Beyond “Healthy Baby, Healthy Mom”: Defending My Natural Birth Plan

Defending_My_Natural_Birth_PlanAs I sit here, my 37-weeks-pregnant feet propped up on pillows and computer perched precariously on my ever-disappearing lap, the imminent arrival of this squirmy first baby of mine is clearly top of mind. Every few hours, a bubble of fear-laced excitement rises up hard in my throat, accompanied by a simple mantra: “You will meet the baby soon.” Somehow, these words never manage to truly sink in, no matter how many times this same thought paces back and forth inside my brain.

When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child last July, we faced many of the same questions as other first-time parents: Can this amazing news be real? Is everything okay? Are we ready? Will we be the parents this tiny, wonderful new person deserves? But one question I didn’t need to ask myself was how I hoped to bring this child into the world. I have long dreamed of having a natural, drug-free childbirth. I want to share in the raw, primal experience of birth undergone by countless generations of womankind before me. On the practical side, after watching The Business of Being Born and learning more about the United States’ rapidly-rising C-section rates and surprisingly concerning maternal and neonatal mortality numbers, I knew I wanted to prepare for the most natural birth experience possible within the boundaries of safe medical care.

In December, my husband and I embarked on an eight-week class on The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, a husband-coached approach to drug-free birth. We met for two-hour classes each week with our wonderful instructor (Dana Goot, who operates a Bradley Method education center out of her home in Carmel) and four other couples. The Bradley Method focuses on educating parents-to-be on the natural stages of pregnancy, labor and delivery, encouraging deep relaxation techniques to help manage the pain of birth without drugs and training husbands/partners to fully engage with and support the laboring mother throughout the entire experience. In addition to feeling educated about what to expect, I feel full of excitement about labor and delivery, rather than feeling fearful and full of doubts at my own ability to endure what our society often defames as a torturous and terrifying ordeal.

Birth is a personal experience, and I don’t feel I’m in a position to make assumptions about the reasons behind anyone else’s choices. Almost all the moms I know are not openly judgmental of others’ parenting decisions. But I’ve been surprised at the way birth seems to be an exception to this rule. I’ve received a number of skeptical comments from mothers when I’ve shared the details of our drug-free birth plan. Reactions have ranged from the more polite end (“Well, just remember it’s okay to get the epidural, because healthy baby and healthy mom is all that really matters!”) to downright rude (“Are you kidding me? Just wait until you’ve gone through twelve hours of hard contractions on no sleep.” or “That’s noble, but you’re setting yourself up for failure!”). I think something about the life-altering experience of giving birth makes women feel they are experts on the subject, and I believe these comments are well-intentioned attempts to temper my expectations.

But we’re all only experts on our own experiences, right? I understand this will be painful, and that I have no way of comprehending just HOW painful. And of course our primary goal is the oft-repeated healthy baby, healthy mom. If interventions are truly needed to ensure the safety of the baby and me, we place our complete trust in the hands of our medical team. But to me, there is value in harnessing the powerful feminine energy of birth rather than surrendering to the terror of the unknown. Birth has the potential to be one of the most empowering experiences of a woman’s life, or one of the most degrading. Telling women “healthy baby, healthy mom” is all that matters minimizes the experience as a whole, pushing women to the sidelines of humanity’s most essential and sacred event. Birth holds the key to our existence, and at its very core is the fierce warrior mama commanding from within her the future of our species.

Birth matters, and it is so much more than its outcome alone.

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12 Responses to Beyond “Healthy Baby, Healthy Mom”: Defending My Natural Birth Plan

  1. Anna Prasad March 27, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    Isn’t it strange how people view something like birth as terrifying, even though it can be an almost euphoric experience. It sounds like you have really prepared yourself, I can only guess, but I am sure you will have an amazing experience!

    • Dana
      Dana March 27, 2015 at 11:39 am #

      Thank you for your comment, Anna! Lauren has definitely prepared herself and we wish her the best with her natural delivery!

