I love reading birth stories, especially when the author is able to really describe the process in unflinching, funny-only-in-retrospect detail. I love in Waiting for Birdy when Catherine says she “made a creepy didgeridoo sound for 16 hours straight, said ‘Kill me’, then barfed into a trash can.” I love the written choo-choo pantings of laboring women, the geysering bodily fluids, and best of all—of course—the slimy, squalling, heartbreaking result to the whole ordeal.

I have a much harder time reading about the bravery involved with so-called natural births (as though any viable entrance into this world should be described as unnatural). The powerful, indescribable wonder of a drug-free birth, the gift the mother is giving her baby by choosing to be so very strong. The floored wonder of her partner, standing nearby marveling at this pinnacle of human achievement.

It’s not that I don’t understand this. I fully acknowledge the superwoman qualities of someone who endures hours of the most challenging physical situation of her entire life and refusing the intervention that could make it less painful. I am awed by women who have the birthing experience they wanted, that they read about and prepared for and engineered to conform to their preferences.

I understand it and I can empathize with it, but it hurts, a little. I thought I would have that moment of turning to my husband and saying, it’s time. The escalation of it all, the trip to the hospital, the scariness and elation and pain and everything else. Instead, it was a routine visit followed by hours of being drugged and sick and miserable and eventually a surgery and I felt as far from brave as it’s possible for a person to feel.

I guess I will always wonder, was it absolutely necessary for me to be put on the magnesium with Riley? Were they erring too far on the side of being conservative, wasn’t there something else they could do to deal with the blood pressure situation? I felt perfectly fine when I walked in the door, and next thing I knew I was hooked to an IV and gripped by the effects of the medication.

The second thing I wonder about: after the hours of Cervidil with no effect, and the progression of feeling worse and worse with the magnesium, they gave me a choice of Pitocin or trying to rest overnight and having a C-section in the morning. I asked a nurse to be as honest with me as she could, did she think the Pitocin would work in time? They wanted to do the C-section in the morning anyway, because of my blood pressure. She paused, and shook her head. She said it was doubtful. I thought about dealing with the Pitocin-triggered pain all night long, on top of the unrelenting nausea and aching head and trembling, exhausted muscles the magnesium was causing, only to need the surgery anyway. I chose to try and rest.

Maybe I should have tried the goddamned Pitocin, you know? Maybe there would have been a different outcome. Maybe if I had done that, both my babies would have been born without use of a scalpel and a drape.

I don’t have bad feelings about either of my C-sections. They weren’t terrible, they were fine. I saw my babies right away and held them moments later. I recovered with no problems. It was fine.

But. It doesn’t feel brave. It doesn’t feel like that magical spiritual I-am-woman-hear-me-roar experience I now have such a hard time hearing about. I’m torn between thinking, well, that’s great for you, but not everyone gets the birth they thought they were going to have, and my babies came into this world perfect in every way and you know what, we’re ALL brave . . . and I wish I could have had that. I should have tried harder.

Still, still. It’s not too difficult to regain perspective.

89024228_fedd7d69a8
August 31, 2005

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February 2, 2008

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C
C
14 years ago

I had two vaginal births. The first was horrible, awful, long (64 hours!), full of interventions and nasty doctors (and my husband is a doctor, I don’t dislike them as a rule) and I was a physical and emotional wreck for weeks. One doctor actually told me that because I was not yet a mother, and was not a doctor, that I was out of line asking him any questions throughout the birth. Then breastfeeding was awful, and I wound up pumping after weeks of screaming pain.

I felt like a huge failure, like my body had failed me. I wanted the perfect natural birth, and I got this brutal, scary experience with all kinds of (necessary) intervention. I was still really raw about it when I tentatively mentioned to a friend that I’d had lots of trouble breastfeeding at first, and she basically said that she had a great birth and was nursing no problem because she’d read a lot. Her comment upset me so much, because I was so prepared- I had a doula, I’d read a ton, and I finally realized:

If you get the birth you want, you’re LUCKY. It doesn’t have anything to do with bravery or deserving anything or often, being prepared. My first birth was awful, but 100 years ago my son and I would have died without all those interventions.

Two weeks ago I had my daughter, and it was the empowering natural birth I wanted. Nursing is wonderfully easy, and I feel great. Does it change how I feel as a parent? Not really. I feel better and happier than after birth #1, but not transformed.

I think at the end of the day your kids turn out the way they do not because of their births or what they ate their first year of life. That stuff is so small in the grand scheme of things. Riley and Dylan are great kids because of who you and JB are, and they wouldn’t be different if you’d had different births.

There’s always going to be doubt and second-guessing; maybe it’s part of being a parent.

Kaire
Kaire
14 years ago

Seriously, as a non-mother, I’d say the bravest part is having a child, no matter how.

danielle
danielle
14 years ago

There are a lot of comments on here so please forgive me if I repeat something someone has already said. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the intimate thoughts you share on here. I’m in awe.

