A Good Birth Takes Hard Work

Over and over I see people who put very little into their birth preparation and are then shocked and amazed when they get steamrolled by the "system." 

I am going to tell it to you straight.  Birth requires effort.  It takes time.  It is physically challenging.   It is emotionally and mentally intense.  If you particularly want a natural birth and and you want to minimize your chances of an unnecessary c-section then please, for the love of all that is holy, ACT LIKE YOU REALLY WANT IT AND PUT SOME TIME INTO PREPARATION. 

I remember a visit with my midwife with my first child.  She was a former home birth midwife.  She trusted birth and all that jazz.  I told her I was planning on going natural.  I kid you not, she didn't seem to think I could do it.  Not because she really thought I couldn't do it, but because she heard 10 times a day women say they, "We're hoping on going natural...." and then they got an epidural as fast as they could once they felt an actual contraction. 

I should probably add a disclaimer here (why not?!).  Some women just birth easily and fearlessly with no classes, effort, or time spent on thinking about it.


But if we take a good hard look at the outrageous c-section rate I think it is obvious that these women are RARE.  Are you sure you are that woman?

Current birth isn't the birth your great-grandma had.  She birthed at home.  She saw other women give birth.  She was surrounded by caring women as she birthed.  She worked hard every day.  She scrubbed her floor on her hands and knees.  She squatted in her garden.  She ate a whole foods diet rich in raw milk, vegetables, meat she probably had a part in killing, and butter she churned herself.  She had never heard of Pitocin and she didn't even KNOW FOR SURE when she was supposed to "deliver". 

Hospitals have a lot of great qualities but they are not really set up to facilitate the natural birthing mother.  Health insurance is pretty rad, but the 5 minute visits that you get with your OB are probably not enough to educate you on what you need to know as far as exercise and nutrition for pregnancy.  A trained OB is a fabulous thing in a lot of situations, but there is a good chance that he/she has NEVER seen a woman deliver TRULY naturally.  NEVER.


I sincerely wish every woman the birth she wants.  I hope that they get it even if they don't put ten minutes of thought into it.  The ugly truth though is that it is probably pretty unlikely that the stars will align for you.  I am not trying to scare you, really I am not.  But you deserve to know the truth.  You will most likely get out of your birth exactly what you put into it.

If your contribution is junky food, couch sitting, the first doctor on your insurance list, the closest hospital, a clueless partner and reading "What to Expect," then you will probably get a typical, assembly line birth.  The typical birth today means Pitocin at some point, an epidural, and a 30% chance of major surgery.  Frankly, I think those odds suck.

What can you do?  Read as many good books as possible, take a great birth class, practice with your partner, learn to relax, exercise well, eat healthy (and find out what that is for a pregnant woman), hire a midwife, carefully choose your birth place and care provider.  You can prepare.  I can guarantee that my first birth (over 50 hours and with 4 hours of pushing) would have ended in a c-section if I hadn't taken the class I did and learned what I learned.  I would not have been one of the lucky ones.

Another ugly truth: sometimes even if you do everything you can, things still go horribly wrong.  That is life and that sucks too.  We can't control everything.  The key is to do what WE CAN and let go of the rest.  Then, if things go wrong, we KNOW we did our best. 

Birth in peace-  I am thinking of you!


Anonymous said…
ummmmm are you stalking me? why do your blogs always come at the perfect time? how do you know what i'm thinking? ;)
Alexis C. said…
I'm not sure where the idea that "most OBs have never seen a natural birth" has come from. I've had three, all in a hospital with an OB, and believe me, no one seemed particularly surprised or impressed!
Anonymous said…
well i know at least around here when i went in and they were puting the antibiotics in my iv (groupb+) and then went on to say we'll give you the pain meds as soon as this is done and i said no the look of utter shock on the nurses face tells me she sure hadn't seen that many natural births add that in with the fact that i couldn't get my (he said he was family practice but also did his own surgeries) ob to get his hand out of my lady area while i was pushing bc he was "showing me where to push" i'm gonna say he hadn't seen that many before either! then you go to my first birth where i was pushed into an epidural and not even 15 minutes later they came into for my csec.. and everyone i know who used that hospital had a cs... i think they didn't see many natural births.. the only birth that i had where it was seen as awesome and normal for me to give birth was my second child that was in hospital with a family practitioner ( a real family practitioner bc he couldn't do the surgery)
Mama Birth said…
Yes I am psychic- creepy huh?

