Natural Childbirth, How Hard Could it Be?

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: MOTHERHOOD

I waited the better part of 39 years to become a mom, and there were many years when I didn’t think it would ever happen.  When I got that big fat positive on our first anniversary in November of 2015, I was so excited that it didn’t even seem real. 

I’ve watched enough TV over the years to know that when you go into labor, it’s very likely going to be during a snowstorm/power outage/alien invasion/traffic jam, and you might have to give birth without the help of an anesthesiologist, so it’s best to be prepared. Coupling that “fact” with my extreme aversion to having a needle stuck in my spine, I decided to prepare for a natural birth. I read every book and article on birth I could find. I googled enough weird pregnancy questions to affect internet algorithms and signed up for a Bradley method birthing class to study up.

As go-time got closer and closer, I was confident I could do this. I am, by nature, an optimist with an amazing ability to lie to myself about how hard something will actually be. I would often joke with actual moms by saying, “I mean, how hard could giving birth be, really?” And deep down in my little heart of hearts, I wasn’t joking. I believed I could do this. What surprised me was how hard it would be for the people around me to believe I could. 

WATCH OUT FOR THE DEBBY DOWNERS

My husband was not excited about the idea. He kept hoping I would change my mind and even joked about bribing the nurses to slip something in my IV. While some around me had hopeful encouragement, many others would come up with horror stories about birth that they always wanted to tell me. I finally started interrupting: “If this story ends badly, I can’t hear it.” 

One day several coworkers who have had children gathered around and began telling me I’d never make it, that I would beg for a shot the second that first contraction hit. “You’ll be so happy to see that anesthesiologist, you’ll ask him to marry you.”

After a while of this, another coworker no doubt took pity on my panicked face and assured me if it was what I wanted, it would probably be just fine and changed the subject. Still, those words stuck with me the rest of pregnancy, solidifying my resolve. After all, getting an epidural now was basically losing an argument, right?

Despite my adorable tenacity, there really is no reason that I should have been successful with natural childbirth. I do have a high pain tolerance, but I am overweight, out of shape, and not a youngster, turning 40 a few months after becoming a mom for the first time. I was not limber or good at yoga or even kegels. 

It did help that from the first contraction to my son bursting onto the scene with his characteristic flair, no more than seven hours passed, and that he was a healthy, robust 5 pound 14 ounce baby. Could I have held on if it was one of those 24-hour labors moms like to tell you about? I’m not sure. But I had good support where it counted. My husband was wonderful throughout every stage, from my seasick first trimester to my son’s first diaper, and beyond. I can’t imagine how hard it is to watch someone you love intentionally go through such a painful experience. 

ONE BAD MOTHER, IN THE BEST SENSE

In the end, you do what is best to get the baby here. In my case, things lined up well for a healthy, natural birth. I count myself lucky to have succeeded at a lifelong goal. I firmly believe pregnancy and childbirth are the most hardcore thing a human can do, and no matter how you present your child to the world – natural, medicated, C-section – you have done an amazing thing, and never let anyone tell you differently. 

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