You made a choice presented to you by the professionals and the circumstances surrounding your situation. As a first time Mom, the whole experience is overwhelming. You did the best you could.

Personally, I think it’s ok to carry the regret with you like a charm on a bracelet. You seem healthy enough (mentally) to hold on to regrets without allowing them to disable you. It’s what reminds us of what we need to do next time a similar situation is presented.

I love that your blog is like an open letter to your children. There are so many lessons to be learned from your experiences. Except for maybe the Gumby video. That shit was just funny.

Penny in Exile
14 years ago

Love it. Here’s MY thing. I read a post yesterday that made me feel bad about myself. I understand that MAYBE (just maybe) it wasn’t meant that way, but I sorta think that maybe a little it was.

I was in labor for 32 hours and I had to have a C Section because after 32 hours I had dilated 6 cm.

I know a lot of my feelings related to this are MY DEAL, I get that, but I also think the way some people choose to describe their birth makes it seem like any other way is the pussy, you don’t love your baby as much as I do, way to go.

autumn
autumn
14 years ago

I gave birth vaginally but I had an epidural. I had preterm labor and had the magnesium (worst medicine EVER) and nine days in the hospital followed by a month of bed rest to try to hold out at 4 cm and 90% effaced. By the time they finally admitted me I had been in labor for two days and I was exhausted. My midwife suggested an epidural because my daughter was flipped and she said I would be pushing a long time to get her out and she was worried that I would get too tired. So I got it at 7 cm and then they broke my water and I had her later that day. I somehow feel like by getting an epidural before my water broke and never experiencing a hard-core contraction, I somehow did it wrong. We might not have another baby and it bothers me that I might never have the chance to do it “right.” All of these feelings are ridiculous but maybe your birth story is just the first in a long line of parental experiences that you’ll forever think you could have handled better. Parental guilt is a horrible monster, isn’t it?

Michelle
Michelle
14 years ago

I had a drug-free birth 4 weeks ago, and I was BRAVE. Not brave in italics – just plain brave. I wanted to give my daughter the best start I could in this world and I honestly believed that I could do that by refusing pain meds. It was a gift/sacrifice for her.

I was LUCKY because I didn’t have any complications that required interventions – high blood pressure, heart decels, breech presentation etc. On the other hand I did educate myself before hand on unnecessary interventions – you should have seen the attitude I got from hospital staff for refusing pitocin!

I am glad that Dooce shared that her birth was drug-free. I learned of that 2 weeks before my birth and it inspired me (along with other stories) that it would be possible to birth the way I hoped to.

I don’t understand at all how someone could interpret her sharing her story and her friend’s story as her thinking her birth (or one way to birth) is superior.

Redbecca
Redbecca
14 years ago

I just want to say after skimming the other posts here a big THANK YOU to Hillary for putting it into perspective for (at least) me. I was way more terrified of the IV, Pit, Epi and possible surgery than I was of a vag birth, and yet that is the road I had to take. Including vomiting twice in the hours after my fresh C-section incision. Guess how that feels? Waay worse than any contraction, even the Pit induced kind, my friends.
So in my own way I was the brave soul I thought I could be. Thank you, Hillary.

Heather
14 years ago

I am totally guessing you read a prominent someone else’s labor story…cause I read it too. And guess what. I’m over it all. Yes, I had 2 c-sections. Yes, the first one was full of Mag Sulfate and panic and preeclampsia (and yes, I also felt totally fine when my BP was 200/110, no kidding). And, true, I have always wondered how I would do if I was given the chance to give birth “the other way.” However, I have learned something. I have a dear friend who has adopted. She is no less a mom, or no less brave, because she doesn’t have some sort of birth story. I know it’s an important event (hell, I just blogged about mine!) but why as women do we have to judge ourselves so much?! You did what you needed to do to have a healthy baby. And that should be all that matters.

Joy
Joy
14 years ago

I struggled for a really long time after the birth of my second child. My first birth experience was was not so great – pitocin, too strong an epidural that made it difficult to know when to push, & a forceps delivery. The second time around I vowed it would be a better experience. I wanted to actually feel my baby being born. Due to my low blood pressure and low heart rate in my baby, I had to have an emergency c-section. I felt so ripped off for such a long time. It was very difficult for me. I had a long & painful recovery, plus feelings of anger & resentment about the c-section. I wondered what I could have done to avoid it. I felt like it was my fault. Turns out, my baby was wrapped in the cord & there was no way for her to get out. I didn’t feel brave at all through my experience. I felt helpless.

bessie.viola
14 years ago

You made me cry. My God, you can write.

I have these same feelings. I have a few friends who went “all natural” and that was my intent. So it was a huge kick in the face to have that pulled away, to feel “lesser than.”

