Natural Childbirth Does Not Include an Epidural

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I’m just going to come out and say it.  You probably won’t like my opinion, but if you had an epidural, you did not have a natural childbirth.  Having read some things from women so proud of their accomplished “natural birth,” I was confused when they mentioned their epidurals.  Am I living in an alternate universe?  Maybe my idea of natural is different than many others.  Did I misunderstand something?

By definition, natural is (“Natural.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2016.)

  • existing in nature and not made or caused by people : coming from nature

  • not having any extra substances or chemicals added : not containing anything artificial

  • usual or expected

Additionally, Natural Childbirth is defined as a method of giving birth to a baby in which the mother chooses not to use drugs to reduce pain or to make the birth happen more quickly (“Natural Childbirth.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2016).

Take a moment and let that sink in.

I stumbled on an old article Why Having an Epidural Should Count as Having a Natural Birth.  Of course, I felt compelled to read the article.  Was this person serious or was I going to enter into a world of satire?  Unfortunately, for me, she was serious.

The author, Mehera Bonner, writes

Most people define a “natural birth” as delivering a baby without the aid of any kind of medication. But maybe the definition of “natural” needs to be broadened so that women don’t feel like second-class citizens for requesting an epidural.

Are you asking for the dictionary definition of “natural” to be broadened?

natural childbirth no epidural

Don’t ask to redefine natural childbirth

It doesn’t matter to me if you chose to have an epidural, pain medications, or an elective c-section.  If you had a c-section because of issues that posed health risks to yourself or baby, I’m not judging you.  When we do this parenting thing, we all end up doing things we find that work best for us, regardless of plans.  It starts while you’re pregnant and will never end.

What I don’t want you to extrapolate here is that you’re not a good mom for having whatever birth you had, or are choosing.  I believe we’re all doing our best to be good mommies.  You are NOT a second-class citizen for having any birth.  In fact, I’m in awe of people who are okay with c-sections, because the needles and the cutting terrify me.  In my eyes, you’re brave for letting doctors stick you and cut you.  You are amazing.

What I do want you to take away from this, is that I don’t believe we should broaden the definition of natural, and here’s why:

My experience with natural childbirth

Natural, un-medicated childbirth is raw, emotional, and intense.  My husband was my only support person in labor and delivery, and it was the most intimate part of my life that only he and I share.  I mean, except for the nurses and doctors in the room.

To ask for natural childbirth to be redefined or broadened feels like you’re minimizing my birth experience.  What I did was amazing.  I felt every single contraction.  I had to get through them by breathing, moving, and often making instinctual and ugly noises.  It was painful and intense and the only thing I could do during labor was focus on it to get through it.  I felt the ring of fire and pushed through it.

None of my experience was relieved or lessened.  I know, without a doubt, I felt every excruciating moment.  And, I have no doubt that my body was producing every hormone it was supposed to at every step of the process.

There wasn’t an substance added to my experience which required extra monitoring.

I wasn’t able to text or tweet updates on my progress.  Even my husband was incapable of answering calls or texts.  We were busy … fully involved in bringing this baby into the word.  It was work, listening to my body.  Regardless of how tired I was or how much contractions hurt, I was required to move if the baby’s heartbeat didn’t like a position.  There was nothing dulling the pain.  Every moment in both my 26 hour and 9 hour labors was all about getting those babies out.

There was poop, puke, grunting, and cursing.  None of it was caused by drugs, but only by the course nature takes to deliver a baby.

In my mind’s eye, it wasn’t beautiful.  But, it was my natural childbirth.  And, it was something I can be proud of accomplishing.

I don’t care how you birthed your babies, but…

To redefine or broaden the definition to fit everyone’s birth stories minimizes, if not eliminates, the amazing feat I, and many other women, experience when we go without drugs and other interventions.  Whether we choose it, or it happens unexpectedly, it didn’t happen with a helping medical hand.   A natural, unmedicated birth isn’t a miracle, but what else would you call it if we start calling labors eased by epidural “natural”?

It’s okay if you had an epidural or a cesarean section.  In my opinion, you’re one brave mama for allowing someone to inject a needle into your back or endure major surgery.  Seriously OWN IT.  Put on your big girl panties and be happy with your outcome.  You have your baby and your health, right?  And so do I.

Our childbirth experiences are exactly whatever they became.   None of your decisions make you a second-class citizen, but they do make you different.  Don’t blur the lines of reality just to make yourself feel better about it.  If you feel like you need support because things didn’t go as planned, it’s okay.  Seek the support you need.  But asking people to change definitions isn’t support.  And, it’s not fair to those of us who were able to achieve natural childbirth.

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2 Comments

  1. Savannah October 19, 2016
    • J. Ivy Boyter October 19, 2016

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