Who has more babies than Mormons or Catholics? Nobody, right? So you’d think we’d have learned a few lessons by now. But no. In wards across the world, you still see women arguing about birthing methods.
Hello? Isn’t this a rather private choice? Shouldn’t we butt out of others’ decisions when it comes to home births, midwives, hospitals, anesthetic, natural methods, nursing, bottle-feeding, and so on?
Why are we so passionate that our choice is the right one for everybody else? Usually this kind of fervor is only found in the insecure and doubtful, those who “protest too much” because they secretly wonder if they did the right thing.
I’ll tell you where I stand on this. I had my first gigantic baby naturally, and he was turned posterior (face up), and I was given Pitocin to strengthen the contractions, which went on in screaming intensity for 36 hours. I thought I would die and then thought I wouldn’t. Amazingly I had my next giant baby natural as well. But the third time I told my doctor to write, THIS WOMAN WANTS DRUGS in red ink across my chart. Same instructions for Baby Number Four.
When I got to the hospital and they said they’d be using Pitocin to make the contractions just a bit stronger, I forced a smile and said no. We will be putting in the epidural FIRST, and then dripping in that medication which, like Voldemort, should not be named, and which makes you feel like you are giving birth to a Mack Truck in high gear.
You could say I learned a thing or two with the first deliveries. I reminded them that I am the one paying the bill, so even though it appears that I’m not actually in charge, I actually am. So when the epidural kicks in, then you can give me Pitocin.
I also refused to attend a class that teaches you how to breathe. Sorry, but even I could see that one coming.
“But don’t you feel that caving in and having medication will mean you’ve failed?” a naïve sister asked me, playing the guilt card.
“No,” I said. “I will finally have the energy to hold my new baby. And when our kids are teenagers, then we can worry about failing. And we might even have the added bonus of being right.”
I do recall a birth preparation class where the instructor drew three little happy faces on a chalkboard, to illustrate the stages of labor. The first one was smiling, as the woman realizes her nine months of waiting are over. The second one has a straight mouth because the woman realizes she has little to smile about during contractions. The third face depicted labor after “transition” when baby brings out the big guns. This face wore a frown. Someone should have made it a bit more accurate by drawing tiny Xs for the eyes, and a limp tongue hanging out of the mouth.
Advocates of natural and at-home births will find my cavalier attitude about anesthesia shocking. I find it a brilliant escape from peer pressure. And studies show the drugs don’t enter the baby, either. What it does is make the experience beautiful instead of gut-wrenching. For me. Maybe not for you.
I will tell you this, though. It was not great news to me when my O.B. announced that since I wasn’t progressing very fast, he was going to go and get his Porsche worked on.
He was not kidding.
I grabbed my husband, Bob, by the collar and told him in no uncertain terms that he was riding along and making sure the doctor came back quickly. No stopping off for a donut or some dry cleaning. Sheesh!
I have friends who’ve had perfectly healthy babies at home. I’ve had others who’ve encountered complications with that plan, and dashed off to the hospital at the last minute in an ambulance. I even have a friend who has delivered three babies and has never once had a labor pain. Never. The way she knows she’s having a baby is that it starts pushing out into the daylight.
And nursing experiences can vary just as much as labor experiences. Some love it, some hate it, some find it easy and cozy and some are beset with nothing but one episode of mastitis after another. I found it different with every child. And get this: One of them would only nurse on the left side! Even when I turned her like a football and held her under my arm, she wouldn’t be fooled. So I walked around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame for six months, whose hump had slipped around to my chest! Or like some forgetful woman who’s had a mastectomy and forgot to put in both prostheses! And people wonder why I write comedy.
The point is this: Nobody else’s choice matters. Your birth method and your nursing choice are almost unimportant in the grand scheme of things. What really matters is raising the child, not birthing it! Instead of reading medical books we should be reading the scriptures and parenting books. We need to pull together in unity as sisters and celebrate the fact that another darling little spirit is joining us, and how can we help one another with the task of mothering it?
Do you think Jesus would have a strong opinion about a birth method, and focus solely on that instead of the commandments that will bring us home again? Do you think he wants us, as sisters, to be arguing about having anesthetic or not?
We shouldn’t be splintered and sidetracked by such ridiculous issues as how someone’s going to deal with labor or feed her child. Let’s applaud one another, get past “the event” and on to the task of helping these spirits conquer Satan and rise triumphant in the first resurrection. Bringing a new baby into the world is exciting, no matter how it’s done. Let’s give each other high fives more often. Same for adoptive parents.
And let’s all look forward to earning our way back home to the highest kingdom, where we can have kids painlessly. At least, that’s the rumor, and I’m sticking to it.