You’re right, it does still hurt, sometimes. Even if the result is absolutely fantastic.

Maria
14 years ago

Judging by all the things you’ve done and the way you approach challenges, I’m sure that you would have fought through the pain that is a vaginal delivery, drugs or no. The only real bummer is that you’re left wondering how you would have reacted and what it would have felt like.

It blows my mind how much we (myself included) emphasize the tiny shred of time that is the actual delivery when pregnancy and PARENTHOOD AFTER THAT are so much longer. (And harder.)

Jamie
14 years ago

I had a vaginal birth both times, once with an epidural once without. So I don’t really have a very good perspective on this. I can say that my medicated birth wasn’t any less special than my unmedicated one (I went “natural” because I’d had a bad experience with the epidural the first time) The end result was the same: Baby.

I’m not very romatic about childbirth though. I didn’t feel like I was being brave at all, in fact, I screamed like a banshee. You’ve got to get that baby out somehow, the vagina is the easiest (HA!) way to do that, so that’s what I did.

For a while my 2nd son was breech and we thought he’d need to be c-section, and I worried about recovering with a toddler and a newborn, but as for the experience of the birth, I just saw it as just another way to get the baby.

Akofaolain
Akofaolain
14 years ago

With my son my water broke early, so I had the Pitocin (for 33 hours), then I had an emergency C-section. With my daughter I had a scheduled C-section. All three of us made it through OK, healthy and very happy.
I believe that their births happened exactly the way they should have, that I didn’t have a whole lot of control over it and the ends definitely justified the means.

Becoming a mother is probably never easy, even for those women who have a fast labor and delivery. I think we ARE all brave, no matter what our birth stories are.

Erica
14 years ago

I don’t yet have children of my own and I’m really looking forward to having my own birth story/stories to tell.

I often find myself fantasizing about having an “ideal” pregnancy and birth experience. I think these kinds of unrealistic expectations of myself and my body can be harmful, so I’m always happy when women share their real experiences. You’ve offered me and others a healthy dose of perspective.

I really appreciate what you’ve shared here.

Laura
Laura
14 years ago

I want to add another thing- I am actually grateful for all the interventions I had in my pregnancies. Without Zofran pumps and IVs and banana bags full of liquid vitamins my kids and I wouldn’t have made it through pregnancy, let alone delivery. I am very thankful for C-sections because without them my mother would have died in childbirth and I wouldn’t have been here. I am thankful for epidurals because with my first kid I was stuck at 3cm until I got my epidural because I couldn’t relax due to the pain (and yes, we tried all the techniques taught in our birth classes- they didn’t work!) but once I got that epidural I took off like a rocket. I am thankful for episiotomies ((no really) because my son was stuck and would have stayed that way without them. I am also thankful for belly monitors because it was through those monitors we realized my second child was breech. I am grateful my Dr. broke my water because we could prepare for a birth that involved a lot of meconium. Finally, I am so grateful for the nurses who rushed my room when the prolapsed cord was discovered, including the nurse who had to jump on my bed, shove her hand up my vagina (without buying me dinner first) to hold the cord and calmly explained what was going on WHILE I was being pushed, top speed, to the OR.

Without medical interventions, my children and I would have died if we had even existed in the first place. Sure they weren’t births to brag about but my the results of those certainly are. I couldn’t control how my pregnancies/labors and deliveries went so I focus on being the best mom I can be. I know I am ROCKING at that and that is all that matters.

sharon
sharon
14 years ago

I actually had a doctor who should have given me a c-section because the vaginal birth was not going well. The baby was ok, but I was having a harder time than usual. My son turned out to be 9 1/2 pounds and the recovery was long and painful. When I was pregnant with my next child, I had a different doctor who couldn’t believe I had a baby that big naturally. Turned out I needed a c-section for the second baby because he was breach, but it was a less traumatic experience. And that’s saying something that the c-section wasn’t as awful and didn’t require as long of a recovery as a natural birth.

Ter
Ter
14 years ago

I feel a little underqualified to really comment, as I have only “children” of the fuzzy variety, but after reading through the comments I can’t help myself. As I was reading a thought occurred to me: when you read a human interest story in a magazine, newspaper, wherever, you learn about the person’s life, family, education, accolades, job, etc. Not once ever is it mentioned how the person was delivered, unless it was some extraordinary circumstances (elevator, side of a mountain, some “not usual”/expected place). My three sisters ran the gammut of ways to deliver babies (early, c-section, with meds — I’m presuming here, since I’m coming up so far behind) and while I can’t speak for my sisters, it hardly ever occurs to me that E and her brother were early, that my oldest nephew was a c, etc. When MB and I start our family, what matters is that our kids are born healthy and I get through too. I already know that I’ll be Shot Girl if we have more than one child, as MB and I have opposing blood types, but that’s not going to deter us from having at least two children. While it’s easy for me to sit here and say I’ll let circumstances dictate behavior, I don’t know what I’ll ultimately do or how I’ll feel after, if whatever we decide to do is “right”. Sure, there’s always “what ifs” in life. If grandma had balls, she’d be grandpa. Just the fact that so many women have responded as they have on here, accepting of your decisions and supporting your feelings, should let anyone — moms-to-be, current moms, not-yet moms — know that all the horseshit is just that. If I want to deal with that, I’ll go out to the barn, thanks. Okay, I’m done now :)

