This evening, a newly-pregnant friend of mine (we’ll call her “Jane”) excitedly posted on her blog and Facebook that she is hoping to have a drug-free VBAC with this new baby. Incidentally, Jane plans to take the super-awesome classes given by yours truly to prepare for the birth … but I digress!
Within minutes, as usually happens when a mom announces plans for a natural birth, three women jumped right in to tell Jane how agonizing birth is, and essentially tried their very best to convince her that she wouldn’t be able to do it.
Why in the hell do women do this?
Why don’t women have the common decency to say “Awesome! I hope everything goes well! I’ll be rooting for ya!” and leave it at that?
Why must hordes of negative, discouraging women instinctively flock to preggos in an effort to terrify them into getting the epidural in the parking lot?
I have three theories.
Were they jealous like I was after my first birth? Did they hope to go natural, but perhaps didn’t prepare thoroughly, and wound up not knowing how to work with their bodies? Do they subconsciously feel like failures, like I did? I think a portion of these women who are so quick to discourage natural-birth hopefuls are secretly jealous. I’m not exactly sure what they are jealous of… maybe that Jane is beginning to research and prepare while she is still in her first trimester? Are they jealous that she may enjoy the sensations of her labor, rather than fear them? Or are they (as I was after my crappy first birth) – jealous that my friend may have an empowered birth… knowing her options and asserting her preferences rather than being put through a system of often-unnecessary interventions. Whatever the reason, the absolute speed with which these women swooped in to undermine Jane’s hopes for a natural birth smacked of jealousy.
Sadly, I think a large portion of women truly and utterly believe that birth is excruciating 100% of the time, and that it would be pointless to feel any pain. In labor, unbearable pain is very often your body’s way of telling you to change something, to do something differently. Move around. Change positions. Or *gasp!* eat a little something and sip some water. In that sense, it’s very important to be able to feel your labor. Unfortunately, with multitudes of women just waiting to pounce and recount the horrors of their (very often completely medicalized) births, and how the sweet epidural-man saved them (that’s sarcasm there, I know he’s called an anesthesiologist), it’s no wonder that so many women really buy into this load of bull crap that birth is terrifyingly painful and the sensations of the contractions should be avoided at all costs. My theory with this is that lots of things in life are painful. Lots of things in life are hard work. But we don’t inject anesthetics and opioids into our spinal area for these other things. And of course on top of the discouragement, there was the usual misinformation being thrown around as if it was actual fact… “epidurals don’t affect the baby at all, so why wouldn’t you get one?” This speaks volumes about the absolute lack of informed consent in most births today.
Unfortunately, I think a large portion of these ladies who squeal with glee at any opportunity to convince a mom that she can’t birth naturally are just exhibiting good old-fashioned bitchiness. After all, isn’t fun to convince a sweet, hopeful woman she has no chance of succeeding with her goal? Are some women just predisposed to cattiness? Ugh, and don’t even get me started on the back-handedness with which these discouragements tend to be flung! To the effect of “Well, I’ll totally respect you if you can, but (insert horror story here) and (insert ‘why would you even want to, anyway?’ remark here).” I can tell you that women who do end up birthing naturally do so in spite of these “helpful” remarks, not because of them.
All I can do is strive to be the counter-balance of encouragement and accurate information when I come across a pack of “discouragers” trying to take down a natural-birth hopeful.
So, all of you “discouragers” out there… repeat after me:
“Hi, my name is ___________, and I enjoy trying to undermine the hopes of women planning a natural birth. I hereby vow to keep my pie-hole shut, and only post a brief ‘Good for you!’ when someone shares her plans to give birth naturally. If I break this vow, I shall hereby forgo all pain medications during my next birth as my ‘punishment.’ I promise this in the name of the medical establishment. Amen.”