Jenny Razor, a high school English teacher at Omaha Public Schools, wrote this blog for momaha.
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For years, I used to enjoy exaggerated portrayals of women going through pregnancy and childbirth. From crazy cravings to psychotic mood swings to the screaming, excruciating birth scene in which apparently the only strong thing on the woman’s body were her hands and lungs.
However, after having gone through pregnancy and childbirth, I started to be troubled by these scenes.
It seemed to be the only story told about childbirth and my experience was nothing like what was being portrayed, especially the rare occasion when a woman would give birth naturally. Their experiences were shown as something that was not their choice (i.e. arriving too late to get an epidural).
This narrative was one I had assumed for myself up until my own pregnancy. When a friend of mine told me of her decision to do natural childbirth, it seemed strange and my immediate response was to give her a condescending “good for you” and then say defensively, “well, I’ll take the epidural, I’m sure of that.”
Ironically, it was this very friend’s experience that opened me up to the possibility that I could, in fact, handle it. And I did.
In one of our first Bradley classes, also known as husband-coached childbirth, our instructor told what I have found to be an essential experience of natural child-birthers: they had been moved to try it through hearing about it from another woman. These stories had so challenged the narrative they had been fed their whole lives about what childbirth looked like, felt like and should be dealt with, that they sought it out themselves. Before that, they had only believed that childbirth was scary, excruciating and most importantly: women couldn’t handle it.
One of the greatest aspects of the process for me was the simple knowledge of what my body was doing and was capable of doing. Beyond reading about how my baby was growing and developing inside my womb, equally fascinating to me was the knowledge of how my body was perfectly designed to both create and bring the baby into the world. That knowledge helped me primarily labor at home with my husband without feeling fearful. I understood each pain and each stage and why it was happening.
Consider this: Those who choose to do natural childbirth are often considered the ones doing something strange or unnatural. When, truthfully, long before pain medication or medical advancements, women were giving birth on their own. It truly is the most natural process in the world.
For me, the choice to do natural childbirth came from the sheer challenge of it. After the initial euphoria of birthing my son (truly THE proudest moment of my life) and the tears of joy of meeting the love of my life, I was left with one of the greatest highs I have ever felt. I remember thinking, quite simply, I did it.
Let me also say, there are many reasons not to do natural childbirth. Bless the medical establishment who has the knowledge of when the process is going wrong and when to step in to ensure safety for both mother and child.
This post isn’t about anyone’s choices of how to give birth to their children. It’s about challenging the narrative. Taking on the voices that are reminiscent of the 1950’s era of the irrational, weak female. That narrative doesn’t do justice to what the female body is capable of doing: creating and birthing life.