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
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.)