Ginger
14 years ago

I can’t kid you, I do feel cheated for having to have c-sections and it isn’t so much that I wanted to prove my worth, but I wanted that part of being a woman and a mother and I didn’t get it. Boo. Oh well, daughters are lovely, and its good enough, because it has to be.

kristin
kristin
14 years ago

OMG, Dylan looks exactly the same! That is too funny.

Gorgeous babies. Thanks for sharing, as always. And goddammit, woman, you ARE brave! Kids or not, c-sections or not — you are a brave woman.

Rachel
Rachel
14 years ago

I’m going to disagree with those who say you shouldn’t feel regret; your feelings are your feelings. You can know that you did the right thing, in the rational part of your brain, and still feel sad about it. I think you’ve expressed yourself beautifully.

I had an unmedicated hospital birth (I also hate the term “natural”), which is what I wanted. I do feel proud of myself, and I did feel like a rock star. But I also know that I was really, really lucky — it wasn’t truly painful until my water broke, which was, like, 30 minutes before my daughter was born. And I only had to push for 15 minutes, and I only got through it because I could tell from the way people were reacting that it was going to go fast. But mostly I agree with Hillary: the thought of surgery is far more terrifying to me than the alternative. How brave is it to choose the thing that’s least scary?

Oh, and by the way, that rock star feeling only made it that much harder to deal with all the problems I had breast feeding. Even though I knew it was illogical, I really felt like I “deserved” a good breast feeding experience because of my drug-free birth. I basically tortured myself with the godforsaken breast pump for 5 months. I should have given up on that much earlier.

patois
14 years ago

I never understood the feeling of less-than-amazing that I was supposed to feel. I never experienced it. I am one of those who never dilated. Never went into labor. I was destined to die in the field, me and my first born.

Instead, I lived. So did he. And so did the next two. How they came about has never given me pause or concern that I am less. “By any means.” That’s all that ever mattered.

georgie
14 years ago

all 3 of mine were induced I had epidurals each time…I’m a wimp and my Dr likes his weekends…

You have an awesome blog…I am in AWE!

Heather
Heather
14 years ago

I don’t know if anyone will read this comment way down here, especially after all of the really insightful comments above it. Just in case… I think that any time a person makes a decision there is a danger of judging others for not making that decision, or feeling judged. Every time you write about a physical accomplishment, like climbing all those stairs, I feel lazy and fat. I don’t think your pride in what you made your body do was meant to make me feel that way. The same way I am proud of how my body (for once!) worked as advertised. I had a great pregnancy, felt physically capable and proud. I do take pride in my two birth experiences. I did experience an intense high after the second one. I guess people may not believe that the way I have a hard time believing in a “runner’s high”. It’s just a matter of being respectful of others’ choices and recognizing that choice is not always available.
You really just pointed out your problem with “bravery”. I choose to think that anyone watching any woman’s child be born, by any means, would find it amazing, scary, (maybe gross) but ultimately brave. Calling one woman and her birth story brave isn’t calling everyone else afraid.

Katherine
Katherine
14 years ago

Choosing to bring a child into this world and commit oneself to putting that child first 99.999999% of the time is one of the bravest and most unselfish acts I can imagine. All the rest of it is just method.

KB
KB
14 years ago

The guilt comes from the women who say that those of us who had a c-section couldn’t possibly love our children as much as they do because we didn’t shove them out our woo-ha. BS. BS. BS. BS. When you are faced with “we have to get this baby out NOW” because otherwise your baby is going to die, let me tell you the incredible surge of love and selflessness that occurs when you are whisked to the OR. If I loved my baby less and was so concerned with the bragging rights of MY birth experience, then I wouldn’t have had that surgery. This is where things get heated, because chicks who weren’t ever faced with the life of their child the way those of us with the emergency C were, pass these judgements. And then we reflect on the ideal that we had that wasn’t to be and then we feel bad and guilty and question ourselves. No one can say how much another mother loves their child and what a ridiculous load of bull to say that she can love her child more than me because of one day of that child’s life. How enlightened to pass this kind of judgement.

Sundry
Sundry
14 years ago

Heather: “It’s just a matter of being respectful of others’ choices and recognizing that choice is not always available.” YESSS. Also, “Calling one woman and her birth story brave isn’t calling everyone else afraid.” YESSSSSSS, again. These are things I sometimes lose track of.

