Monday, August 3, 2009

Au Naturelle Part III

My final thoughts on the natural vs the artificial are in relation to childbirth. Obviously, if you’ve read Part II, you know that I was unable to maintain a pregnancy naturally. I also had a c-section to deliver my daughter. To rehash my birth experience, my water started breaking on Monday morning. I’m fairly certain it had been leaking a little all weekend, but on Monday, there was a definite amount of fluid. I called the doctor around 10 am. I wandered in to labor and delivery at 1 pm – at which point the rest of my amniotic fluid decided to make an exit. I had no contractions. Little feet were still lodged firmly in my ribcage (I would go so far as to say little toes were wrapped around my ribs). I was at exactly 40 weeks. They gave me pitocin. Every hour they would come and adjust it because I didn’t have any consistent contractions. My husband was kind enough to read off the monitors that I was all over the place. After 8 hours of pitocin, I got my epidural, and I was a very happy girl. After 16 hours of pitocin, I had dilated to 7 cm. Actually, after about 11 hours, I dilated to 7 and never moved from there. At 7 am, my doctor called to suggest that maybe we should start thinking about c-section, due to the risk of infection. At 9 am, when nothing had changed, he said I could wait more, if I chose, but given that I wasn’t making any progress, I would probably end up with a c-section anyway. I told him that I was not opposed to the idea. At 11:45 am, my daughter was finally pulled out. I’m on the petite side, and I had an almost 8 lb baby. The doctor who did the surgery said that there was no way she would have made it through my pelvis regardless.

I’ve seen a number of posts in relation to the natural childbirth vs unnatural childbirth (so to speak). Frequently, the posts are in response to articles or comment trolls. I don’t really understand why any woman would condemn another woman’s birth experience. I can only conclude that it’s due to either ignorance or an attitude problem.

I admire women who can consider all of the risks of childbirth and decide that the best decision for them is to make it through without help. I also think they’re a little on the foolish side. While women have been having babies without medical intervention for centuries, women were also dying in childbirth and having their children die too. So, my view is always better safe than sorry. And, better less pain than more pain. But in the interests of fairness, I will try to consider all sides of the issue.

Natural Childbirth (i.e. unmedicated and possibly unassisted):

The woman has the control as opposed to the doctor. She decides all the
factors – how to position herself, when to move, when to push, when to hold

The woman has the power. She can have assistance or not. She can have a
doctor, a midwife, a doula, family, friends, neighbors, innocent bystanders…
or not.

The woman (supposedly – I have no experience here) gets an endorphin rush.

The woman is in better shape to care for her newborn immediately after birth.

Minor emergencies can become critical issues very quickly, and, depending on
the locale of choice (home birth, birthing center), response may be delayed.

Medicated Vaginal Delivery

The medical staff has more control. This can be a downside, depending on
how much you trust your doctor and nurse(s).

Movement is limited once you’re connected to IV’s

Sensation is reduced. Pain reduction allows for greater endurance, which
may be beneficial for long labors.

Recovery is still relatively quick.

In the event of an emergency, I believe that having an epidural already in
place means that general anesthesia is not necessary. General anesthesia is
something definitely to be avoided if possible, as it can effect the baby’s


The mother has ceded complete control to anyone and everyone.

Movement? Who needs to move?

In the case of a scheduled c-section, it’s a very short process. Check in,
wait, get prepped, wait, 15 minute surgery, Baby!

Pain is minimal during, but serious after. However, you do get the good
drugs. Recovery is much longer.

Emergency? That’s generally why you’re having your first c-section anyway!

I know enough women with children that I am pretty sure they’ve covered the entire spectrum of how to have a baby. The point is that there is no right way to do it. There is only what’s right for you at that particular time. I know in the ALI community, there are probably two main camps – the My Body Has Failed Me Before, But It Better Work This Time camp who chooses natural childbirth, and the I Don’t Trust My Body To Do Anything Right camp who just follows the doctor’s recommendations. I think everyone should belong to the I Would Prefer To Do It This Way But If It Doesn’t Work Out, So Be It camp. Be flexible, adjust as needed, and don’t be disappointed if your plan doesn’t work. Because really, the women who have vaginal deliveries, whether medicated or unmedicated, have less control than they think.

