Obstetric Lie #88- The Birth Experience Doesn't Matter

How do you feel about your birth? How did your birth make you feel?

Every woman can answer this question.

We all want different things from a birth experience. Some desperately want a VBAC. Some yearn for empowerment or healing. Others, having suffered losses, simply desire a healthy baby to hold in their arms. Some want it all- a beautiful birth and a healthy baby. Some even believe that both can, even SHOULD be possible.

A woman's desire for a good birth or disappointment in a bad birth experience is something that often draws ire, resentment, even anger. The feelings surrounding an unhappy birth experience when a baby is healthy are often dismissed. Not just care providers but by everybody. Even mom herself feels ashamed to admit that she is not pleased with the experience.

So does it matter? Does it matter what the birth is like, how the mother experiences this day? Does it matter what happens on a day that she will experience only a few times in her life cycle?

I submit that it does- and that Mother Nature or natural selection or your Deity designed birth this way for a very specific reason. Birth is designed to be a euphoric experience for the mother. Giving life is meant to make a woman want to birth again.

Let's step back for a moment and think about this from a higher perspective.

You are a creator of some kind. (I don't know what you believe in, but I will assume that you either believe in some kind of supreme design by a higher power or some kind of natural selection spurring each species towards survival or -some combination of all of the above.) You have created a species and you would like it to survive most of time.

Your species must often survive the birth process, at least enough to leave more genetic code to be passed on to the next generation. The woman who carries the child must be warned to find safety before the coming of her child. The growing pregnancy and finally labor is this "warning".

Your species, having found safety and comfort gives birth. She must survive the birth process fairly frequently. After the work of labor she must be tired enough and contained enough to

A) rest
B) care for the new child and
C) be tired or occupied enough to keep some distance from others who may contaminate it.

So the birth process must both be difficult enough to ensure some rest period and survival and care for the newborn, but easy enough that it rarely kills. Soreness, minor blood loss, tiredness, and the need to constantly sustain the newborn with her body can ensure this delicate balance.

But- (pay attention, this is the important part) the birth experience must do more than just cause the mother to survive and care for the child- she must want to do it AGAIN and AGAIN. Why? Everybody knows that your species almost always just creates one single child. And everybody knows that the more children you create the more likely it is that your genetic code will carry on for generations.

SO- your mother must find joy in her birth. She must enjoy it enough to love instantly a child that has, by some interpretation, put her through some of this pain or discomfort meant as a warning that he is coming. She must be thrilled enough that she even forgets the amount of work involved in birthing the child and the discomforts of carrying him.

In your infinite wisdom you design something incredible- a euphoric rush of brain chemicals that peak just at the time of birth. They are unique in that they can both:

~cloud memory (endorphins)
~ induce love (oxytocin) and
~cause fierce attachment (prolactin, which also conveniently lowers sex drive when levels are high enough).

These brain chemicals must do all this at a time that is physically taxing.

In addition your mother must be so involved in the caring of this child and in her need for recovery, that she takes some time, probably a few years, to devote solely to this single child. This will help ensure the survival of her offspring.

If we look at birth as it can be, we see birth as it should be. Birth, is meant to be both euphoric and taxing. Birth is meant to bond a mother to her child. It is designed in such a way that it is physically difficult enough that she shouldn't do it twice in one year, but wonderful enough that she will do it again and again. And mother will do it with some degree of pleasure.

If we look at birth this way- a way that recognizes the necessity for our species to continue- we see that OBVIOUSLY the birth experience MATTERS. In fact it matters so deeply because it is imperative to the survival of our species. It ensures reproduction. It ensures a desire to care for the newborn. It ensures love. Birth ensures that children will be desired again.

So when I hear people say that the birth experience doesn't matter at all, I wonder what they believe about human kind in general. This idea, of a meaningless beginning of life, makes no sense in the grand scheme of things. It is neither scientific nor romantic. It is simply ridiculous. Obviously birth matters. It must cause not just the survival of the child but a desire for future children. It must bring a joy in our babies immediately, and satisfaction that clouds over the difficulties. It must be euphoric. Birth must matter.

(To read about how studies have proven that cesareans have caused mothers to desire less children, click here.)


Ilise Newman said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
dinawishoo said…
I really liked the way you expressed your thoughts on the need to acknowledge the necessity of enjoying the births of our children. I agree 100%! I thought it was going to be along the lines of - it doesn't matter how we get the baby, as long as it gets here healthy...... Meaning what they tell us. And why that is dismissing our feelings for their convenience. For mothers that have had csections seemingly out of necessity at the time...... It might be something we say to ourselves, because our choices were taken from us by scare tactics and manipulation. I have had ten babies by sections.... I didn't believe the lie about only having 2-3 babies because of sections. I did however believe the lie that the baby would die if I attempted a natural vaginal birth because my uterus would rupture. We do the best we can at the time. I was blessed to bond well and breastfeed all my babies..... So, while dispelling obstetric lies..... How about the one about only having 2-3 csections? First choice- natural vaginal birth. Second choice safe cesarean in medical emergency. Third choice VBAC!!! Fourth choice repeat cesarean. These days, these are all safe options. Just like birthing in a hospital can be a good experience, so can birthing at home!!!! When we are completely educated and informed and FREE from the lies that are told from both sides or all sides....... We can make the right choices for us all individually. Loved your blog post!! Beautifully written. XO, Dina Mander-Jones
Unknown said…
Love this post! Completely and exactly what I think about it.
It is to be argued - for those that pose that birth is only pain and strife - that women of our culture are so defected that they - by evolution - are not meant to want to reproduce any more.
Health is a big part of how one experiences birth, and frankly most of the Western women are not in great health, GMO's, pollution, smoking, alcohol, you name it...
Factories stop producing defective series, so does nature...