I hope it’s clear in my post that I realize this is all about ME and MY issues, and that I’m just talking through my own feelings on this stuff. Everyone’s got a different perspective on things like this, and always helps me to 1) write it out, and 2) hear what everyone else has to say.

Sheryl
Sheryl
14 years ago

I came to say exactly what Katherine said, only she framed it better: “Choosing to bring a child into this world and commit oneself to putting that child first 99.999999% of the time is one of the bravest and most unselfish acts I can imagine. All the rest of it is just method.”

Word.

Ashleas
Ashleas
14 years ago

You also need to think. We have the largest brains for our body size, even at birth. Um.. Hello! The human pelvis was not DESIGNED to push out a baby with the head the size that they have evolved to. Our pelvic regions are playing catchup with that little leap of evolution there (Or intelligent design if you feel that way). The truth is – childbirth kills because it’s the extreme of what the female reproductive system can do. I’m sorry but a watermelon should not pass through our pelvic bones the way they are currently laid out but hey, they do. And that alone is amazing. The fact that we can make this superhuman, yes superhuman, feat a possibility without killing, without losing a baby or as pain free as possible… is wonderful.
Natural or not, go moms.

telegirl
telegirl
14 years ago

Wow! Maybe I am simple but I never really looked back on the delivery of our son with anything other than a self high-five for getting through it. I was able to do a vaginal delivery with the help of an epidural and it was a choice I had made before going to the hospital. And, by the way, the “it’s time” isn’t as picture perfect as you might think. Mine was a “Honey?! HONEY! Get in here!” as he slept blissfully in bed and then a bewildered call to my sister to find out what the water breaking feels like. Then, it was the nurses at the hospital telling me not to worry, that I had just peed myself. What-the-fuck-ever!!

Anyway, I don’t feel less of a good mother for having had some drug-help. I don’t feel like a loser because I did not do it “au naturel”. And, mostly, I don’t think any less of *any* other woman for doing what they had to or for doing what is right for them. If anyone else tells you otherwise, SHAME ON THEM!!

We all rock. We are all brave for even starting this endeavor.

Jenny
14 years ago

I could have written Rachel’s post at 8:13am. I had an unmedicated birth because I was lucky and things went fast, not because I was some kind of superwoman. I think what Dooce’s labor stories are leaving out is that element of luck: she doesn’t just imply, she outright SAYS that she “created” her birth experience. I call shenanigans. You don’t “create” the way your body responds, or your blood pressure, or the baby’s heart rate. That’s magical thinking. I’m glad I was lucky; I’m glad she was, too. I wish, like Rachel, I’d been luckier with breastfeeding. I hope I’m lucky with my kids’ illnesses. But for many of the things that count, like love and play and education and commitment, it’s not luck. We create it every day.

Becky
Becky
14 years ago

I just had to respond to this one, because it hit home with me. I felt so much the same way after the birth of my first child by c-section. I was planning a “natural”, drug-free birth free of interventions, and my experience was exactly the opposite. I felt disappointed and angry that I was cheated out of the childbirth experience I’d envisioned.

The second time around, I had a successful VBAC and a much better experience all around. But you know what? I had totally prepared myself for the likelihood of a repeat c-section and so I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome and I think that, more than the method of birth itself, was key.

I really think that it’s all about expectations. Women who end up having the birth they envision are really, really rare, and those are the ones who get to rave about their experience. The rest of us can’t help but wonder what we did wrong, to not get the experience we expected. The truth is, childbirth is very risky and rarely goes according to plan (just think about the death rates from childbirth 100 years ago).

Right after my second (VBAC) baby was born, I was very proud and pleased, like, hey! my body can actually do what it’s supposed to! But two years later, it doesn’t matter one bit to me how they were born. I’m just glad that all three of us made it through safely, however that happened in each case.

Muddy
Muddy
14 years ago

I took a fairly hippie birthing class and one of the teacher’s big points was: If things don’t go the way that you hope they will, which they may not, make sure you give yourself time to grieve the birth you wanted.

At the time I felt like that was kinda hooey. But reading this, and all these comments, I think she may have been on to something. People who wanted natural and ended up with something else – pissed. People who wanted that damned epidural and ended up without – also pissed.

To quote a brilliant philosopher, you can plan a pretty picnic, but you can’t predict the weather. Maybe you’re zen enough not to have had expectations or desires for your birth, but I sure did. The first time a mother gets to hold her child is a bonding experience she will probably always remember. Not the first (two lines? first kicks? message on voice mail from adoption agency?) and certainly not the last, but one of the biggies, for sure. If it sucked for you, maybe you deserve time to grieve.

