When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I decided I would attempt to have a natural birth, but I wanted to keep my options open. One thing I never anticipated was that one of the disadvantages of natural birth would be that guilted into it once I decided I didn’t want it. I never would have guessed how much feeling forced into an unmedicated vaginal delivery would ruin my birthing experience.
This article is written by Jade from Real Bad Mommy. This Australian mom of 2 tells her traumatic story of being guilted into labor and delivery choices she didn’t want: natural childbirth (or, vaginal birth without pain medications).
Jade’s story emphasizes the importance of choice in your birthing experience, highlighting pros and cons, but especially disadvantages of natural childbirth.
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Feeling Guilted into Natural Birth
The first appointment I had with the midwives, I was open-minded and impressionable. I informed them that I wanted to try a natural birth. But I specified that, if I couldn’t go through with it, I wanted pain relief options.
The response I received shocked me. The midwife bluntly told me that I would not be having pain relief if I wanted to be in the midwife-only program. If I was considering any form of pain relief, I could go back to the “mainstream” birthing program with the “masses.”
The way this option was explained to me was awful, almost like cattle-class. It was clearly not a good thing to be part of the “masses.”
Naturally, the midwife’s response made me rethink my whole birthing plan.
I felt like less of a mother for wanting to keep my options open. My baby wasn’t even born yet, and the midwives were already leading me to feel mom guilt.
Instead of standing up for what I believed in, I caved. I was scared to be judged by midwives, doctors, and other mothers. Expectant parents should be able to rely on their care teams to teach them what they need to know about birth.
This is one of the disadvantages of the natural childbirth world–many of the people in this community, I learned, are not open-minded. I wish I had better understood how to practice patient empowerment.
But I didn’t.
So, I decided to continue down the path of having a completely natural birth knowing it might not be what I wanted. I was guilted into having a natural birth, and I allowed it to happen.
My Labor Story
My pregnancy was a dream.
At 40 weeks to the day, I went into labor. My water didn’t break, but the contractions started at 5 am on the 15th of April.
They increased in duration until 3 pm, when they were 10 minutes apart. This continued all night and by morning, nothing had changed. I hardly slept.
So, I called the hospital. “Take a Panadeine and put your feet up,” I was told.
By 3 pm on the 16th of April, I’d had enough and went into the hospital. My contractions were at 3-minute intervals by the time I arrived.
Any time now, I thought, I’ll get to meet my little man.
I was in agony and wanted so badly to ask for pain relief. But those words of guilt were fresh in my mind and I didn’t want to be kicked out of the program. So I persisted.
By 6 pm, I was in tears. The pain was unbearable.
But being guilted into having a natural birth, I asked for a Panadeine. This had no effect and an hour later, they asked whether I would like some ‘gas.’ Despite this also doing nothing to relieve the pain, I sucked the whole tank of nitrous oxide down.
By 8 pm, I gave in and begged for pain relief. I only wanted Pethidine (best known in the US as Demerol) but was told it was too late. I burst into tears.
All I remember thinking was how much I hated this thing inside me. There was no semblance of a loving mother now.
This was an incredible disadvantage of natural childbirth I’d been guilted into. I couldn’t even be excited about my son because I just wanted this excruciating pain to end.
By midnight, I collapsed, exhausted, unable to even cry.
Each contraction caused me to scream in pain. There wasn’t any way I could push and I gave up.
The midwives informed us it was time for the doctors to come in. After nearly three hours of pushing, doctors determined my son was ‘stuck’ and wasn’t coming out.
The Doctors’ Intervention Was Torture
The next procedure I had to endure was nothing short of torture.
When the doctors arrived, they stated they would have to deliver my son via forceps. They injected me with only a local anesthetic and performed an episiotomy (an incision between the vagina and anus that makes more room for the baby to come out).
The doctor grabbed my son’s head and ripped him out of me. All I remember was trying to hit the doctor and my partner pinning me to the bed.
The scream I let out was almost primal.
Then, the torture was over.
While there was this beautiful new life in my arms, I couldn’t help but despise the way he came to me.
My body was broken, torn, cut, stitched, and exhausted.
I collapsed and was placed in a wheelchair. I was so weak I couldn’t stand up.
While I adored my son, I felt resentment towards him.
Many describe their birth a ‘beautiful birthing experience’ and how much they bonded with their newborn during the process.
My experience, on the other hand, was nothing short of traumatic. Depression and anxiety soon followed, along with a fear of having another baby.
Women considering natural childbirth often ask, “Is natural childbirth safe?” It obviously depends on your circumstances, but for many women, it is.
But I would add that we don’t just need to ask if it’s safe; we need to ask if it’s right for us!
Yes, we need to consider different options like different choices for women with increased risk of complications. We need to understand backup plans in case of issues like excessive blood loss or high blood pressure. We need to understand if there’s a difference in recovery time, or what will happen if there’s an emergency if we choose to labor in a birthing center instead of a hospital.
But physical safety and emotional safety aren’t the same, and while I was never in danger, my natural childbirth experience was not safe for my emotional state or mental health.
My Second Pregnancy, There Would Be No Natural Childbirth
In 2014, I decided to have my second child. It took a long time for me to work up the courage to fall pregnant again.
Enduring that excruciating pain again was something I couldn’t bear.
Being a second-time mom gives you a sense of empowerment, however.
I was no longer impressionable. What society thought of me was the last thing on my mind. No being guilted into a natural birth this time. I still bore the scars from my first birth.
Walking into the midwives’ office, I told them I was having an epidural, like it or lump it.
This time around, I was in a different hospital. To my utter surprise, they weren’t fazed at all. They told me it was my choice and they would support it.
These midwives, notably younger than my previous ones who guilted me into having a natural birth, were horrified at my previous experience.
They told me the previous hospital I was in was the leader in “natural and at-home births” and pushed it very hard. Not one of them supported what had previously occurred with my labor.
During the birth of my daughter, I had an epidural. I had to be induced at 37 weeks due to issues in the pregnancy and the risk of stillbirth.
But I wouldn’t let them touch me until I had an epidural.
This decision would prove to be the best I’d made. This time around, I actually enjoyed labor.
I watched my daughter’s head emerge, remarked at her dark hair, and had a laugh with the midwives.
I felt I bonded to my daughter so much quicker as a result of this. Despite still being stitched afterward, my memories of my daughter’s birth are only positive ones.
The Importance of Choice in Childbirth
While I wouldn’t dare suggest everyone should have an epidural, I believe that choice is the key. No mother should have to experience birth disappointment because of pressure from her medical team.
So many women wonder, “Do I need to have a natural childbirth?” No! You can if you want to, but you deserve to have the birth you want, with choice at the center!
No one ever asks someone who had a tooth pulled if they had it “with or without pain relief.”
Why should it be any different for childbirth?
No woman should ever have to endure being guilted into having a natural birth. Every woman should have the right to choose their birthing plan.
I only wish that I had followed my original birth plan and not allowed myself to be guilted into having a natural birth. Perhaps then the memories of my first birth would be as enjoyable as my last.
Interested in other birth stories?
What have your experiences been with the disadvantages of natural birth? Tell us about your experience in the comments.
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