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What’s Your Birth Story?

I need to preface this post by saying:

  1. This is not a competition post; if you’re looking to start a “mommy war,” you can stop reading right now. 
  2. How ever you had your baby (vaginally, c-section, adoption, etc.) is the only thing that matters. Again, if you want to start something, this is not the place.
  3. I will delete any comments that are hurtful or out of line.

I recently wrote a short version of my birth story and found myself saying that my daughter was born naturally. I left it at that for a little while, but kept reading it over and over again, because something wasn’t sitting right. I had a nagging feeling that by using the word “natural” I’d have people tell me I was wrong, that I didn’t actually have a natural birth, because I used medication during labor.

By “natural birth” I simply meant that I had her vaginally. Did I have an epidural to help me manage my pain? Heck yes I did, and I’m not at all sorry. But I pushed her out on my own. Do I look down on anyone who had a c-section? Absolutely not; I was literally seconds away from having one myself.

Before I had a baby I never really noticed the competition surrounding mothers, but now that I’m knee deep in it, I notice it everywhere. I don’t know if it’s social media (blogs and Facebook, really), but I can’t imagine our moms dealing with this 30 years ago. Despite all the “real life” viral posts that swarm the ‘net, there’s still an overwhelming pressure to be Supermom from the second your baby is born. But here’s the thing: anyone who has a baby (no matter how the baby came out) is a Supermom.

Did you have your baby unmedicated and in a tub full of water? That’s freaking awesome!
Did you have your baby in a hospital without medication? More power to you!
Did you have your baby while hooked up to IVs with drugs pumped into you? Go you!
Did you have your baby while strapped to an operating table? You seriously rock!
Did you have your baby and then give it up for its better good? You’re a hero!
Did you have your baby while sitting in another room, waiting to hear its cry? You’re amazing!

Bottom line? You had your baby, and that is something very natural.

There isn’t a point system here. My friend who’s about to have her third home water birth doesn’t get more gold stars than I do. Just like I don’t think I’m any better than my sister-in-law who adopted her baby, and she’s no better than her friend who had a planned c-section to deliver her twins.

Every birth—even an adoption—is strenuous.
Every birth—even an adoption—is focused on the baby’s and moms’ well-being. 
Every birth—even an adoption—requires healing after the baby is born.

I see this pressure moms are undertaking for the way they delivered (or will deliver) their child, and it just makes me sad. And to make it worse, so many seem to have a demeanor that implies their way is the only way to do it, when really, the outcome is all the same: a baby. So why is there a stigma about whether you had your baby naturally or not? Let’s stop these competitions, and start letting moms stand tall when they share their birth story, no matter how they had their little one.

The next time I need to write out my birth story or share it with someone, I hope I’ll stick to my guns and say that I had my baby naturally, but with an epidural, and leave it at that, without feeling guilty. If my definition doesn’t line up with your definition, that’s okay. I love my daughter’s birth story and there’s no reason why I should feel degraded just because I used some glorious, and wonderful medicine.

What do you think defines a “natural” birth? And more importantly, how did you have your baby? Feel free to even leave a link to your birth story in the comments!
(Remember, you’re a Supermom no matter how you had him/her, so own it!)

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13 Comments

  1. I LOVE this. I too had Abbie vaginally but with an epidural, and I have zero regrets. She's happy and healthy, and that's all that matters!

  2. I always say "natural birth" as completely natural, no drugs. Vaginal birth for, well, vaginal. Cesarean for cesarean! It's easier for me, as a doula, to define it this way. I think you know already, but Penny was born via cesarean because of a weird breech presentation. While it is definitely NOT what I wanted, it was what had to be done, and in the end we did everything we could to avoid it. Definitely not what I want for the next baby though.

  3. After having Charlotte with an epidural (and being induced), I really, really wanted a natural birth. And by that, I meant no drugs, no interventions – nothing. I didn't feel pressured to do it, but I wanted to. I felt like it would be the best thing for my baby, and looking back I wish I'd been educated on non-medical ways to handle the pain with Charlotte's birth. Millie's birth was completely natural, and other than recovering from a tear, I felt fan-freaking-tastic after she was born. I loved that feeling and I would love for every woman to feel that way! Not being drugged was so great for us. But I also remember LOVING the epidural when I had Charlotte. Haha! So, I've done it both ways, and I have only few regrets about Charlotte's birth. Anyway. I only encourage an all-natural birth because I know it can be awesome! But, no matter what, we're all pretty awesome for giving birth, no matter the "style." 🙂

  4. Love this post, Jessica! I'm with Chantal on how I use the terms, because I was a mod on the tcoyf.com forums — and that's the least confusing for folks.

    You know my crazy birth stories — and can I admit I was sad you didn't include "born in a car on the side of the road" in your list of possible birth styles 😉 Haha. But it's okay. Most people don't consider it as an "option" (though I have an IRL friend who also had a roadside birth – what are the odds?)