For the record, my birth made me feel high, and also like Xena, warrior princess. Brave and lucky. And I agree with heather; by no means does that mean that I think someone else is afraid.

But also, it’s nice to spread the word that birth isn’t always horrible. It seems to me that the prevailing paradigm is birth = worst pain ever, etc. And maybe it is sometimes, but it just wasn’t for me. I have been in unbearable pain, and birth wasn’t it.

Every time I heard that, going in, it gave me hope.

Peggy
Peggy
14 years ago

Your post is really timely for me. I didn’t go into labor with either of my kids. Scheduled C-sections for each – the first because she was breech, the second because she got too big to try a VBAC. My sister just had her first baby and had that “honey, it’s time” moment that I really wanted, and if I’m being honest, I was jealous.

Even though my baby is a year old already, I’m still in mourning over the birth experience that I will never had (we’re done after 2 kids). It’s not a constant feeling – but rears it’s head whenever someone I know has a vaginal birth. And I do think of it as a mourning. My body never had a chance to do what it was designed to do. I’m extremely grateful for the outcome of 2 healthy kids and a healthy mom, but sometimes it still hurts. A lot.

Laura
Laura
14 years ago

I gave up the guilt of not having a “natural” childbirth for Lent. I always knew I was going to have a C-section due to some complications that made even getting pregnant difficult. I was resigned to that – could even make it work with my “plan.” Well, that plan didn’t work, either. My water broke at 25 weeks, and I tried to hold onto the pregnancy for as long as possible, finally delivering by emergency C-section at 27 weeks and 3 days.

The brave ones, to me, aren’t the women who go through childbirth with no drugs. Good for them. Glad they got to have that experience. The brave ones to me are the mothers I met during the 5 1/2 months my son was in the NICU, the women who did whatever it took to maintain their pregnancies for as long as possible to give their children the best chance at survival. These women spent months on bed rest, sometimes hanging upside down, frequently in the hospital, away from their families, for weeks on end. They endured poking, prodding, testing, a complete lack of dignity and privacy for the sake of their unborn children. And, with unfortunate frequency, sometimes it was all for naught. Those women are truly warriors, and none would ever wish their experience on another person.

monkey
14 years ago

Did you watch the Business of Being Born on Showtime recently or something? I thought it was really preachy, one-sided, and edited to paint every one in the Medical Establishment as the baddies who just want to medicate the sh*t out of every woman who comes through the hospital for sh*ts, giggles and because they want to go home for dinner (and buy a new BMW). It was like a Michael Moore movie-it had some good points but with little perspective. It was interesting to note that the child of the filmmaker probably wouldn’t have survived without the medical establishment, though. And Ricki Lake asking her whether she felt “cheated” of the experience at the end was so very…hilarious.

vague
14 years ago

Since I don’t have any kids myself, I can’t weigh in with any birthing experiences of my own.

I just wanted to chime in and say that although I only know you from your writing, I think you are most certainly one of the strongest, bravest women out there.

Courtney
14 years ago

Since I am without children (but want them, someday, like in the hazy distant future!), I feel a little underprepared to comment on your actual post.

I do recall that it took you a while to jump off the cliff into actually getting pregnant, which you know, preceeds this whole how you actually brought a child into the world debate. Sundry how did you get to the point where you were ready to get knocked up on purpose?

LooneyJen
14 years ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I’m going into the hospital TOMORROW to have my third munchkin via C-section and I’ve been agonizing over it. The first kiddo was born after laboring for hours and hours and then having to have a c-section due to low fetal heartrate and failure to descend. Without thinking much about it, I scheduled the second as a C-section as well.

This time I really, really, REALLY wanted to do a VBAC but no one would take me on as a patient with that goal.

And it has eaten me up ever since.

Your entry put into words everything I needed to hear. That it’s the END result, not the process. The birth process, while beautiful and for many, very natural, is not the lovely end result.

And THAT is what I should focus on.

Thank you again. :)

Katy B
Katy B
14 years ago

It’s all been said, except maybe this:

Linda, like me, maybe just wants it to be okay to feel ambivalent about the birth experience. Not about womanhood or motherhood.

7 weeks ago I went through a medical induction (at 42 weeks + 1 day), 18 hours of unmedicated labor, 18 hours with epidural, another 4 hours of pushing, and finally a c-section. I was fully committed to having a natural birth and I had everything but that. I will always wonder what if I had just waited another day…would I have gone into labor on my own? I will always wish I could have felt that sensation. I will now have a very different set of concerns/expectations if we want to add to our family. I will always mourn the hours after my surgery in which I don’t remember holding my son for the first time.

Do I want to start a war between moms? No. Do I need another person to tell me that all that matters is that I have a healthy, beautiful baby? No. In fact, that statement makes me feel even worse – as if I don’t matter at all.

