Childbirth is inarguably one of — if not thee — most empowering and awe-inspiring moments in a woman’s life. By the time most women birth a baby, they realize that this is a true testament to womanhood. It’s not just about raising a child and fulfilling a biological imperative. Rather, it’s a spiritual movement into a new area in her life that she’s never experienced before.
Still, birth can also be scary. Though, usually the scary part is the uncertainty that precedes it. It is the fear of the unknown that is so terrifying. Women don’t know what to expect. Part of that is because we aren’t giving them an accurate picture. We are lying to women and trying to instill fear in a time and place where it doesn’t naturally belong.
The media presents birth as a horrific and painful experience that all women should jump at the chance to check out on. The doctors make it sound routine and uneventful, yet demanding of interventions. Our friends can make it sound like a rite of passage that is amazing, but try to point out that our birth experience will never measure up to their own. Sigh!
What are women to do in a climate that is continually lying to them about what birth is really like? Where can women turn to hear the truth? The good, the bad and the ugly, per se. Should we sugarcoat reality into something more presentable, or can the future mothers of the world handle the raw emotion that comes with this otherworldly experience? Let’s find out.
15 Best: A Rite Of Passage
Without a doubt, the best part of birth is embarking on the rite of passage that hundreds of thousands of women before us have gone on. We get to endure the pain of childbirth. Yes, we get to. It’s a blessing, not a curse. As more women are embracing natural childbirth, more are finding this to be true.
Still, a birth with medication is a birth nonetheless. It is a miraculous thing to be able to feel that baby move down within our bodies, though. As we push our little ones out into the world — often effortlessly due to the fetal ejection reflex — we become part of our past. We become one with our female ancestors, and also one with the women who lie in front of us.
A rite of passage indeed, birth is the most tremendous and spiritual journey a person can ever go on. Sorry guys, you miss out on this one. It is the beginning of new life and the most meaningful thing we will ever experience.
14 Worst: Everyone Else’s Rite Of Passage
Of course, there’s a flipside to labor and childbirth. Just as those women are going through that journey and accomplishing the most painful feat on Earth, they are earning their stripes and some of them will succumb to the pride that comes in tow with that. In other words, they’ll throw it in your face that they birthed this way or that way and some of them will try to make you feel like you may not be able to do it.
First and foremost, we should keep in mind that we are all on a bigger journey in life and that sometimes pride and ego get in the way of our spiritual growth and evolution. The thing is, sometimes our intentions aren’t conveyed well when we share our birth stories. Some women may feel like their birth didn’t go the way they had planned, and so they might feel resentful of other women getting the chance to birth in that way.
For instance, mothers in natural birth communities are often mocked and ridiculed for their choice to attempt a natural birth without pain medication. They are routinely told by friends and family that they won’t be able to do it. It is this kind of behavior that makes birth experience the absolute worst! Try not to let everyone else get in your head — least of all while you’re laboring!
13 Best: All The Love
One of the most important roles in a quality birth experience is support. Sure, the unassisted birth moms are badass, but most of us are willing to acknowledge that we need a little help in the labor and delivery ward. For centuries, women in labor have had other women by their side to hold their hand, distract them, encourage them, and back them as they birth their children.
For a while there, we got off track. Women were led astray by men into a world of medicalized birth that required no extra help. Women were strapped to beds during labor and forced to endure the pain on their backs. They weren’t even allowed to be accompanied by the baby’s father.
Today, it’s a whole new world and one in which women can exercise choice even in the face of medial adversity. From doulas and birth partners to best friends and grandmothers, everyone will be there cheering you along.
12 Worst: Lack Of Support
Of course, there’s a downside to this glorious world that is filled with joyful support. It happens when women aren’t so prepared for labor. Sometimes, this occurs with preterm birth because mom has yet to take the steps to prepare herself thinking she had more time.
In other instances, Dad is a military man and overseas for the birth or, a doula wasn’t an expense the couple could afford and Mom ends up regretting it after a painful birth that doesn’t go the way she intended.
Whatever the circumstances, understand that a birth which produces a healthy baby and mother is never a failure. Most of the time, Mom can go on and experience future births from which she learned from her past mistakes. She can be more informed on her right to choose. She will have learned that VBACs are her saving grace.
Women who do feel unsupported during labor are more likely to suffer from birth trauma-related issues postpartum. We encourage these women to speak up. Don’t be afraid to seek help. It is normal to grieve the loss of the birth you wanted.
11 Best: Mom's Body Is Doing Its Job
It’s normal to get a little nervous as labor approaches. We wonder a lot if it will. As that due date comes and goes, women get anxious that they will be one of those women who don’t go into labor on their own. Pause right there. Those women virtually do not exist. You heard me right. There is no such thing as a woman that stays pregnant forever.
There are, however, doctors who push interventions on women too soon thereby robbing them of the experience of going into labor naturally and the making them feel like their body failed them. Had they just waited things out, they would’ve learned otherwise.
Stepping back and allowing a woman’s body to do its job is one of the kindest and most medically-supportive things a doctor can do for their prenatal patient. These women need that experience to let them trust the birth process. The more we keep inducing women before they even have that chance, the more women as a whole stop trusting their bodies and birth. That’s the goal of the medical establishment, though.
So, when your body does go into labor, it’s a magnificent feeling that everything is working in tune the way nature intended it to. You are going to birth a child from your womb that you’ve carried for nine, or seemingly ten, long months. It’s something to celebrate, and cherish.
10 Worst: Those Damn Contractions
Just when you thought we were going to paint a rose-colored image of childbirth as though there is nothing bad about it, we surprise you. There is enough support to go around here. We want to hold up those women who are pursuing natural births and encourage them to drown out the sounds of naysayers who tell them they won’t be able to do it.
