Why Suffer When You Don't Have To?

Natural birth mamas stand out a little don't you think?  And when it is made know that we are interested in/obsessed with/or preaching natural childbirth, sometimes the response is this:

"Why go through all that suffering and pain when you don't have to?"

Almost any woman who has planned a natural birth has heard this question.  What is the point of going without drugs when they are available?  Would you have a cavity drilled without painkillers?

This statement, though it seems to make sense, is wrong on many levels. 

First, it assumes that labor and birth is in and of itself painful to the point that suffering occurs.  I looked up the definition and the first one I found for suffering is this, : "agony, an acute state of pain."

I have met many natural birth mamas who firmly state that their birth was absolutely PAINLESS.  I personally did not feel like my first birth was ever really painful, and I never felt like I was suffering at all.  I mentioned this to my husband a few months afterwards and he laughed in my face!  I looked to him like I was in a LOT of pain.  Birth certainly looks painful to the outside observer, especially if that observer is a man and has never experienced joyful birth.  (He claims that time had altered my memory of the event and there may be some truth to that.)

The second assumption that this statement makes is that pain equals suffering.  Pain in birth, when it occurs, is simply your body telling you something.  Now when you have a headache you can take a pill to numb that pain.  One other option you have is to look at what might be causing that pain.  Do you need to eat, drink, sleep or stop yelling at your husband?

If and when you experience pain in birth or labor it is not the moment to beg for drugs, it is the moment to examine what is going on.  Is this position bad?  Are you surrounded by people you don't want there?  Do you need to move?  Do you need to back off the pushing?  Pain when it does occur is simply your body talking to you, it is not your body screaming "give me drugs now!".  Listen to it. 

Is labor suffering?  Oh, this is a good one!  Sometimes women do suffer in birth, but they don't have to.  I was at a friends home birth once and I said something to the midwife about how I knew a woman who got an epidural because her husband did not like to watch her suffer.  The midwife was pissed!  She was adamant that this mama we were with was not suffering at all.  She was surrounded by people who loved her and supported her.  She might not be comfortable every second.  The experience might be harder than she had ever imagined.  But she was enveloped in love, security and support.  Suffering had nothing to do with this birth. 

So, why go through the suffering of natural birth if you can so easily numb yourself?  So many reasons!  But most important, because it is not suffering.  Natural birth is a gift to the mother, her baby, and her entire family.  Going through the entire process without anything to "numb the pain" makes the end that much sweeter. 


Tacey said…
I totally agree with this. I couldn't even manage to take gas and air during labour because I felt it was interfering with the rhythm and focus I'd developed. I'm so grateful that I was able to experience every sensation of birth. Reading your blog has helped me firm up lots of my beliefs, so hopefully my next labour will be even better!
L said…
Love this post. I hear this all the time from family and friends. I also hear "its not like you get a medal for doing it 'the hard way'."
Rebekah said…
Could not agree more! I have the fondest memories of our labor and birth of our daughter. People look at me like I am crazy when I say labor was the best 12 hours of my life!! Love it!
Mama Birth said…
Ladies! Wonderful to hear your feedback!
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Rae said…
Homebirther here. Yep, a little painful, but suffering? Not a bit! My period cramps hurt far worse, and I get no reward for those nasty things. Now that is suffering! (reward = my sweet, sweet Wren!!!)