Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Please imagine giant cathedral bells tolling a gloomy death knell before proceeding. Thank you.

It has begun.

Now that word is out I'm knocked up, and the ever so slight protrusion of belly is speaking more to baby than to excess Coldstone consumption, the questions have begun. There are the questions about when I'm due (March) and what I want (either a boy or a girl) and if I have any names picked out (no). These are all fine questions. But then I get the question that sends me into a trance-like state where I mumble a mantra that sounds something like, "Don't hit, don't hit, don't hit, don't hit, don't hit, don't hit, don't hit."

That question is: "Are you doing natural childbirth or an epidural?"

I don't need the mantra every time. Just when the pro-natural ladies ask it, and I can always tell IMMEDIATELY from their tone which side they're on.

Here's the thing. It's not a sensitive topic for me. I don't mind telling you that I'll have off-the-charts intense contractions for a while, like in the neighborhood of four billion hours, before breaking down and getting the epidural because the midwife won't let me off of my left side and my left hip is doing this weird Transformers thing where it's morphing into some kind of razor sharp internal bone saw trying to excavate through my skin and escape my body in protest. (Deep breath.) I think I usually say, "I'll probably get an epidural." Then I let it drop.

If you are asking me that question, I suggest two responses. "I love epidurals" or "Cool." I can highly recommend that you not go with ANY version of the following. "Oh, I had natural childbirth and I LOVED it!"

The thing is, no matter how you think you're coming across, I guarantee you that you sound smug. And judgey.

I'm not judging YOU. (I admit it's taken me several years to work through my own knee jerk reaction of "What is WRONG with you?" to your choice, but I honestly can say I respect it now. You know, instead of thinking you're certifiable.)

Anyway, I was saying, I'm not judging YOU and I don't want you judging ME. But natural childbirthers have a hard, hard time resisting that urge. I understand that it comes from your total happiness with your experience. I commend you for that. But you don't get a bigger halo when we die.

To be fair, we took Lamaze classes during my last pregnancy and I kept an open mind. I prolonged the epidural for hours (twelve) and it turns out I have a high pain threshold. I use a midwife instead of an OB because I prefer her more traditional approach to childbirth (and they're extremely low rate of C-section deliveries). I do think about these things and I'm not opposed to considering natural childbirth.

But I really, REALLY can't handle natural birthers telling me what to do when I'm pregnant. We each feel very differently about ejecting melon sized objects from our hoohahs and I don't want or need to defend my position to anyone. I have a family member (NOT YOU, Aunt Linda) who is especially pushy about this. Luckily, we are separated by enough distance that I can't easily drive over and beat her about her sanctimonious head and neck.

You know what I thought when I pushed my babies out after 24 hours of labor EACH? I thought, "You are beautiful and healthy and this is a magical moment." Is that really so different from anyone else's experience? (Um, I thought that after the initial startlement that the babies come out blue-ish and that it seems odd for medical professionals to be flinging them around with such abandon like they do, anyway.)

Listen to what I'm saying: I think it's great if you want to go the natural childbirth route. I understand the urge to deliver at home, or in a birthing suite, without drugs. I DO. I have considered it and will continue to consider it. BUT (and it's a huge pregnant butt) if I didn't ask for your opinion or advice, don't give it to me.

It is an intensely personal choice. We all know that. I have total faith in my ability to choose the right thing for my body and my baby. Anyone whose tone so much as hints at a certain disappointment in my choices is probably a family member who should feel very, very lucky that she's out of driving range.

P.S. I know some super cool chicks who have done the natural or home birth thing who are five miles past awesome and NOT judgey. If you are like that, then I'm not talking to YOU.


Shellie said...

my sister gave birth naturally because by the time we got to the hospital she was past the point of no return. it was the craziest thing I've ever seen and she screamed and cried the whole time. I was 19 at the time and swore epidural was the way to go after seeing that.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

This is a great post, Melanie. And it's applicable to more than just childbirth. Let's all just get over judging each other about stuff that does "not get you a bigger halo when you die," (LOVED that)... and even the halo-influencing stuff isn't OUR business either unless it directly affects us. So, well said, well written. Again.

InkMom said...

(I'm giving you a standing ovation right now.)

