Before you start laughing in my face, just know that I already know what you’re thinking and, no, I’m not crazy. Everyone who has ever told you her awful birth story would have you believe that even labor with drugs isn’t always walk in the park, and so natural birth, to stick with the park metaphor, would be like getting held up at gunpoint in front of the sliding board.
Friends, strangers, and every TV show you’ve ever watched have done a good job of showing you that natural birth is the opposite of great. It’s long. It’s painful. It sucks. It makes you say mean things to your husband and contributes to you acting like a complete bi-otch to the nurse. It’s the last thing you ever want to willingly put yourself through. Why on earth would anyone have a baby without drugs? Hell, you’d skip the whole birth thing entirely if there were a different way to pop those kiddos out that didn’t involve showing your hoo-ha to a room full of medical students.
Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret that no one tells you, mostly because they don’t know it themselves. Are you ready? Natural birth is, in fact, awesome, and here’s why:
1. Instant recovery. After you give birth with drugs, you may feel a little disoriented, queasy or feverish. You’ll certainly be bedridden or wobbly for a while if you’ve had an epidural. But if you go au naturale, you will be up and walking your natural-birthing bad ass to the bathroom not long after the last push. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t feel like someone whacked you in the crotch with a baseball bat during that walk, but you are able to get out of bed and to the facilities all by your lonesome, which is especially nice if you were just spread-eagle in front of an entourage of hospital personnel for the good part of the last three hours. Your extended recovery over the next days and weeks will be no sweat, too (barring no other complications during delivery), which will make taking care of your new baby that much easier. But don’t let on that you’re feeling fantastic; you’ll want people to do your laundry and dishes for as long as possible, and helpers will be more willing if they think they’re really needed. Try adding a limp to your walk, or just waddle like you did while you were 9 months pregnant.
2. Birther’s high. Of course you’ve heard of a runner’s high (or if you’re not a runner, perhaps you’re familiar with….uhhh…other types of highs). I’m a runner — with one marathon and many half marathons under my belt, so I know the amazing feeling of finishing a run, sweat dripping down my face, heaviness in my tired legs. Whether it’s a flat, 2-mile route around my neighborhood or a hilly, 20-mile training session that crosses state lines, the extraordinary sensation of pride and accomplishment that streams out of your pores cannot be matched. Or so I thought. My birther’s high was very similar to my runner’s high when I crossed the finish line of my marathon, only it felt 100 times better. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible after completing my marathon, but achieving my goal of squeezing something the size of a watermelon out of a hole the size of a lemon — without drugs — totally changed that. This type of high lasts for weeks, and leaves you wanting to get knocked up again as soon as possible just so you can experience it one more time. Natural birth is like crack for your vagina. People think I’m kidding when I say that, and though I don’t have personal experience with crack, it’s gotta be true.
3. Super alert, nursing-like-a-champ baby. Should you choose to breastfeed, you are less likely to experience early breastfeeding hurdles if you avoided medication during labor. Your baby will come out with her eyes wide open, ready to look at this awesome specimen of a mommy that just got her through the birth canal like no other, with her mouth wide open, ready to wrap little wet lips around your areola. (I feel a little bit like I’m writing erotica right now, but I swear it’s not my intention; just go with it.) This isn’t to say that women who get drugs won’t be successful with breastfeeding; just that a baby who is drug-free at birth may have a tiny little baby leg up.
4. Bragging rights. Maybe this isn’t the right reason to have a natural birth, but it is a pretty cool byproduct. I especially love it when it comes up in conversation with someone who doesn’t already know that I’m a natural birth enthusiast. Because natural birth has become so rare in this country, it’s so unexpected and people are genuinely impressed. When I go on to say that I actually caught the baby myself (“You mean the doctor didn’t deliver her?!”), the crowd goes wild. Note: your natural birth story becomes more remarkable the longer you were in labor, the less time you spent at the hospital before the baby arrived, and the more the baby weighed at birth.
Are you committed to natural birth yet? No? That’s okay. It wasn’t my goal to convert you. I’m well aware of my pain-killer-loving sister mamas out there, and I’m happy that they have a clear plan for their births, even if it only involves an anesthesiologist and a nap. More power to them. I just hope their epidurals work!