Wow, that took me places
youngsjess said…
I enjoyed this interesting perspective on the significance of the process itself, and how the things that alot of people tend to view as "unnecessary pain and suffering" actually serves a purpose.

I often hear women say "Why should I be in pain if I don't HAVE to be?" Well, it's a very intricate and complex design, and the sensations themselves may seem pontless and burdensome to you, but it's all interconnected, and it's unlikely that you can simple *opt out* of one without it disrupting others. Will that disruption always lead to disaster? No, of course not. But the point remains that even the uncomfortable or unpleasant parts of the process are not "pointless". They do have a point. And research has confirmed that trying to manipulate that process to make it more pleasant and comfortable DOES increase the likelihood of complications. Just because we have the medical technology to SAVE most of those women and babies, once again, does not negate the purpose that the natural process serves.
Angela said…
I had my first baby out of hospital. She died unexpectedly and suddenly shortly after birth. Her birth was beautiful. I hold our time together while laboring close to my heart.

My second was born in a hospital. The birth experience was horrific. Tough position of the baby, back labor, inability to sustain contractions due to emotional trauma (I shut my labor down multiple times, dilated to 8 cm, dropped to 5 more than once) baby born with hands by his face, me determined to do it naturally (which I did!) and have a beautiful experience like my first.

Laboring with post traumatic stress disorder is hard, hard, hard. I never want to go through birth again, but I want more babies.

So yes, birth experience matters.
Rachel said…
I had a rough pregnancy, and then a horrible birth experience. Even after 4 months, I still am fighting with myself about whether I really want to go through all that again. I know I want another baby, but I can still remember the pain, the stress, and depression. I am very very thankful my baby is fine, but he could have not been and that caused so many other feelings... he passed meconium in the womb and had the cord wrapped around his neck, arm, and leg, and his heart beat was way too fast. Even tho they induced me, it took well over 24 hours before I could get him out. The pain was literally unbearable and they were forced to drug me. I feel like I'm not meant to have children and it's putting me in a serious depression. So yes, the birth experience does matter. Perhaps for some it doesn't, but it definitely matters to me.
Unknown said…
My first son's birth was a home birth, and he was born limp and dark blue, we thought he was dead. Luckily he was able to be resuscitated and even more luckily, had NO problems as a result of the lack of oxygen. But almost 3 years later I am still healing, and crying sometimes, from the memories of his birth, despite having had a baby in the meantime (the birth of which did heal me to some extent, and put my faith back that I can birth a child properly). Of course having a baby that is healthy and thriving is the most important things, but to dismiss a mother's experience is to dismiss her as merely a vessel for the baby, when she is as much a player in her baby's birth, and afterwards too.
Mama Birth said…
Thank you so much for sharing your different perspectives ladies-
Enjoy Birth said…
I blogged about this awhile ago. I think that it depends. It can make a huge difference in a good or bad way, or it can be neutral. I have had all 3.
I feel that the birth experience is just as important as whether or not mom and baby come through healthy and thriving. Why? Because a positive or empowering experience (regardless of how it unfolds; this can be so different for every birth, depending on the situation) is the beginning of a life-long relationship between the mother, her child, the rest of her family and her mate.

We cannot talk about the birth of one baby without realizing that when that baby is born, so is a new mother, a new father and a new family. When a mother leaves her birthing bed feeling empowered, accomplished and triumphant, she leaves with confidence. This feeling is transmitted to the rest of her family. Even in situations where there was trauma, difficult decisions and medical intervention, this can and should be accomplished. It's not about lights, candles, and whether or not women birth "naturally". It's about protecting the sanctity of motherhood and families. Mother's who walk away from their births feeling like they accomplished something amazing and with confidence in their abilities as a mother are happier, better mothers. They are better wives. They suffer less from debilitating depression.

The affects of this ripple out into other areas of her life and affect her relationships with her husband/mate/partner, her other children, her friends etc. Basically, positive births positively affect society as a whole, not just the mother. So when it comes down to it, wanting a "good" birth experience is about as far away from selfish as you can get.
Anonymous said…
Hmmm, I had natural childbirth and gave birth to twin girls. Directly after their birth ( they were a little early and small ) I was up, doing what was necessary for me to be released from the hospital and was home in 4 days. Now, mind you, this was 37 years ago! No meds, but I hated the fact that they strapped my arms during delivery. I would have gone home sooner if my second child had been a little bigger. That was just the beginning of when women were granted the ability to have more control over the birthing process. I couldn't have my child at home, there were no midwives in the area and my Dr. wouldn't have accepted the idea.

I think the concept and reality of home delivery has come a long way since then. My daughter is going to have her second child at home, VBAC with a midwife and in water.

I fully support her and she is close enough to medical facilities that if there should be a problem she could be transported in minutes.

But, I do believe that every birth carries with it the individual's right to choose how or where to have their children. And, I also know that not all birthing experiences are going to be 'happy' ones. I am just glad we have come far enough to give the Mother/Family the right to choose and not have those darned staps on their wrists :-).