Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Road to Natural Childbirth

Very early on in my pregnancy, I could not fathom giving birth naturally. I didn't find women who made that choice "crazy"; I rather envied them their courage. I just couldn't believe that my body would be capable of such a feat. John was actually the one to suggest natural childbirth. He told me that, although the decision was of course mine, that was the route he would prefer to travel because of the benefits it would award our son. I thought about it, briefly, and quickly dismissed the idea. I was in no hurry to think about what I imagined would be the most painful experience of my life.

What actually prompted me to consider natural childbirth were the birthing and breastfeeding classes I took at St. John. Neither were meant to promote or advocate natural childbirth, but both offered simple and very quick overviews of the birthing and breastfeeding processes. It was there, though, learning about the epidural and the other drugs offered to women in labor, I started seriously considering my options. I didn't like the idea that the narcotic pain relievers offered could cross the placenta and affect the baby and that the epidural could leave both mother and baby groggy and out of it, wanting from the experience. I also didn't like how offering a laboring woman one drug often led to an avalanche of others because, once the epidural was in place, it could lower blood pressure and increase blood sugar, meaning that other drugs would need to be administered to counteract the first.

Also, in our breastfeeding class, we were showed a video of a baby, delivered without any pain medication, who could literally, moments after birth, crawl the length of his mother's abdomen, latch onto her breast and begin breastfeeding without assistance. The babies who were delivered with medication could not. They were groggy and had difficulty focusing and latching on. After seeing this, I started thinking about natural childbirth, not for its benefits to me, but for those afforded to my son. Then I began reading everything I could about the subject, and the more I studied, the more I honestly felt natural childbirth was the only choice I had when it came to delivering my baby.

I definitely do not criticize women who choose to have epidurals or other pain medication during birth. I think any woman who delivers a baby any way is a hero. I do wish, though, information about the benefits of natural childbirth were more readily available to women. Those who seek it out find that their bodies are capable of much more than they could imagine and that the benefits of natural childbirth greatly outweigh the risks of medical intervention. But instead of believing that our bodies are strong and capable and that childbirth is a natural occurrence and not a medical procedure, we are made to believe that childbirth is a painful rite of passage that women must endure. I think we're sort of cheated in that respect.

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