Yes! Yes! Now, maybe it's a southern thing, but hardly anyone out here actually goes THAT far when asking all the baby questions. But there is a difference between being willing to share your birth story and cramming your methods forcefully down my throat because you are ABSOLUTELY SURE that what you chose was the best possible scenario for every single mother on this earth. If my mom had chosen a home birth, all of you would be obliviously missing InkMom because I would not have been born alive. Come to think of it, I might still be gestating my twins if it weren't for the miracles of labor induction, and they're 4 years old now. Not a bigger halo! True! Not an automatic slot in the celestial kingdom! Not a guaranteed healthier baby! No bragging rights, because, seriously, 50 years ago, everyone did it your way.

I could go on, but it's your blog so I'll stop now.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

your post simply cracked me up.

I know exactly what you're talking about.

I had a natural birth. I don't usually talk about it b/c I'm embarrassed by how pushy people can be (I mean, like, fanatical!). I don't want to be associated w/ that.

First of all, I can't even imagine asking someone what way they plan on delivering! Is that any of my business??? So, so sorry you've had that rudeness shoved at you!

My sister was my coach with my delivery of my second (my first was an epidural) and she so enjoyed the process that she decided to try and go natural. She had her baby a week ago and ended up with an epidural. I know she was nervous that I'd think she hadn't measured up somehow. Wow! Didn't even cross my mind. Are you kidding? I was just so excited the baby was here safely and so disappointed that I live across the country and can't see him.

I'm an ambitious and vocal advocate that *all* vaginal births are natural. How can they not be?? you're pushing a baby out of your body! what's artificial about that??

Next time someone asks that question tell them you've found another method and you're not telling what it is.

MommyJ said...

Loved this post, Melanie. My twins were both breech, so they were delivered by c-section. My next baby, the doctor told me if I felt passionately about a VBAC, I would have to find another doctor because he wasn't willing to take the risk of my overstretched, full of scar tissue uterus rupturing. That was enough to convince me and I had another c-section. This pregnancy will also be a c-section. I'm sure there are probably women that would tell me I should try and deliver naturally, even with a history like that. And if they ever do, i will smile and nod and then consider them psycho as I walk away.

What it boils down to is no one benefits from a sanctimonious, high and mighty point of view. We are all women. We are all mothers. We are all amazing, no matter our method of delivery. C-section, epidural, natural.

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I was in labor 23 1/2 hours. No drugs until the end when I gave out. Does that make me cool? I think it makes me dumb and if I have another baby I'm getting an epidural. All the way. No delivery in a pool, no delivery in a meadow.

I had a mid-wife and I loved her natural approach, but I felt better being in a hospital where they could rush him to the NICU if they had to. They didn't, thank God.

Seriously, though...people are asking you that? Usually it's just: "Do you want a boy or a girl?" Like after I had Jonathan -- like the next week, people said: "So, are you going to try for a girl next?"


Emily said...


I'd like to leave it at that, but I must add my two cents.

Epidurals are god's gift to women.

I tried the whole natural childbirth thing with my first. Keep in mind, I also birthed her outside of the USA in a third world country.

Here's the thing, there is no gold metal in the end, and honestly, it doesn't make me less of a woman because I buckled under the pain and finally gave in after 20 FREAKING HOURS Of HARD LABOR.

That last part is not a joke. But that's how messed is was, thinking I was short changing myself if I had an epidural.

After I finally gave in, I wanted to kick myself in the pants for enduring so much pain.

After another 10 hours of bliss with an epidural, I ended up with a c-section anyway.

This was God's way of saying, "See! I told you so! Why must you do things the hard way!"

So, I've tried all three kids of deliveries, natural, epidural, and c-section, all with one child.

Get the dang epidural.

I only judge those natural child birth promoters who judge me.

When people ask me now I'm going to birth my baby, I just say, "Yeah, so, I having this kid on Monday. They are going to gut me like a deer and that's that."

Elizabeth Byler Younts said...

i love that you said they don't get a bigger halo! I AGREE and I'm with you. I love the idea of natural childbirth so much and think it's a wonderful thing when a woman is able to do it. BUT labors are all so different so if they judge me for not going natural 100% of teh way it's their fault...not mine.

Good luck w/ your pregnancy. :-) I love this post.

OH, I'm doing a story starter at my place w/ a cool photo... ;-) hope to see you stop by...

CaJoh said...

