like such a fascinating language. About sign language, some people love it and other think that it is not that good. I will take the workshop and see how it goes. Thank you for sharing your experience. Very helpful for me :)

maz: I'm honestly not very good with languages. Yes, I'm pretty much perfectly bilingual but it was not easy for me. I hope, as you said, that since kids have an amazing ability to learn other languages, it will be easier for Alice. Thank you. I would love to learn Norwegian but it looks so difficult :(

luke and pamela: It would be great if Alice could eventually speak Spanish but one thing at the time!

rita: I can't wait to see how the sign language course will work! I know there is a lot of songs and it looks pretty funny. So far, I know how to "say" more milk mom (it was on their website)!

daniela: Let me know how it works for you...not that our babies will speak that soon but you the future.

megan g: Yes, you are right, Scaredy Squirrel was in French first.

lindsey [homegrown spud]: Thank you so much for reading my little blog...and leaving me super nice comments! Don't worry, life is awesome and not that different with a baby...well, for me anyway. Oh, the geese were saying "shit, it is so freakin cold here"!!! xox


JoeyNomad said...

I agree with you 100%. It seems like mother guilt starts before birth even! You are always going to be judged no matter what - I said to people I didn't want an epidural and most of them scoffed at me, and then the other side of the fence people told me that having an epidural is not a "natural" thing and leads to a "medicated unnatural" birth. No matter what you do it's wrong! I think I will focus on having a healthy and happy birth no matter if I need medication or not. I don't want to go into this feeling like a guilty failure already!!!

Janet said...

I'm totally with you. I planned to have a natural childbirth--or, at least that was what I hoped--but then Juno was nearly two weeks late and I had to have Pitocin. It didn't work the first day, so we spend the night and tried the next day. By the time I started having real contractions I'd been in the hospital more than 28 hours, and I was already exhausted. I just couldn't handle it when they started to get really strong, and there was no break between them (notice how I'm defending myself even here. :) It ended up to be a great decision. I was able to be calm and hang out with my husband, and we let Juno passively descend for awhile. My midwife was amazing, and I didn't feel judged by her, which helped. It was the right decision for us, and there really were no downsides except for feeling guilty. I feel okay about it now, but I felt pretty awful then. So I know just what you mean.

Anonymous said...

soo true. Also: how did I manage spending ten months reading about the BIRTH, and not one of them about the BABY I was going to have just after that oh so important birth?

oscarlucinda said...

From one perfectionist to another...thank you for your honesty!

I suppose the important issue here is balance - and you make such a good point about being prepared for and accepting when things don't go to plan.

Although I am hoping for a natural birth, I've spoken to many other amazing mamas who haven't experienced the birth they were intending on having, & I still feel heartened and empowered by their stories. In the end we must just surrender and do what is best for our precious little ones. They are what is important at the end of the day, rather than the birth story we might write/share/blog about. x

Daniela said...

Very true and very important! I, like you, asked for an epidural. I am so greatfull I did, it was the right thing for me at the moment, and for that, I will always remember my birth experience with joy and respect.

Mimi said...

Nevertheless, I'm still glad there is a revolution going on. Before watching some of these films, I would have been clueless about my options! I hear you though about women being competitive which is too bad. To me, no matter what way a child is born, it's absolutely amazing!

Kim U said...

Thank you, well said!

I ended up with a semi-emergency c-section. It wasn't how I hoped things would go, but the most important outcomes are a healthy mom & healthy baby. I feel like the revolution has in some ways lost track of that - at least based on the comments I've gotten from some ardent natural birth proponents.

Ashley said...

So true! We put too much pressure on ourselves and each other so often, and especially in matters of parenting.

You look beautiful, btw!

Anonymous said...

True and not-true! I've been thinking of your post all day trying to figure out how to put this. I've decided on the following points:

1: Have a look at my blog. Letting childbirth happen without intervention can be wonderful, but the most important key thing to really being able to be aware and alive at the birth is to not be afraid! Any birth can be aware, loving, tender. You should be nurtured, loved, explained to. Making choices about interventions should be accepted as the BEST move for you and your baby. A telling question to ask a doula is what she feels about epidurals - you do not want someone taking care of you who has her own agenda.

2: Guilt - welcome to motherhood. There is guilt rife in everything we do, weather our toddler bites another child, or is the last one to be potty trained, or you loose your temper over something as mundane as split milk, women raise each other on guilt. I'm sooo learning to not let guilt rule my life. Motherhood is not a comparison game. Trying to be a perfect parent (much less having a perfect birth!) is an unreachable goal.

I think reading blogs raises the guilt bar, in the current world. It's so easy to take beautiful pictures and to criticize each other!

The new goal is to be an aware, alive, and loving mother. If having an epidural, or any other intervention allows you to be those things, then toss that guilt out the window!

(On a small, side note, first births are notoriously difficult. Your next one should be statistically much easier.)x

Su said...