    • laurenpalmer March 27, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      Thanks so much, Anna! I’m hoping for the best. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience birthing Max. 🙂

  2. Windi Hornsby March 27, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    Love this! Thank you for writing it- so very true! You have a great handle on this and a wonderful mindset going in- YOU’VE GOT THIS! Best of luck to you. My 2 births were the most wonderful, empowering experiences of my life.

    • Dana
      Dana March 27, 2015 at 11:37 am #

      Thanks for your input, Windi! We are glad you liked it!

    • laurenpalmer March 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks so much, Windi! No matter the form it takes, birth is pretty badass, in my opinion. I can’t believe I will be experiencing it in a matter of days!

  3. Myndee March 29, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    Love this, especially your last line. I recently wrote something on NOLA Moms Blog that I think you’d appreciate. I wish you an amazing birth, and looking forward to reading about your experience!

  4. Kellye March 29, 2015 at 11:12 am #

    Lauren, you’ve done a wonderful job preparing yourself. We went Bradley as well. It works. The biggest thing for me was being a true partner with my husband. He fought by my side through every minute. Our son was born just as we intended: drug-free. Our marriage is stronger for the bond we built and through the communication skills we learned in class.

    I experienced the same thing with other moms when I divulged our birth plan. It almost seemed to me that some of them (not all) wanted to knock me down a peg, that they couldn’t believe anyone could do it naturally because they couldn’t. I firmly believe if some of these women would have done more research and preparation instead of letting their doctor direct everything, they would have been better capable of handling the pain & exhaustion. I finally stopped talking about it as much. I really didn’t need the negative opinions.

    That being said: IT WASN’T AS BAD AS I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE! Honestly. Good luck, mama. You got this!

  5. Linzy Brakefield March 29, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Good for you! Our bodies know exactly what to do and it is empowering to learn to trust your own body and let go of the fear associated with birthing. The same applies to after your baby has been born. Trust your instincts and trust your body!

    I had two beautiful drug-free natural births (except for induction and pitocin with the second) and I stuck to my plan and was fortunate that everything went well. With that being said if needed I would have gone with whatever my doctor had suggested. Also I don’t think any woman who has to have intervention has failed. All births are beautiful but I do applaud you for your plan! Go momma!

  6. Lisa April 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    I did a course that was a combo of Bradley Birth and Trust Birth…and guess what? Much to many people’s surprise, I gave birth all naturally (7 days late) in the hospital with 14 hours of labor with some of that labor being at home. I cannot forget the moment my son was in my arms. “I did it!” was all that I could say. So many had told me it was impossible to do with no meds…but the honest truth is, as long as you stay relaxed, trust yourself, and go with what feels right for you, the better off you’ll be. My doctor was pleased—neither of us knew if I could do it–I have a low pain tolerance. Second time around with baby #2 things went much faster (he was 9 days late–and a bit big at 9 lb 11 oz), and the doctor who trusted me and my birth plan as well as the nurse were so helpful. The pain is different than any other kind of pain I’d experienced because it was with a purpose. In the hard parts, I made my mind help relax my body. Best wishes to you, and yes, what your doing is possible. It is a very empowering experience.

  7. Amanda S April 17, 2015 at 11:16 pm #

    I had a similar experience, and finally decided to say nothing until after baby came. We have enjoyed four beautiful natural births.

    We were designed to have babies! Thousands of years of women have birthed naturally, and although I’m thankful we have the medical support in case something goes radically wrong, it won’t in most cases. I prayed for the opportunity to birth naturally and went into labor for both my hospital births on friday night, which is statistically best for lack of intervention!

    Trust the process and the Creator. Trust your own instinct. My third baby was posterior (sunny side up) and such a different labor from the others. My midwife kept saying “she’s coming her way.” She was my largest child and yet the best recovery die to the way she came, exactly as she should’ve.

    It is empowering and an amazing confidence builder to have a good birth. Necessary intervention is NOT a failure. Many blessings on you, mama warrior, for working to give baby the best start you can!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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