When a friend tells you she is working on changing her eating habits you probably wouldn’t respond with “Oh wow – why on earth would you ever want to do that?! Give it a few weeks; you’ll be back to polishing off the dessert tray and downing cheeseburgers in no time!” Instead, you would hope she succeeds in her mission.
Another woman tells her friends she is training for a big race. She isn’t usually bombarded with stories of women who tried and failed. “So many injuries and complications could prevent you from reaching that finish line so don’t get your hopes up!” We don’t tell our friends they will never make it, we encourage them and cheer them on.
Someone confides in you that they are taking music lessons as an adult, and we don’t take it as a personal insult at our inability to play as much as a harmonica.
But what about when someone verbalizes that they are planning an unmedicated birth? Is your response supportive or do you hurry to tell them of horror stories from you or a friends labor? There are so many knee jerk comments that come up without giving it a second thought; i.e. “You say that now, but you’re going to be begging for the epidural when those contractions start!” Or my favorite, and most common “You know you don’t get a medal for doing it drug free right?”
Nope, you don’t get a medal for giving birth without drugs. Which is such a bummer right? I mean if they would just start handing out shiny medals then more women would certainly opt for an unmedicated delivery. The lack of an abstract award is totally why women do/do not get epidurals. Because what’s more appealing and motivating to a woman then something shiny like a worthless medal? We really are such simple creatures (insert eye roll emoji).
I’ve had a peaceful planned epidural birth (with the IV pain meds and Pitocin, too). A planned unmedicated home birth (turned crazy women screaming and begging for drugs at the hospital). And a peaceful, drug-free home birth. My births all had their unique pros and cons. Do I think the births of my daughters with their medications are inferior to my drug-free birth? Not in the slightest! That epidural was a beautiful, beautiful thing when I didn’t want to feel those contractions. At the same time was I proud that I was able to have my home birth with my son? Absolutely! It’s something I had a desire to do, and reaching goals, no matter what they are, is always exciting. Was I disappointed when my second daughter’s birth plan took a sharp left turn? Yes! Of course, I am thankful for my healthy baby, but disappointment is an expected and valid emotion when things we are looking forward to falling apart.
By planning an unmedicated birth, a woman is simply setting a goal for herself. It’s not a reflection of anyone else or their birth choices. It’s a reflection her own desires. It’s that simple. Her response to her birth’s outcome is also a reflection of her personal desires and how they played out. Can she have a medical emergency or decide mid-birth that it’s too much and she wants the drugs? Absolutely. But what good comes from harping on those possibilities before she’s even started the race? When a woman chooses to birth a certain way let’s make an effort to respond in a more uplifting manner. We should support her and hope she is wildly successful, just as we would with any other aspect of her life. The same holds true of the opposite end of the spectrum – the planned Cesarean – and every birth in between.
I don’t have to be a runner to cheer for a friend at the finish line of her marathon. And I don’t have to birth, or desire to birth, a certain way to support a woman in her birthing goals, whatever they may be.