My momma said that I wouldn't of been born if she hadn't of had an epidural with my older sister. She had me sans the drugs and, well, she never had another baby! PS You guys look so cute in your photos. xo

sara said...

I totally agree! But I also have the other extreme point of view: I gave birth without the epidural and the drugs, at home (with 3 mid wives and a full team support).
Everything I read made me think and believe this was the right decision, the best one for me in order to "welcome" my child in the gentlest way.

I pushed for 5 hours, and I was totally enable to welcome my baby in a way I wanted to. I was so exhausted and in pain by the time he was born that I just didn't even care. I kinda passed out and was in shock for a few hours.

I don't think I can say that I would do it in a different way because who knows what could have happened if I had had an epidural? But I just WISH someone would have told me about the violence of giving birth (to a first baby, who was born with his hands around his head).

Sometimes, epidural is really not the enemy.
But to say that natural birth is the best one to have no matter what is a true nonsense.

There is nothing empowering about pushing for 5 hours and ending up in the hospital afterwards because the baby isn't breathing properly.

one claire day said...

This is such a FANTASTIC post, Claudia. Thank you so much for sharing this.

Eulalie was posterior with a deflexed head (chin sticking right out rather than tucked under to her chest). I laboured naturally with her in this position for 23 hours feeling like I was failing. It wasn't until I asked for an epidural that I was informed of the position she was in. The midwife had not been able to determine her exact position.... by the time the Doctor was involved, I was told I would likely need to have an emergency cesarean. But with the help of an epidural and the hormone drip, Lalie changed position and I managed to avoid a C section. There is NO WAY I could have done it without an epidural, even my midwife came to apologise to me the next day.

Epidurals definitely have their place - and it's unfair that we are made to feel so terrible and ashamed for making a choice that we feel is right for us. Only you know your body and your pain. It's different for everyone.

...but I couldn't help but feel inadequate and disappointed, though. Isn't that awful?

Sorry this is such a long comment, it's the first time I've felt like I could talk openly about my experience without being judged in some way...

roberta jane said...

I totally agree with you on this. I planned a natural childbirth and felt critical of women who knew they wanted an epidural from the get-go. Well, I ended up asking for an epidural and I feel totally at peace with the decision. I was not in a good place mentally or physically when I finally asked for the epidural, at that point I was not fit to bring my child into the world the way I wanted to. In the end, the epidural was the right choice for this particular birth. Next time (if there is a next time) I will try natural childbirth again with the open mind that it might not happen that way, and that's just fine with me. Every birth is different and I think my child's birth was not a failure but a beautiful, mind-opening experience.

lola said...

Birth is such an individual thing. It's wrong that we even try to compare ourselves with others. My births have all been quick and natural and actually fairly easy but I have been with many women who earn the right to call it "labor". I think that unhindered birth is best in a lot of the cases not because it's some kinda contest to be the bravest strongest birth-er but because it enables a woman to be present and in control of the process. But I have also seen many births that were helped by interventions. I wish that in this whole birth "revolution" more emphasis was put on owning and being in control of our bodies and our babies and not on trying to live up to some expectation of perfection.

ally said...

Great post (and blog).

I feel very strongly that as a society we have lost our way a little on the whole birth-plan issue.

So many women spend so much time planning for an event that in the end they have very little control over - and then wonder why they feel let down or disappointed that they didn't achieve all that their plan stated.

Surely the focus should be on the end result which is a healthy baby.

(If only so much planning went into conceiving and then raising happy, healthy children!)

Tracey said...

Great post.

I really wanted natural births because i am against intervention when it is simply not needed/wanted and is more a choice for the hospital and not the mother and so I spent lots of time practicing hypnobirthing and yoga and the like for my first birth. I ended up being induced and miraculously still having a natural birth despite the hospital.

I had a home birth with my second with high expectations again of a natural birth who then had a shoulder dystocia and needed some midwifery her arm in my noo nah to free his shoulder and pull him out. All natural (But i can tell you i was wishing i HAD had an epidural at that moment in time!)He was 10lb 11.5 oz - But all was fine.

For my last baby (my final baby i think) i was the most relaxed. Classed as high risk in case it happened again, i wasn't allowed to labour in water. I decided i'd done the natural route and booked myself in for an epidural when it all got too much because i knew what was coming at the end! Actually the labour was lovely, coped easily with hypno birth breathing and then gas and air and after my waters breaking she was born so quickly afterwards i didn't have time to think of pain relief.

It was my best labour and birth because i had no expectations. I was, i admit, practiced and prepared for a natural birth because i had previously done my hypnobirthing course with my first child and of course i had already had two births so i knew what was happening but being prepared to have an epidural and happy with that decision BEFORE i needed it took the edge off any expectations and that is what i feel the best way to approach it.

I was lucky to have 3 positive experiences. But who cares if you ask for drugs. Just be ok with that choice before you go into labour and allow yourself to go with the flow and throw the birth plan out the window. It will be liberating to your whole experience.

P.S Sorry for the essay!!