With my first child, I was naïve and stubborn in that I felt very decided in the ‘right’ way to give birth. Probably attributed to watching ‘Business of Being Born’ one too many times. However, while that thinking was close-minded, I do strongly believe that we need to recognize the birth process for women as equally important as the final outcome of holding that baby in your arms.
Our bodies are designed to do crazy, amazing things and childbirth is easily one of the most remarkable. The birth process, whether euphoric or frightening, will have a lasting effect on the mother.
Last year, my husband, Aaron did a marathon- all 26.2 miles. He trained for months on end. A twenty mile training run? No, thank you! BUT runners know that they need to prepare their bodies through exercise, proper diet, and sleep. They hire trainers or join fitness groups. They prepare their minds through visualization and motivating verses or sayings. And on race day, runners work through physical pain as they push their body to keep going. They overcome mental obstacles and fight through. On the day of my husband’s marathon, I drove from viewing station to viewing station to cheer him on through the process. When he crossed that finish line, there were tears and rejoicing in knowing everything that he triumphed over to complete the race.
Why do the majority of women NOT prepare for birth in a similar manner? There is often so much fear surrounding birth - whether it’s anticipating the birth of a first child or the mother had a traumatizing birth experience with another child. There is fear of pain, fear of the outcome (‘can I do this?’). Women need to prepare their bodies and mind throughout pregnancy. They need a trainer- usually a husband- to coach and cheer them, especially on ‘race day.’
Aaron and I were introduced to the Bradley Method approach to natural childbirth at the beginning of my first pregnancy. This approach was attractive, especially to Aaron, because it included him as ‘Coach’ throughout the entire pregnancy and birth. The book we learned from has practice exercises and encourages visualization for contractions and labor. It instructs both the mother and coach in what to do on both physical and mental levels. Training. Preparation. Not only did it allow me to become knowledgeable but it also gave me confidence in my body, my baby and the birthing process that God created.
Given that our bodies are created for such a phenomenon, I do advocate the natural birth experience. I understand that it’s painful and grueling. But so is running a marathon. With practice and preparation, ‘race day’ becomes less of a surprise for both mom and coach. Even if a ‘detour’ is medically necessary, it is important that the mother (and coach) have educated themselves and have a voice.
Both of my births have been in a hospital, where choosing a natural birth was an uncommon occurrence to many of my nurses. It was necessary to advocate for myself more than I would have had to do at a birth center. While not everything went according to ‘my plan’ it was so important that I had a voice and also felt like I had a choice. Aaron was an incredible coach for both births and I do not think that I would have been able to do it without him. The birth experiences of our children reach a depth of emotion that neither of us had ever known was possible. And crossing the finish line justified all the toil and pain. An exhilarating accomplishment that is so personal…and so universal.