In the last few weeks, I've had a few women ask me if I know what kind of birth I want to have. And while I most certainly do, it was not a decision I came to lightly. Nor do I think it should be.
It goes without saying at this point (read: post title) that I am choosing natural childbirth. It all started, as I've noticed it has for many of my peers lately, when I sat down one December night in 2011 to watch The Business of Being Born, a documentary on the negative effects of unnecessary medical interventions during labor. At the time, I was simply curious about babies as Pierce and I were just beginning to talk about when we would start a family. And, as I watched, I became transfixed by what I was seeing. I won't go into all the details here because this is a not a critical review of The Business of Being Born, but I do suggest that every woman interested in becoming a mother take a few hours to watch it.
I had never really considered my birthing options before I saw that movie. I suppose I always assumed I'd have an epidural and give birth vaginally, if all went well, and that would be that. So I started to look into what would be available to me if I ever got pregnant. I couldn't get enough information and, eventually, I decided I wanted to make my birthing experience as natural as possible. I had never realized that often times epidurals are given because labor is either induced or "helped along" by the drug Pitocin, which is a synthetic version of the body's natural hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the mother to go into labor naturally, but Pitocin speeds up the process...thus making contractions become so intense that the mother has no other choice but to receive an epidural. Unfortunately, the distress Pitocin-induced contractions causes the baby often, in turn, means the mother will undergo a Cesarean. This is not always the case, so please understand I am not trying to put every mother into an "unnecessary medical intervention" box; I am fully aware, as I have witnessed for many women close to me, that C-sections are sometimes not only necessary but life-saving; however, more often than not, they can be avoided.
This is why I chose to see a midwife for my prenatal, birthing, and postnatal care. Obstetricians are trained surgeons, and they are incredibly valuable resources for high-risk births. We are blessed to have them available to us! But what they do best is surgery, not natural birth.
Having said all of this, I personally believe that women are capable of far more than we realize. We have been told by many in our culture and in the medical profession that pregnancy and childbirth are things we should fear. I can't tell you how many women have said to me, "Oh, I could never do that!" And, as both a woman who loves the Lord and a feminist (two things I don't believe are mutually exclusive), this makes me so sad! Our bodies were designed specifically for this process should the opportunity arise and we are able to conceive and bear children. Pregnancy is not an illness. Nor is it something to be approached lightly. Is it serious? Absolutely. But something to be afraid of? Not in my opinion.
The wonderful thing about being a woman in this century is that I have the option to choose whatever I want (in most cases) in terms of birth. I can have a vaginal birth with an epidural. I can schedule a C-section. I can have a home birth with a midwife. Birth is different for every child and every woman. But we have the responsibility (and the ability) to educate ourselves about these options and choose what is best for ourselves. I have chosen to deliver at a local hospital where natural birth is supported and encouraged with the help of my midwife (more specifically, I have chosen to do natural water birth). Thankfully, there is a well-renowned OB here in Atlanta who partners with local midwives and always makes himself available should something go wrong and surgery become necessary. I met him once, during my first visit to his office in downtown and after a short, sweet meeting he said to me, "Well, hopefully we won't see each other again." I feel better knowing he is on my side, and I know Pierce does, too. We had considered home birth, since the local hospital is only about two miles away, but after talking about it we decided that delivering naturally at the hospital will save us a bit of stress in case of emergency (plus, we don't really want to have to worry about prepping our home for delivery or cleaning up afterwards, either).
My experience, so far, has been incredible. After I had my pregnancy confirmed with my former OB, I knew I wanted to transfer to Intown Midwifery. It doesn't feel much different than a regular OB's office, but the distinctions that do exist have made me very confident in my choice. They know me by name. They ask me what I want. They give me guidelines and encourage me to educate myself. They make me feel like this is in my hands and, ultimately, it should be. Ultimately, it is. Lucy is our baby and her home is in my body. Our responsibility for her does not begin after she's born. It began the moment she was conceived.
Despite all my hopes for her birth, I know things might not go the way we plan. That's life. But I pray it will. I pray we will be continually reminded of God's love for us as I work to bring our daughter into the world. I want her birth to glorify Him as much as I hope her life will. I want to be fully present for every moment of this incredible experience...the pain and the relief...the struggle and the joy...
I'm under no impression that it will be easy. But most things in life worth having never are.