Friday, January 15, 2010

Power in Birth

For me choosing unmedicated birth is partially a matter of control. When I was in labor with my first child I felt completely out of control, helpless. The hospital staff were telling me what I should do, and since I didn't know I had other options, I fearfully complied. I gave in to the epidural because I felt I had no other choice, and I couldn't handle the pain in those circumstances. I felt I had somehow failed for giving in, but I couldn't see how I could have done any differently.

The more I learned and the more support I sought, the more I was able to claim my own power and take control of my birth experiences. I feel powerful when I give birth without medication. I would rather feel everything, from the most intense pain to the unbelievable ecstasy of birth, than to be numb to the whole experience. There's nothing that compares to it, and being able to master the kind of control you have in birth is a monumental accomplishment. It's a beautiful balance of control and submission, and once you experience that you are never the same person again.

Birth has also been very faith-promoting for me, as I put my faith in God, and He is the one I trust to guide me in the process of working with my body and my baby. It's not about pain.


  1. Just wondering what inspired you to write this very thought-provoking post. It's interesting to stop and think about motives and personal perceptions.

    Thank you!

  2. I wrote this as a response to a question posted on a pregnancy/birth website. Women were sharing their thoughts on why they chose unmedicated birth.

  3. The question had something to do with the notion that women who choose natural childbirth are choosing to feel pain. I don't know whether the control/power concept applies to every woman, but I've realized that it played a part in my decision to have a natural birth.

  4. Lovely, thanks for sharing!

    I agree that I certainly felt a closeness with God as I had my un-medicated birth. I felt His power sustaining me as I birthed my baby. It was pretty amazing.

  5. nothing wrong with taking the epidural.. its still an empowering experience with or without it

  6. Anonymous, I don't think epidurals are wrong. They carry risks, which should be disclosed when the option is presented. For me personally the epidural was not what I wanted, and I felt I failed in some way when I got it. Not every woman feels this way, and many women want an epidural and are happy with it. Others choose it and have bad experiences with unwanted side effects like rash, fever, prolonged labor, sudden blood pressure drop, etc. I'm not saying it's bad, but that women should know what the possible risks are so they can make informed choices.

    Penny Simkin did a long term study on how birth experience affects a woman for the rest of her life. The study spanned about 20 years, and found that regardless of the method of delivery (medicated, unmedicated, cesarean, vaginal birth, forceps, etc.) it was the woman's perception of the experience that determined whether or not she was happy with it. Women who felt supported and in control of their birth were happy with the experience, no matter what their choices were.

    The key element for me with my first birth was that I did NOT want medication and got to a point that I felt I couldn't do without it. It was disappointing and disempowering, especially with the way the hospital staff mostly dictated to me what should be done. I felt it wasn't my choice, and I felt out of control in the situation. I went on to have unmedicated births later, and have discovered that inner strength in myself that I failed to find with my first birth.