    I often feel a lot of judgment from moms, because despite my fast labors I don't want a home birth… but I'm also very picky about my healthcare providers and again despite my speedy labors, I'm opting to drive 100+ miles past 5 or 6 other hospitals to attempt to give birth where and with whom I want. People tell me I'm crazy. They shake their heads. I tell them to get over it. It's not like I'm making the decision without the support and advice of both my husband and my midwives 🙂

    But you remind me I should get my son's birth story up, as his is often overshadowed by his sister's much crazier entrance 😉

  5. I completely agree that moms need to stop with the comparing and it's not a competition. From births to how kids are raised, we're all just doing what we think is best for our children and ourselves. Can't be a good mom if you're trying to be someone else. I had both my kids via C-section. My first, I regretted for a looooong time. Kinda sucked the life out of me and I couldn't enjoy his first year as much as I should have. My second, I elected a C-section and have no regrets. I enjoy her very much.

  6. As a non mother I find this so fascinating that so many people are concerned and ready to judge how someone was born, I mean it is not as if you do not want to talk to me because I was born by c-section and somehow not as cool! Also I was born by c-section because I was breech and had hip dysplasia and as I got older and learned various things about childbirth and medicine I was so happy to be born in 1985 and not 1895 where they had the knowledge and skills to perform what was needed and save both mine and my mothers life because that birth in the past would most likely have killed us.

  7. While I will admit that it was very empowering to have my son completely unmedicated and unassisted in any way {other than the EMT removing my pants "just in case"} I would NEVER judge another mother for choosing a different way. I had every intention of getting an epidural, my baby just had different plans lol and if with this next one things don't go as planned, all that matters to me is getting to hold my baby in my arms when it's all done. Thank you for sharing this!

  8. I was almost 42 weeks with both of my kids, and induced for both of them. Even though so many people told me NOT to do it, that I would have a miserable experience, be in labor forever, etc. Maybe I was one of the lucky ones … but I only labored for 4 hours with one, 6 with the other … and pushed for a total of 20 minutes +/- 5 minutes with them both before they arrived. I did have an epidural … and was glad when it came time for my episiotomy. And when it came time to push out my 10 lb'er … although that was a laugh, because I actually felt it all with him! I give props to the women who do it without any drugs, or at home … and kudos to the women who get wheeled into an operating room for a csection, as well. We are all moms … we should be building each other up and supporting each other. Not competing!

  9. I wanted a natural birth (no epidural) simply because I was afraid of the needle. We did all these birthing classes and had our techniques down but I went from 0 to 6 cm in an hour, with contractions less than 3 minutes apart. As soon as we got to the hospital, I was like "give me the epidural!" But it worked for our family, my husband was more relaxed when I was relaxed. With my second, my epidural wasn't as strong but my labor didn't start so suddenly, I was actually half asleep when my doctor came in and told me to push!

    Here's my birth stories if you're interested!
    http://www.beebeebelly.com/2010/11/delivery-day.html
    http://www.beebeebelly.com/2012/12/blueberrys-birth-story.html

  10. My first pregnancy ended with an emergency c-section. My son's heart rate was dropping and I wasn't willing to risk his life. The doctors had to completely put me under and so I missed the first 2-3 hours after his birth. I missed his first cry and I didn't get to hold him for hours. Praise God that my husband made it home from Iraq (just 5 days prior) and was able to hold him during the time that I could not. 11 years later I still harbor guilt and pain from missing out on those first moments. There are a lot of what ifs in my head… his birth was not what I had planned at all! I had planned a natural birth but that didn't happen. With my daughter I had a planned c-section because throughout my pregnancy the doctors were concerned that my uterus was going to rupture… and my husband also had PCS orders for that time frame. (His original report date was actually her due date!) In the end I had preeclampsia as well. I'm 'ok' with her birth and the decisions I made regarding it. Were the labors exactly the way I wanted? No. Do I have joyous memories of labor. No. But I have two beautiful, healthy children and that's what's important. And that's what everyone needs to realize… in *that* moment, each mother is going to make the decision that is best for her and her child. Judging and criticizing are a waste of time, breath and energy. Surely there's something more productive to do than to judge how a child was brought into the world!

  11. I agree, the mom wars are getting ridiculous! I've written more than one post about this but never published them because I just end up ranting. 🙂

    As a doula we learn all kinds of language for birth and I honestly don't think there's a "natural" birth. There's medicated, unmedicated, vaginal, cesarean, and a whole array of things in between but who's to say what's "natural"? I support mamas in their birth decisions as long as THEY are the ones making the decisions and they're not being bullied by a midwife/doctor/nurse. If they get bullied the gloves come off and we fight for the mom's rights! Studies show a mom's satisfaction with her birth is directly related to how in control of the decisions she was. And that's my two cents from a birth doula perspective!

    All of that being said, I had an unmedicated, vaginal birth with Everly and it was blissful. If any of my friends or clients are considering it I definitely say go for it! There's no feeling like it.

  12. I'm so glad you shared this at the milspouse monthly round up. It's so encouraging to see another mom share that it's okay to birth your baby in a variety of ways. We are no better or worse, we simply just are. I had my baby in a hospital with IV push medication and then an epidural at the very end. I ended up progressing so fast from the time I requested the epidural to the time they finished putting it in….I was ready to push by the time the epidural was in. Crazy. And now, before I'm even pregnant with the second child my husband and I dream about, I am thinking about natural. But either way, it's going to be okay.

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