All I want, I suppose, is validation – that it’s okay to feel like my birth experience majorly sucked in some ways. This doesn’t in any way mean I feel ungrateful for a really stellar (albeit loooong) pregnancy and an awesome kid.

I know that you didn’t intend to draw a line in the sand – and separate c-section and vaginal birth moms. But people jump at the chance to take a side. I understand now better than ever how you don’t have a side in this silly debate, and neither do I. I understand exactly what you mean.

Renee
Renee
14 years ago

“I thought I would have that moment of turning to my husband and saying, it’s time.”

I wrote the exact same thing in my birth story. My son was breech and born via scheduled C-section at 39 weeks. I never got to go into labor, and now I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering what it would be like…

Liz
Liz
14 years ago

Linda, you were brave. Twice. I would have been scared shitless if I’d had to have a C-section. Your boys owe you their lives.

I gave birth without drugs, and I was proud of myself. But a lot of that pride comes from doing it despite many people who implied or said outright that I wouldn’t be able to. It feels good to achieve something that you’ve been told is improbable, no matter what it is. If drugless birth was the norm in this country it wouldn’t seem like such a big deal, really. It’s not a big deal in many other countries.

But you know, it wasn’t all me. Luck was on my side. I went into labor not too early, not too late. I was in labor for 15 hours, not 48. My blood pressure didn’t spike. There were no serious complications, and when things did start to get a bit alarming at the end, there was a specialist nearby to help my baby. I had a great midwife and support team.

I worked hard, yes. But I was also lucky.

When things move along pretty much as expected, there’s not much need for bravery. But when bad things happen and plans change, you do what you have to do to bring your baby into the world. There is nothing braver than that.

I think you pretty much kick ass.

Amy
Amy
14 years ago

Wow…look at the shit you started :) I already commented so I won’t bore you with my birth story. But in reading all of these comments i think it’s good to know that 1) it’s good to be prepared adn 2) anything can happen. Hell, my car almost got towed during my first birth because they threw me into surgery so quickly my husband forgot to go move the car! And on a side note, drugs or not (mine did involve drugs) a doula really helped me. If you don’t know what one is, look it up and think about it! Fabulous. Off my soap box now…thanks!

Sunshyn
14 years ago

I’ve never had an epidural actually WORK, ever (there is something about my spine that defies even the best anesthesiologists), so does that mean I had drug-free deliveries?

I can tell you pitocin SUCKS from the one time I had to have it. You had your babies, you brought them into the world, you love them to pieces, every single day, and that is all that matters.

Judy
Judy
14 years ago

First, I just want to say that I thought there were laws against 12 year olds having babies. You look so young in those pictures!

I had three kids, a long time ago. Epidurals weren’t around then. I had three vaginal births. The first took 6 hours and I thought “this is fun!” and rushed to do it again 18 months later. That time it took 3 hours, most of which was taken up by taking the toddler to the friend who was keeping her. The third took 25 hours and I’m still not sure what happened there. But the key is, I got three healthy babies, and I survived in good shape.

I don’t think of that as heroic. I would tend more to think of a C-section as heroic, because the entire idea of it terrifies me, and the pictures I’ve seen of it have not helped, and then you go home and you have to do all that new-baby-care AND recover from major abdominal surgery.

All that matters is that you and the baby and even Dad come out of the experience in good shape. Who cares what route you take to the party, so long as you get there, right?

As for saying “Honey, it’s time” – I never said that. I said things like “I wonder if this is labor?” and “Gosh, my back feels all crampy” and “I think it might be time.” Oddly, experience did not teach me, as each time I was just as unsure as the first, and was never quite sure I was in labor until I was quite a way into it.

No guilt, no feelings of inferiority, okay? We got healthy babies and we came through it okay. That’s what counts.

sheilah
sheilah
14 years ago

I don’t think there is anything particularly brave about enduring hours of labor when it isn’t necessary. They have found evidence of brain surgery performed 2000 years ago…bet there was no anesthesia used then but you damn sure betcha if I need brain surgery I sure as hell will use some kind of anesthesia. Using the medical technology available at the time is just common sense.

If you want to go drug-free during labor, then rock on, sister. I chose to get a blessed, blessed epidural. I got a baby; you got a baby. That is the prize…there are no medals given out for going drug-free.

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

So many people have said so many supportive, helpful things. I don’t have much to offer, really, but I will throw in my thoughts.

— I have no children & am not pregnant, so I have little to offer from personal experience, but I can say that the very idea of being pregnant/giving birth/being a mother is really, truly, terrifying to me. Especially the giving birth part. That part is particularly troublesome, and the only way — ONLY way — I can imagine the rest of it is if I can guaran-DAMN-ty that I will have a C-section when the birthing time comes.