Alexis- I think a birth with no IV, no pit, no drugs, no bells and whistles, and a mom who is free to move how and when she likes is pretty rare in a hospital. But you are absolutely it right- it DOES HAPPEN! Glad you got one!
RSM said…
Funny, because my (hospital) VBAC was AWESOME! So easy it felt like I hadn't even had a baby- but got a beautiful one!

I had zero to do with this success- I had planned and scheduled an ERCS. BUT, when it was time for DD to be born, we induced a VBAC instead. Why? Well, the docs- 5-6 of them, from MFM to med student- talked me *into* a TOL for VBAC.

They were right that it would be easier- It was pretty much painless, nothing more than light cramps, even with full on pitocin. The whole induction took 4 hours, she came out in 4 painless pushes. it was amazing.

My first birth was a miserable marathon labor of 36 hours, 4 of pushing, still ending in a CS- and it started the very same way, with SROM @ term!

The difference? The first had a head like a melon and was huge, the second was much smaller. One got stuck, the other did not.

I think its mostly LUCK, and having a great provider that knows what they are doing, that you trust, is paramount. I'm not an expert on birth, and frankly, don't want to be, so I hired one. I did spend time deciding who to see, but ended up in a strange hospital, far from home, anyway. and it still went well.

I hope everyone has such a great and easy birth!

(maternal mortality has dropped by 99%, and the perinatal mortality has dropped by 90% since the 1950's, with the biggest gains in the earlier part of the century. I'm glad I didn't have to birth back then! I would've been a statistic.)
Catherine S said…
I completely agree here. The terminology that I prefer is unmedicated for a pain medication free birth and undisturbed (I guess what you think of as truely natural) birth. To me the term 'natural' has come to have a bit of a negative connotation to it, so I try not to use it since people often start to tune out when you talk abiut natural birth.Too many things left up to interpretation, kwim? But yes, an undisturbed birth is extremely hard to come by in a hospital. No cervical checks, no heplock thingie, no medications, no pushing directions, , no perineal "massage", etc. It's so uncommon that people don't know that it exists or are not aware of the concept at all. We think undisturbed birth and unmedicated are interchangeable and they are not. Because of my VBAC status, I most likely won't ever birth at home for my own level of comfort and safety, but the idea of an undisturbed birth is really, really nice!
AmberLou said…
This is an ugly, terrifying, disgusting truth, but it is the TRUTH! Thanks for saying it straight!
AmandaRuth said…
Absolutely agree!
Heather said…
This really is so true. When I was pregnant with my first, I read "Your Best Birth" and decided I wanted a natural birth. I went to an OB who was a DO, because there were no CNMs who deliver in my area. I wanted to take HypnoBabies but couldn't afford it so I took Lamaze from the hospital. This was basically the extent of my preparation...I had no written birth plan, I had not discussed details of my wishes with my Dr...so about halfway through my 11 hour labor, I gave in to the nurses' pestering and got an epidural. Luckily I was not given Pitocin until after baby was born, and without consent.

When I became pregnant with number two, I knew I needed to do things differently. I saved up and took HypnoBirthing. I chose a hospital known to be more encouraging of natural birth and went to a midwife even though they were both an hour drive from my home. I talked to my midwife about what I wanted in my birth, and made sure she was supportive of everything. I hired a doula, I ate better, I stayed more active, I read books and birth stories like crazy. I was prepared and had a beautiful natural birth in the hospital. No drugs, no hep lock, delivered on hands and knees...

It was amazing the difference preparation made.
Unknown said…
Woah, woah, woah.... Did a picture I took seriously end up on mama birth?! WOAH! AWESOME! How the heck did that happen.. Although this makes me realize my logo seriously needs to be on picture :O
Mama Birth said…
Love the picture- And yes- you need a watermark! If you send me one I will switch it out. (But I may need reminding.)