Good for you for defending your decision. Love the bigger halo line— well put.

I think that there are a lot of those types of people who tend to think that their way is the only way and everybody else is wrong. I see it with other things as well. I am my own person and make my own choices thank you very much.

Lara said...

I just don't get it. Why would you get an epidural? ;)

Actually, what I don't get is why it matters so intensely to so many women. I had my babies naturally, but my labors were all three extremely fast and I'm pretty sure if I'd had to go for 24 hours I would have been screaming for the epidural long before that. What I say is HURRAY FOR MODERN MEDICINE! Where we can all choose our choice and be happy with it personally. And know that if our choice doesn't work out that there are other options available to us.

In the end, all that matters is that there is a healthy baby and a healthy mom.

Jan said...

Let me add my AMEN! I'm grateful we live in a time of CHOICES, including the wonders of modern medicine. Even with our own ideas of what is "best" and what we want to do, sometimes Mother Nature/our bodies/babies/God has other plans. Like waking up in the night, 32 weeks pregnant and in full-on labor--all birthing "plans" were thrown out the window. All I wanted was a healthy baby and I didn't care what drugs, doctors or pain was involved.

Let's get off our high horses and give each other credit for doing an amazing thing by bringing children into this world--by whatever means we choose.

Kristina P. said...

First, loved that you used the word "hoohah" in your post as well.

And I totally get what you're saying. It's like it's a badge of honor if you go natural. I think it's CRAZY!!

DeNae said...

I always said, "Yes, I'm having an epidural. I want it administered some time during my seventh month of pregnancy and I want it right between the eyes."

That way, EVERYONE gets to feel smugly superior to me.

You're welcome.

Erin said...

I wanted the anesthesiologist to meet me in the parking lot when I went into labor with my first. He wouldn't.

But then labor was only 7 hours total (don't shoot me, please) and I decided I would wait as long as I could when I went into labor with my second one before getting an epidural.

So I got to the hospital, and I was already at a 6, and the midwife asked me if I was doing it natural or getting an epidural. I told her, "I want an epidural, but I want to wait until I can't stand it anymore." She said, "If you are choosing to get an epidural, why have hours of pain? Just do it now." Oh yeah! I don't need to endure the pain if I'm planning on it anyway. So I got the epidural and delivered 2 1/2 hours later (don't hate me please).

wonder woman said...

Awesome post. People are dumb for asking you such a personal question point blank.

#1 was induced, and I was set to go all natural. NOBODY TOLD ME that pitocin - epidural = excruciating pain, slowed labor, and an all around bad idea. I'm still mad at the nurse.

#2 I went into labor naturally, felt it all in my back because he was posterior, and got an epidural.

Instead of elaborating, I'll tuck this away in the draft box as a futur post.

Stephanie Faris said...

People are so freakin' RUDE!!! I can appreciate their views on it, but don't push them on other people. Sheesh. You know what Dear Abby's answer to rude questions always was? If they word it as, "Do you mind me asking if you're doing natural childbirth?" respond, "If you don't mind me not answering, I won't mind you asking."

I'd come up with some REALLY bizarre answer. Find the weirdest childbirth method possible and tell people that's what you're doing. Have some fun with it! Tell them you're trying a new method of birthing involving hanging upside down in a tree with Smucker's jelly spread on your stomach or something.

Annette Lyon said...

I could totally rant here, but you did such a great job, that I'll just say:


Amber Lynae said...

Thank you!!!! I had my little princess... only she wasn't little... she was 10 pounds 1 ounce. Was she a C-section? (I get asked that often.) NO, she came through my hoohah. Did I opt for drugs? You better believe it. Would I change that fact??? Nope.

The labor and delivery worked fine for me. I'm not saying natural is completely out of the option for me... but yeah I agree with You Melanie.... no judging.

Kazzy said...

I think all the way from conception to delivery is the most personal nine months a woman could ever have. Don't touch my belly. Don't ask how long we have been "trying". And don't butt in on the drugs/ no drugs. A simple congratulations is great.

Heather of the EO said...

Amen sister.

Ugh, this is why I wrote my Not Natural post after having c-sections. One of the comments cracked me up because it said Not natural? The baby came out right? If not, now THAT would be unnatural!

Or something close to that.

the MomBabe said...

