(Photo courtesy of peaceloveandleener.blogspot.com )I read a book once written by an angry radio talk show host/therapist in which she railed against the common Disney movie "Prince Charming" saving the poor young girl from her horrid life. Her point was that women can't expect a man to fix their lives and save them from themselves. I thought she was a little overboard, worrying about something she shouldn't. What kind of skeptic hates Cinderella?
A few years later- and now, of course, my daughter's favorite movie is Cinderella. Or Snow White. Either way, same basic story line. Poor young woman with a life that seriously blows. Luckily, she is pretty! And low and behold, along comes Prince Charming, maybe with a little help from some short men or a fairy godmother, and BAM- life is awesome again! She really is a princess and everything does work out! All she had to do was be helpless for long enough. Whew!
I have also started to notice though that four year old girls are not the only ones who love the idea of the Cinderella/Prince Charming fantasy. Let's be real- lots of grown up adult women (myself included) would just like life to be easy breezy. Where is Prince Charming anyway?
Luckily (or sadly) when we get pregnant, the fantasy of being saved from disaster seems to pop up from our childhood once again, and many full grown, intelligent, and professional women are looking for somebody to make this horrid situation all right for them.
We have become Cinderella, the damsel in distress, the sick/helpless pregnant woman and we want somebody to take care of us gosh dang it!
And entering from stage left....Prince Charming! Only when we are grown and pregnant he takes the form of the obstetric surgeon, the savior midwife, the comforting doula, the knowledgeable childbirth teacher, the husband coach or the iron-clad birth plan.
I have bad news for everybody though. You are not Cinderella and nobody is your Prince Charming.
I know- take a minute to process that.
Labor and birth are unique situations in life during which nobody can do your work for you. You are not moving a piano. You can't have somebody carry one end for you, and you can't even hire a moving company to do it for you. You and only you can labor and birth your baby.
Sure, other people can HELP- but they can't save you from your birth. You must experience it one way or another.
You could elect to have surgery and not experience labor, that in itself will have it's own consequences and prep and recovery. You could be numb with an epidural and miss some of the sensations of birth, but you might be surprised by some of the possible side effects of that choice too. You could hire a fantastic home birth midwife. And still, she can not feel your labor for you. She won't experience even a single contraction and she can not guarantee a perfect experience. A doula can be helpful, but she can not legally be your voice, make your choices, or make labor disappear. Comfort is all she can provide. Same for your husband. I have watched my very horrified husband catch his own child- he was scared, but he didn't feel a thing in his nether regions. And the birth plan- many a quiet, polite, good patient has been horrified to find that just because she wrote it down, did not mean that anybody actually read it or respected it.
Why am I writing about this? Too many of us, hospital and home birthers alike are trying to get somebody to save us from our labor and our birth. We think if we have a baby in the best hospital with a great doctor then everything will be all right. Everything MIGHT be fine. We might get the perfect epidural at the perfect time and have a nice healthy baby to boot.
Or you might run as far away from the hospital as you can get with that soft voiced midwife and plan the perfect candle filled water birth and a sisterly doula cooing in your ear. Maybe some pounding drum music in the back round....
The truth is no matter what you choose you and only you will give birth. Others can comfort, sedate, numb, massage, love and support you, but when it comes down to it, YOU must give birth.
My message- embrace it! There is nothing wrong with not being saved from your birth. The empowerment does not come when somebody else does it for you. It simply does not. There is joy and confidence, and yes, maybe a little (or a lot) of pain, when you do it yourself. But it is YOUR joy and YOUR power and YOUR pain. That is how it should be.
Maybe you are thinking, "Well, I want somebody to take care of me every now and again." Fine. Make your husband mop the floor for once. Get your nails done. Take a nap. Lay out in the sun. But don't co-opt out your birth experience in the hopes that somebody else can make it all right.
It is your birth and your body and your experience. We can not have somebody experience it for us. Nobody can save us from it. Nobody can guarantee perfection. Nobody can be your voice for you. Frankly, we are stupid to even want that. (By the way, if somebody feeds you promises about their ability to magically make your entire experience "alright," you might want to turn tail and run. We give up our power when you let them do this.)
Cinderella is for kids. We are no longer children. We are powerful women and mothers. Let's own our births.
(You can read the other Obstetric Lie posts here. )