Here are some factors that can’t be controlled and are not usually considered:

Anatomy – do you know how wide the opening in your pelvis is? External
shape is no indication – therefore, your childbearing hips do not indicate a
wide pelvic opening, and your narrow hips do not mean you need a c-section.
Do you know how big your baby’s head is? Do you know how much the skull can
compress? How about the shoulders?

Biology – is your body producing the right hormones to make birth possible?
Will your uterus and cervix respond to hormonal cues? (I think, for me the
answers to these two questions were no and no)

Chance – where is that pesky umbilical cord, anyway? (free floating, around
the neck, over the head, wound round the toes, who knows?) How about that
placenta, where did it get to? Was anyone doing somersaults in the last few

Sure, every woman should be able to have an unassisted, unmedicated “natural” delivery. Of course, every woman should also be able to get pregnant easily enough and carry a baby to term. And, every woman with the right skills, knowledge and experience should make the same amount of money as a man in a similar position. But we know that life doesn’t quite work out that way.

Personally, I think the “natural” way is overrated. I like my modern conveniences. I’m not fond of my c-section scar, but I like it better than having a whole new anatomical landscape in the nether regions, if you know what I mean. I like having bladder control. I don’t like pain – I can live through it, but if someone offers me relief from it, I will definitely take it. What I will not do is judge someone for choosing differently than me (OK, unless I already don’t like them – then all bets are off).

My final thoughts: If you’re going to vilify someone for choosing a birth option other than unmedicated vaginal delivery, then I don’t expect to see you in the emergency room if you break your leg. Just get a couple of tree limbs and some rope. I don’t want to see you getting cancer treatments or bypass surgery – that sort of thing is definitely not natural.

Any way that a new baby comes into this world is a miracle, and no one should try to diminish that.


  1. Seriously one of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people judge, complain or dismiss the way someone gave birth. it pisses me off because really at the end of the day if you and baby are healthy then it was a good day. Look if you want to schedule a C-section, that's your call, if you want to give birth under a full moon alone and naked, your call as well. And you know what? I don't care because it is none of my business. I guess I will never understand why people, scratch that, why women insist on taking something that should bond us and make it into some ridiculous competition/judgement. Ok, my rant is over, great post.

  2. Amen! It also peeve me to hear those comments about conception too.

  3. I agree with most everything you are each their own.

    BUT! Not every one who's had natural labors has bladder problems...
    I feel weird thinking that someone might think I do just because I've had four natural labors! And everything else down there is the same too!

  4. @erin - sorry about the generalization - I just know it's a common problem. However, if my daughter had managed to squeeze her lovely, round Irish head through, nothing would ever have been the same for me!

  5. My delivery was very similar to yours, except I never dilated past 4 (even that was rounded up).

    I think there's a lot to be said for "not having the right hormones." I had to have an IVF, and then I didn't dilate - had to have the C, then I didn't produce enough milk to nurse exclusively. Although it seems like everything about my birth was unnatural, but I'm with you - I'm so thankful and grateful for technology that allows us to be mom's. Ya know? So what that the path isn't traditional. 20 years ago very few people had a computer in their home or cell phones...does that make communication via those methods wrong? Sorry - pet peeve!

  6. As long as Mom and Baby are healthy, I don't care if Fed.Ex gets them all here safely.
    All methods of birth can result in bladder incontinence, other risk factors including intrinsic pelvic muscle strength, genetic predisposition, aspartame intake, etc.
    Also, after recovery both women w/vaginal and those w/c-sections have their nether parts back in the right place.

  7. From NIH article-

    About half of all women develop transient urinary incontinence during pregnancy. Three months postpartum, the prevalence and incidence rates of urinary incontinence are 9% to 31% and 7% to 15%, respectively. Antenatal incontinence increases the risk of postpartum incontinence, which in turn increases the risk of long-term persistent incontinence. After the first delivery, women delivered vaginally have two-fold more incontinence than those delivered by cesarean. The protective effect of cesarean on urinary incontinence may dissipate after further deliveries, decreases with age, and is not present in older women. Data are mixed about whether cesarean done before labor confers greater protection than cesarean done after labor. To understand the true impact of cesarean delivery on urinary incontinence, future studies must compare incontinence by planned (not actual) delivery modes, consider a woman’s entire reproductive career, focus on leakage severe enough to be problematic, consider other bladder symptoms as well as incontinence, and take into account other risk factors, particularly antepartum urinary incontinence.