If were to pregnant, I would SIGN MYSELF UP for the C-section the very instant I learned of the pregnancy. The end result is the same (healthy baby, we hope) so it doesn’t matter to ME one teeny, tiny bit how I get to the healthy baby part. For me, people who want to have the pain and “wonder” (or whatever) of a natural birth, — well good for them & rock on. But I don’t want any of that; have no interest in feeling unnecessary pain, and completely embrace all the “wonder” that is modern medicine, including pain medication and surgical options.

I sort of think those people who go on and on about how much “better” (that is, those people who get all judgmental and whatnot) natural birth is are sort of like those people who go on and ON about running a marathon. Look, I *KNOW* I could run marathon. Anyone can, in fact, if you are wiling to walk for however long you need to. And barring the health/medical emergency stuff, anyone can give birth naturally. So what? I don’t WANT to run a marathon & feel I have nothing to prove — I am fit, healthy, and athletic — so WTF do I need to run a marathon for?

I feel the same way about the whole natural birth thing. I just don’t want to do it; don’t see how or why it’s necessary; and f-ck anyone else who feels superior to me because I don’t want to have a natural birth.

Or run a marathon.

Michelle
Michelle
14 years ago

Sheilah –

I chose a drug free birth because I didn’t want to expose my unborn child to drugs in-utero (obviously if I needed it to save her life because of complications I would have NO problem with it), and I thought it would be better for the both of us to go without. I was also concerned about the cascade of interventions that can sometimes be caused by an epidural. I didn’t NEED an epidural. It hurt like hell, but I endured it because I thought it was the right thing to do. That is brave.

I don’t understand how that compares to having unmedicated brain surgery at all. Brain surgery is not a naturally occurring event. You would surely pass out from the pain because your body would not be releasing endorphins at the same levels. And, there is no baby involved to be concerned about when making pain management choices.

.303 Bookworm
.303 Bookworm
14 years ago

Speaking as someone who’s never had a child I can’t understand why it matters. I mean, I get that you’d have a vision of how you’d want it to go and all that but really, when does life ever follow that path?

My two thoughts on the matter:
1. I’m thankful the wonderful mothers in my life did whatever it took to get themselves and their babies safely through the process. Only a couple of generations back we would have lost many of them.
2. The really brave bit is not how they ‘birth’ but the fact that you brounght them here and will be responsible for their health, safety, nurturing, growth and development for the next 15-40+ years. I mean WOW! That’s scary!

Well done you!

Lesley
14 years ago

I think it takes immense bravado to carry a baby for 9 months. Come on…it’s sometimes uncomfortable (or downright painful), we look sometimes goofy (and sometimes beautiful), we feel freaking silly (okay, maybe that was just me), I felt like my ribs were cracking, etc. It’s like a 9 month marathon. So, regardless of how that little babe comes out, I think you (and all of us) are all superwoman.

That being said, I went down the path of natural childbirth. My choice, but it was important to me. But, I initially went down that path more because of MY control issues. Oh yea, I really hate being told what to. (Yea, I’m nuts…I just hate being told to just lay back and..)

It was tough (I contemplated beating my head against a wall) and I’m glad I was able to go natural, and I felt amazing after. But, I think it’s all pretty small potatoes when it compares to the 9 month pregnancy and then trying to figure out how to take care of and then not screw up this little person.

Every day is filled with so many tiny, but cool things with our kiddos. Spending all of our time beating ourselves up might make us miss those little things. (okay, so I do it, too!)

Also, I truly believe that it is practically impossible to have a natural birth unless you have a hell of a lot of people helping create the right conditions (like my doula, 4 midwifes and 2 willing OB’s). And still with all of those people, C-Sections are still sometimes necessary.

And, by the way, those are two super beautiful faces!

Mary
14 years ago

Can I just chime in here, as comment number 200 (and I haven’t read the others). I am much older than you, 48, and my kids are 19, 16 and 12. I had them “naturally.” No drugs. With the first one, I BEGGED for drugs and they wouldn’t give them to me because my blood pressure was so high it would have been dangerous. The highlight of the second one was the nurse telling me to quit bugging her about the breathing, there’s no way I could be far enough along to need to know third stage breathing. He was born 20 minutes later. And with number three, there were all kinds of things going on and I almost needed a c-section but the OB was about 17 and I said no thank you.

My kids are wonderful. Fine. Amazing. I adore them. And I never even think anymore about how they were born. I did have all of them vaginally, without drugs, but that is not what I would have chosen at the time, had I had options. Even with the third one, I remember thinking, what would have been the big deal about getting an epidural, you idiot? But by then it was too late.

Let it go. You have the most beautiful boys. Who the hell cares how they got here? What matters now is what kind of (amazing) mom you are, not the 12 hours when they were being born.

You have lost weight and whipped your body into amazing shape. I can’t do that. I have had babies without intervention. You didn’t do that. Your thing took months, mine took hours. I think I admire you more.\