Last year, when I was pregnant, one question I was frequently asked by friends, colleagues, and even strangers was, "Are you going to have a natural birth?".
I could tell that some of them were just asking in a roundabout way, "are you going to have an epidural?". Depending on my mood, I would give one of two answers: "I will try to hold out from an epidural as long as possible" and "I will give up pain-free pregnancy right after I give up pain-free dentistry." The others were really asking, "Are you going to have a midwife and give birth at home?" To which I would answer, "I feel more comfortable giving birth at the hospital."
The real question behind the question was this "How committed are you to having birth with as little medical intervention as possible?"
There are many people feel that the act of "naturally" giving birth is under seige from the medical profession who unduly pressure women to induce their pregnancies, have epidurals, and have C-sections.
Most of my friends with kids had C-sections.
I had a C-section. Here's the abbreviated birth story:
- my water broke before the contractions were noticeable
- I knew that would only be given a short window of time for a 'natural' birth to kick in because my 'broken water' carried a significant risk of infection. So I took up the offer to be induced
- I was offerred an epidural before the contractions really kicked so I could get some sleep. I chose the epidural. I went to sleep.
- The contractions did pick up but the baby's heart beat was showing distress with each contraction. Rather than have the baby's heart rate rise and fall for possibly several hours, I was offered a C-section and I accepted it
- My new boy emerged healthy. I had a pain free pregnany and I recovered quickly.
I was not coerced or pressued into any of these decisions (although some nurses did praise me for making 'the right choice' after I had done so). Was I duped? Why was my birth just another number added to the growing amount of C-section births in Canada, the US, and beyond?
I never had a good answer to these questions, that is, until now. I have finally found an article in the latest New Yorker that gives the best response I've found to this brave new world of childbirth: The Score: How childbirth went industrial by Atul Gawande. Its brilliant.