  8. Wanted to stop by and thank you for your words of encouragement on my blog. Now, after coming over here and seeing that your favorite movie listed is the Holy Grail, I am definitely going to be sticking around!

    Your 3 part series was very informative!

  9. I never understood why others are so quick to judge.

    I definitately have a preference, but it's MY preference. And medically necessary issues always take precedence.

    All I ask is a woman go into the birthing experience with an open mind.

  10. I like your comparison of medically assisted birth with treatment of broken bones or terminal illness. One of my big pet peeves is when you hear a man talking about how he doesn't want his wife/partner to have meds at delivery... it makes me want to reach out and touch him, hard! :)

    Also, I wanted to let you know that you are the winner of my giveaway! Drop me an email at: missus(underscore)gamgee at yahoo dot com with your mailing address and I will send off your collection of recipe cards!

  11. I've had four myself. Only the last one was natural.. and BOY DO I WISH I'd done it that way with all of them!

    Hey Martha from A Sense of Humor is Essential gave you some props at MY BLOG today!

    stop by (Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom)

  12. Dropping by to thank you for your kind words on my recent post. It means a lot to know people care. I have been reading through the last couple of pages of your posts, and am adding you to my google reader. I hope to read about a successful second pregnancy for you someday soon.

  13. Thank you so much for your comment on my blog!...

    I am so with you on the I would prefer this but will go with the flow and needs when the time comes, specially after my delivery.

    I had heard so many horror stories and bad things about c-sections that I was petrified, and I ended up delivering by an emergency c-section and the recovery was INCREDIBLY well, not painful or hard whatsoever!

  14. Hey there! Stopping by to let you know that you were the winner of one of my birthday giveaways!! Congratulations!

    Please send me an email with your full mailing address so I can get your surprise in the mail!

    Thanks for stopping by and celebrating my birthday with me today! :)

  15. I so needed to read this! I just had a friend who's partner is pregnant with their first child tell me how I should consider going "natural" if we have a second child because it gives you more control. I so hated that she had judged me when I got exactly the birth I wanted with my first child, and besides, until she has done both, how the hell does she know the pros and cons of each? I was so angry, and hurt. Now I don't know if I should tell her her comment really made me feel judged and hurt my feelings or not. But to have someone judge what for me was a perfect labor and delivery really hurt. I agree with you whole heartedly, we all need to first be respectful of everyone's decision, and second, we need to have a plan, an idea what we would like and be educated, but also, be flexible to do what is best because you can never predict how labor and delivery are going to go, no matter how many times you have done it.

  16. I've been meaning to comment on this for a long time. I am so glad that you've said something about the 'natural birth' nuttys out there. Not all people who go unmedicated are like that-but some are and dear god they get on my nerves. I want to give them a patch for their girl scout sash.

    I had a c-section and I am choosing to the second time. My doctor thinks i would labor four hours again and then have another c-section-and honestly, I'd rather only one area of 'birth injury. '

  17. I love this post -- especially your 'final thought.'

    Thank you.

  18. The good drugs? Post c-section norm where I live is one Tylenol and one Motrin (regular strength) every 4 hours. I had 2 sections, the first emergency and the second planned, and if I never have a 3rd child it will be at least partly because I found the post-op pain to be so ridiculous.

  19. I was laughing at your 'final thoughts'.

    I have just about seen too many women brag about them having a vaginal birth. Hell, my MIL boasted about my SIL's superb pain-bearing 'all night' and then giving birth to my niece vaginally.

    My SIL is pregnant with baby #2 (shush). And she is sure she won't be going for a C-section at all. Lazy women like me choose C-sections (she has not said that, but caesareans are for women who are birthing wimps, that is what she has implied before).