The thing that drove me the most crazy is the assumption that I didn't WANT to try it naturally. Some of us didn't get a CHOICE about the way we gave birth. It was about keeping us and the babies ALIVE. So screw you and your sanctimonious attitude.

Carrie said...

I'm totally with you - I would LOVE to do natural childbirth, but I have a very LOW pain tolerance, so I'm keeping all my options open. And when you make those decisions in the middle of back labor and pitocin and not being allowed to walk around during WILL do what's right. I think you hit the nail on the head - there's nothing wrong with either kind of childbirth, but there is something wrong with judging it.

laura @ peacoat said...

i love this post! i'm 31 weeks pregnant and have gotten the same attitude with all kinds of questions. "How are you going to deliver?" or "Are you going to breastfeed?" or "Will the baby sleep in the bed with you?"

It is almost NEVER a well-meaning ask. There is always a judgment behind it.

This is my first child, so I'm already keeping a list of things I will never say, never do, or never ask in the future.

CountessLaurie said...

(hee hee hee, she said hoohah!)

I too love this post. If you could now reprint it with "breastfeeding" instead of "natural delivery" that would be great. I can't tell you how many women walk around with their huge halos because they breastfed, while Satan's got me on a list because I failed at that.

And I love everyone's comments! Thanks!!

Steph @Red Clay Diaries said...

I loved this! And the comments? Awesome.

I'm like Emily:
Wanted to do it the natural (or as I considered it then, the RIGHT) way.
Labored for 36 hours. Started REGRESSING.
(I had no idea that was possible.)
Finally gave in and got the epidural.
Labored longer, pushing for 3 hours.
Ended up with a c-section.

Three c-sections later... I agree with Heather of the EO: If the baby came OUT, that's natural enough for me.

Anna said...

Loved this post. My little group of close friends that hang out often each have very different birth experiences. Some have done natural and love it. Some of us have ended up needing to have c-sections. One of them had to do an emergency c-section.

The end result was all the same though. We all babies that we got to love and hold.

I agree with the breastfeed comment too. Again, we all have had different experiences with it or choosing to not do it. But all of our kids are growing and are healthy regardless of whether we did breasfeed or how long we choose to do it.

It is nice to have friends that are non-judgmental.

Eowyn said...

This post gets the "I read it to Kim over the phone this morning and we both laughed our heads off" award. Congratulations!!!

Been induced four times. Did the epidural four times. Wouldn't change a thing. I admire people who do natural, but it just hasn't happened for me.

P.S. Neither Kim nor I could possibly imagine that someone would ask such a question, but that's just us.

Tracy said...

Oooh, how about someone telling you that delivering naturally brings you closer to the Savior. I had never heard that one before this summer, and my oldest is a teenager. I told her I thought people who didn't use drugs were crazy and congratulated her for being more spiritual than me. :)

(I don't really think non-druggies are crazy...well, maybe a little...but crazy is in the eye of the beholder, don't you think? And besides, I'm not judging. Mostly, haha.)

Emma said...

thats right!

Fig said...

Fun post, but incidentally, it's also not fun to tell people you're planning natural and have them call you crazy, laugh at you, belittle you, etc.

This ain't no one-sided coin.

Jessica G. said...

I got a lengthy (and vehement) lecture from a near stranger about natural childbirth just after I announced my scheduled c-section. I tried to look thoughtful during the tirade (trying to imagine how brain matter would look in someone's perfectly coiffed hair after your head explodes really helps). When she paused long enough to take a breath, I very sweetly (no, seriously! I was trying to be nice!) told her that it is physically impossible for a child of mine to be born in the "traditional" sense. So unless I have a preemie or a baby with an abnormally small head, it simply cannot happen. And surely, she wouldn't want that, right?

I just love making people sputter.

LisAway said...

In Poland nobody asks that question because you don't get to choose. I am NOT a natural kind of girl (LOW pain threshold) but here I go for the third time in a row. . .

I come out of natural childbirth feeling guilty for striking such terror into the hearts of all the other women waiting for their babies to come with my much-louder-than-on-the-movies screaming. I mean really very guilty and embarrassed, and I should just be enjoying my baby and the relief of being done with the painful part.

I don't get the whole attitude. I have breastfed all my kids for the first year. I think it's wonderful. I also don't think everyone has to make the same decision as me. The way I figure, they're NOT me.