Anna and Brooke are both average first-time moms: excited to be pregnant, excited about meeting their babies. But Anna and Brooke make different choices for their prenatal care and births, resulting in very different experiences for both themselves and their babies.
Anna has a great, natural birth and her baby is never taken from her. Brooke has a rushed cesarean that leaves her with lingering guilt and concerns that she went through unnecessary surgery. And her baby? He was welcomed to the world with two hours apart from his mom.
Feelings (Yes, They Matter)
Here's a glimpse of what Anna experienced:
“After about 7 1/2 hours of active labor, (the average for unmedicated first time moms) Anna gives birth to a healthy baby boy. She is ecstatic. Suddenly after all those hours of labor and pushing she has so much energy. Her baby is immediately placed on her chest, and her midwife helps her to establish breastfeeding. After a few weeks, Anna is already looking forward to doing it all again the next time she has a baby, but she might want a home birth next time.”
Here's a glimpse of what Brooke is feeling after her epidural, “failure to progress,” and a c-section after 7 hours of labor:
“In the weeks and months to come she wonders whether the c-section was really necessary, but everyone tells her to just be happy that she has a healthy baby.”
Does it matter? Does “the experience” matter at all? When did birth become about an “experience” anyways?
The naked, blunt truth is that it does matter. It has always mattered.
What the doctors who brush off “the experience” as something from the “radical natural childbirth movement” don't tell you is that the experience is a side effect.
You have a “great” birth experience when birth happens the way it's biologically supposed to.
Lets Talk About Birth – The Way It's Supposed To Work
Hormones surge through your body during and after a natural birth. Oxytocin plays throughout labor – it's the love and bonding hormone, and it's the central player in birth. Natural oxytocin crosses the blood-brain barrier to help relive pain and promote bonding – synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin, Syntocin) does't do that.
Natural oxytocin also works in pulses… it's not continuous like the synthetic drips. As you get close to pushing, adrenaline and other hormones kick in to give you a burst of energy. All of these come together in a sympohony of hormones that gets your baby out safely and smoothly, stops bleeding, and leaves the two of you with a post-birth “high” that promotes bonding and satisfaction.
There is no “experience” here. This is biology.
The Statistics are Shocking
There are lies everywhere in the world of childbirth. I'm not saying it's all the medical establishment. In fact, I think we sometimes do a disservice to women planning natural births when we don't emphasize how much preparing for labor (and staying healthy during pregnancy) really helps. Blind trust in birth with no preparation often leads to an overwhelmed mother and a medicalized birth.
But the medical establishment's desire to control birth and subjugate women to their timetables, procedures, and the almighty dollar have lead to a whole host of lies all their own.
They cover these things up, but their results do not lie:
- 7lbs 13oz is the average weight for babies born by c-section due to being “too big”
- 65 percent of women receive an epidural (not counting the 33 percent who will have a c-section)
- C-sections are more dangerous than vaginal births
- Babies born after epidurals are more sluggish and may have a harder time breathing, regulating temperature, blood glucose, and more
- Contractions from induction are harsher than natural contractions and cause complications for baby during and after birth
- Interventions do impact bonding
- Mothers remember and are influenced by their babies' births for the rest of their lives
“While the statistics themselves can be shocking, it’s even more important to remember that each one represents stories of real women: an epidural and then “failure to progress,” a baby that’s just “too big,” too “late,” and a mom who’s told she is just not strong enough, another disappointed new mom recovering from an unnecessary C-section. What’s going on here? Are our bodies really failing so miserably?”
That's just a few of the facts surrounding birth. Shannon Brown has done a great job discussing these facts and other dangers that arise with medicalized childbirth in her book Real Birth Stories – part of the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle this week.
You meet Anna and Brooke in Shannon's book. Though they're fictional, their experiences are very real. And Shannon doesn't stop with their vignettes. Her book goes on to share her own and 25 more inspirational stories of natural childbirth.
Natural birth stories are powerful. Women share with me that, in addition to their natural childbirth classes, birth stories have a profound impact. The “I've been there” wisdom you glean from natural birth stories cannot be duplicated in any other way. A good story can even help you open a dialogue with your care provider in a effective way. Most of all, birth stories give you ideas and tools for your own baby's birth. They remind you that many women have had natural births before you, and that you, too, are strong.