Would you travel to a foreign land with no preparation? (An allegory of natural birth.)
- Landing at the airport of a foreign country, to which you’ve never been.
- Your husband is with you, but he’s never been there, either.
- Neither of you speak the language of the country.
- You have a destination that is off the beaten track; only a very small percentage — maybe 3-4% — of tourists each year visit your chosen destination. You’ve heard that it’s a beautiful place, well-worth seeing, but a hard journey to get there.
- You have no maps.
- You have no personal guide.
- You’re not familiar with the city at all — you don’t know the streets or even how the transportation system or even where to go for help.
- A vast majority of those around you don’t really care if you reach your destination.
- Worse, many of these strangers seem antagonistic of your efforts and seem to be sabotaging your efforts to reach your destination, and continually try to steer you to a different place. “I don’t understand why you want to go there. It’s not really worth it. Why don’t you go here, instead?”
This is the picture I get in my mind of too many women who want a natural birth. They have heard that it’s a fabulous destination. But, they may or may not even know anyone who has reached it. They just have the desire to go there.
Now… might the above travelers reach their destination? Yes, they might. If they stumble upon a kind and helpful stranger, or perhaps if they’re really hard-headed and determined and are able to stand firm in the face intense opposition.
But, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I wanted to have a natural delivery, but…” Then, the mother finishes story with a heartbreaking account of unintentionally poor — almost always avoidable — choices which almost always reveal a lack of adequate planning and usually non-existent support.
When you step onto a bus in a foreign land with a desire — yet no other preparation — to reach a particular destination, though you may eventually reach where you desire, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up in some other place, perhaps the exact place that you did not want to go. You many even end up being poorly treated, leaving you with memories that make you cringe with regret for literally the rest of your life.
Now, it’s also possible that even with a thorough education, perfect planning, supportive and helpful people around you that you still may not reach your desired destination. But, your chances of reaching that gorgeous glade of ecstatic achievement, rest, beauty, intense emotions, and alert and glorious health are MUCH, MUCH higher with good planning than without.
Though this may sound harsh and perhaps even unbelievable, especially to a first-time mom, simply a desire to birth naturally almost never translates into an actual natural birth… You can’t just want it. You have to educate yourself, starting with being aware that what you want is something that 95% of mothers in the United States never do. Of the 5% or so who do birth naturally, a percentage or two of those were unintentional — usually fast labors, arriving at the hospital too late for an epidural. In this country’s highly medicalized hospital culture, most women — and even most health professionals — don’t recognize the physical and emotional benefits — for both baby and mom — of natural birth. It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s unpredictable. It’s intense. Emotional. It can be draining for everyone around a naturally laboring woman, not just the mother herself. It’s just a hard path that most people don’t choose, so a mother choosing to birth naturally MUST realize that she is completely swimming upstream, and has to prepare herself in every way, be convinced of the benefits of natural birth, and commit herself to the process.
It IS possible. I’ve done it five times. My own dear friend Nicole just birthed a baby yesterday evening in a hospital with even more abysmal statistics than most: 98% of laboring women (minus the planned c-sections) birth with an epidural. However, she not only desired a natural birth; she was determined, and planned to make it happen. She read books. She watched videos. She talked to everyone she knew who had had a natural birth, gleaning insight and tucking advice away into her heart. She hired a well-recommended doula, who was great. Her husband was 100% on board. She chose an OB whom she knew (through the recommendation of another naturally laboring mother) was very supportive of natural birth, and discussed her plans with him beforehand, and re-discussed them, and re-discussed them, making certain that he wasn’t going to pull a “bait and switch” — talking reassuringly, but then not supporting her efforts. In other words, she not only had sight of the goal, she knew what she was up against, and she prepared accordingly. And just a few hours after she arrived at the hospital, her 7 lb 11 oz son was born, 100% naturally — not induced, no meds, no interventions. She DID IT. Even though she ended up with a nurse who was not really supportive — which can really be an obstacle — she and those around her were prepared, and the nurse didn’t become a deterrent to the process.
So can you, anyone who is reading this. You REALLY CAN. You just have to prepare. Know WHY you want to go there. Know the lay of the land you’ll be visiting. Read the visitor guides beforehand. Practice at least a few key phrases. Discuss your travel plans with those who have been there before, taking their instruction and suggestions to heart. Consider hiring a guide. Know the way: know which roads to take, and which to avoid. Limit the access you give, in your mind, and in your physical presence, to naysayers.
And then when you DO arrive, bask in it, knowing you’ve done a hard job well.