How birth extremists are giving the rest of us a bad name
If you want to start a mommy war, mention natural birth around a group of friends. It wasn't until I became a mother, a reader of mom blogs and a mommy blogger myself that I realized natural birth was "that of which we do not speak." Why has it become a taboo topic and an offensive phrase that implies a more superior birthing outcome?
Let me make it clear that I don't feel this way. But I have seen it play out again and again. I think we have the natural birthing zealots to thank for this — extremists who give "unmedicated" birth a bad name by shaming women who choose medication or who have a C-section delivery.
Speaking of unmedicated, I am now fully aware that most women prefer the term unmedicated to "natural," as natural birth implies that any other birthing method is unnatural. Throwing around this label is the quickest way to make a new mother feel bad about herself.
If you visit a birthing forum, you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. Vaginal birth is often synonymous with natural, referring to no pain medication during labor. Some moms point out that this natural label is a slippery slope. If natural birth means no interventions, then what makes birth unnatural? Is it the use of a fetal monitor? Does a vaginal exam during labor suddenly turn a birth unnatural?
Photo credit: Bethany Ramos
Then, there are C-sections. Most mothers who have had a C-section are not ashamed of their delivery method, and they shouldn’t be. But after a conversation with the wrong part of the natural birthing movement, C-section mothers often feel ashamed for their unnatural birthing outcome. Even natural-birth activists with the best intentions may have their own agenda-fueled advice to offer. If you had a C-section, surely it was against your will. Wouldn’t you want a VBAC next time?
After hearing this discussion, I totally understand how some women may automatically take offense to the term natural when other birthing options are unnatural in comparison. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I often use natural to describe my unmedicated births because it’s a common phrase. But nowadays, I think twice about saying it — because I may be accidentally insulting someone I really care about.
When I’ve blogged about this topic before, women who had medicated childbirth or a C-section confirmed that they often felt judged. I am on their side. I think it's disgusting to judge a woman for the details of her birth. We’re all individuals. What works for one may not work for another. On top of that, you can't predict a birth outcome — you never know when you may need to be induced or have a C-section to save your baby's life. Or, you just may want the drugs, all the drugs — and that's great too.
I had two natural births, one at a birthing center and one at home. I don't feel any special pride, except that I brought two people into the world. But because most women are sick of hearing about their unnatural births, I rarely talk about mine. I don't want to come off as the natural birth fanatic who thinks mine is better than yours.
I chose natural unmedicated birth because I wanted to, and it was the right choice for my family. I’m not looking for a medal — I just want to talk about my birth experience without feeling like I'm stepping on anyone's toes. Natural, unmedicated birth isn't better or superior, no matter what a crazed internet birther may insist. It's just one of many ways get that baby out of you.