Every mom is different
Many women boast about going all-natural during labor and delivery — I know I’m guilty of it. Some women may look back on their drug-free birth as the ultimate example of strength as a woman.
But do your choices during childbirth have any effect on your future abilities as a mother?
“Is your epidural making you more comfortable?” I asked my patient, a first-time laboring mother.
“Oh, yes, definitely,” she replied, adjusting her pillows around her contraction monitor. “Well, I never needed an epidural,” interrupted her mother-in-law. “Two kids all natural for me!” she boasted proudly.
As a labor and delivery nurse, I see it frequently: Patients or friends and relatives of patients, always eager to tell me about their forays into all-natural childbirth.
And while I always properly ooh and ahh over their stories and congratulate them on the not-so-small task of bringing a human being into the world, a small part of me also wants to scream:
It doesn’t matter.
There's no trophy
It doesn’t matter if you choose an epidural or labor in a tub or have an all-natural childbirth.
There is no trophy for giving birth without painkillers or a slap on the wrist for asking for the epidural. You’re not admitting defeat or giving up because you decide an all-natural birth is not for you. I see women, quick to tell me that they were able to do it all-natural, eager for admiration, looking for validation that yes, you are extraordinary, yes, you did something special.
When the truth is, becoming a mother is always extraordinary.
Giving birth, having a C-section, adopting a child — these are the trophy-worthy moments, the moments when you open your heart and your arms to a child.
Your choices in childbirth will not determine what kind of mother you will be for the rest of your life. There is no evidence than an all-natural birth will lead to children with higher IQs; epidurals won’t ease the bittersweet pain of watching your child grow. Your choice about your childbirth is not a reflection of who you are as a mother, but it does impart an important lesson:
All women are different
We all have different strengths and weaknesses, tolerances and breaking points. We cope differently, ask for help differently and find our way through life differently. I have seen a 90-pound woman give birth to a 10-pound baby without so much as a Tylenol, not because she was some sort of super mother, but just because that’s how her body worked.
Not mine, not yours, not everyone else’s.
Mommy wars begin with childbirth
Our choices in childbirth do not map out the rest of our lives as parents, but I do think that our constant need as mothers to defend our choices and argue them to death and silently or not-so-silently partake of the infamous “mommy wars” does begin with childbirth. Starting from the moment we know that one way or another, that kid has to come out, we are bombarded with information and questions and pressure to make a decision for what’s “right.”
If we say we want an epidural, there will surely be someone out there to regale us with a story of her awe-inspiring, beautiful all-natural birth and we will start to doubt if we just weren’t strong enough. If we say we want an all-natural birth, someone will surely bombard us with a horror story and rave about how wonderful her pain-free birth was.
The truth is, no one labor, birth, or woman is the same.
But we do all have one thing in common...
We are all mothers.
And that is pretty extraordinary.