On the flipside, we want to hold up the women who choose medicated births, too. It’s not a competition.
What do all of these women have in common? They will experience some pain. And yes, that pain sucks. But it’s pain with a purpose. It’s pain that is caused by progression. Every contraction is doing a job. Each time you feel your body wanting to tense up is a reminder to let go and do the opposite. Whatever you have to do to get through it is your business.
9 Best: Feeling That Baby Move Down
Yes, those contractions are doing an important job, and that job is to move that baby down into the pelvis and out through the birth canal. Contractions squeeze the uterus tightly and encourage the baby and the placenta to make their grand exit. With them comes a tremendous surge of hormones that envelope the mother in love, confidence and a maternal high that can last as long as you allow it.
A lot of women are unaware, perhaps because so many are numb during birth, that you can actually feel the movement of the baby descending through the body. It is an amazing feeling that can’t be described by words, but must be felt by the mother who is allowing Mother Nature to take over her body in order to fulfill its divine purpose.
In trying to put it into words, all I can say is that it’s otherworldly. It’s kind of like… magic.
8 Worst: Back Labor
If contraction pain wasn’t severe enough, some women have to struggle with back labor during childbirth. Most of the time, this is caused by one of two things. Sometimes, it’s due to women laboring on their back in general. This is an easy fix. Get up and get moving. The longer you are laying on your back in a bed, the more likely your labor will longer and more painful. That’s truly how it works.
The second reason for back labor isn’t such an easy fix, though. Posterior babies — sometimes referred to as sunny side up babies — are those which are born with their backs facing Mom’s back and their face looking up at the world.
Not only does this make for more intense back pain, but it also makes pushing a bit tougher and crowning somewhat more painful, since the baby’s head is coming out at a wider angle. No worries, though. Women do it all the time.
7 Best: Natural Births
Before we get off on the wrong foot, let’s preface with the statement that this in no way is meant to attack moms who haven’t given birth vaginally. But, we think that even if you have had to have Cesareans, you can likely admit that a vaginal birth is still the way nature intended and a better overall experience.
Very few women actually want a C-section, and those who do are often afraid of vaginal birth. Instead of fear, we want to encourage moms to empower themselves with knowledge and trust the birth process and their bodies not to lead them astray.
Vaginal birth is indeed the way birth was supposed to happen. That isn’t to say that interventions aren’t necessary sometimes. But they are over-used and employed far too often when not really needed just to suit other agendas. There is nothing more gratifying than accomplishing the task of birthing your child the way women have been doing for centuries before you. It somehow unites us all in this massive sisterhood that no man can break.
6 Worst: When Things Don’t Go As Planned
Other induction methods, such as using Cervadil and Foley bulbs are considered a little safer than Pitocin, but they aren’t without risks. Artificial rupturing of the membranes should always be avoided when possible since it ups the risk of infection and makes it mandatory that a baby be delivered in another manner if the labor doesn’t take.
Whereas, with something like Pitocin, the meds can be turned off and Mom can return again the next day to try for a second time. In other cases, a Mom may need to have a Cesarean to get her baby Earth side. These are both alarming and often emotionally painful experiences for mothers.
They frequently end up feeling like they didn’t really go through birth — especially when it’s a scheduled C-section. They also might struggle to connect with their babies postpartum. C-section moms are Research shows that Cesareans disrupt the natural flow of oxytocin in the mother, which can impair the mother-child bond after birth.
It’s no secret that a large part of the concept of birth trauma evolves from Cesareans, but women can suffer these side effects even from vaginal births. As many as 6 percent of mothers suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder following birth.
5 Best: Mom Will Have Tons Of Energy On That Post-Birth High
Let’s get back to the good news: that postpartum trip you’ll take with your baby up above on cloud nine where absolutely nothing can kill your mood. Look forward to it. Revel in it. It won’t last forever, but it is an amazing experience and one that all moms should be given time to indulge in.
In fact, it is for this reason and others that many couples are now pushing pause of visitors when they have their babies. It’s not uncommon anymore to find out a friend’s baby was born several days after it’s happened. Not everyone rushes to social media to give the whole world play-by-plays of the labor experience. Instead, parents are capitalizing on those first hours and days alone with their newborns, and we think it’s really sweet.
While the rest of your family is thrilled to share in your experience, remember that is it your experience, not theirs. It’s a time for you to connect to your baby, rest and recover from birth, and work on breastfeeding and adjusting to life as a new person — a parent. Ride the wave, uninterrupted if you choose.
4 Worst: Mom Gets No Sleep!
Alright, this one only really applies to women who birth at hospitals or some birthing centers. If you’ve given birth at a hospital before, you know just what I’m talking about. There’s a lot of fuss surrounding hospital births. The nurses will want to introduce themselves each time a shift changes.
You’ll be subjected to a ridiculous amount of monitoring, because doctors think all women who give birth require medical care. The baby will undergo blood tests and lots of observation for urination and bowel movements, as well as nursing.
In short, don’t expect to get much rest after you’re given birth anywhere but at home — where you may or may not get much rest either depending on who you’ve got around to help out. At two in the morning after a 24-hour labor, the first thing you might want to do is nap with your newborn. But the hospital has forms they need you to sign and abdominal pressure to apply. If you think they won’t interrupt you in the wee hours to get it all done, think again.
3 Best: Transition To Motherhood
You’re about to be a mother. There is no reward in life greater than this. While you’ve been nesting and building a home for this baby for nine months, it all amounts to the penultimate moment of crowning when you welcome your child into the world. This single moment will change every life that it touches. It really is a big deal, no matter how often it happens.
The transition to motherhood is full of emotions. Fortunately, most of them are good, but they can be overwhelming. Moms who need help need to ask for it, period. There’s no shame in that. For centuries, women worked together in a sisterhood that supported one another when a new baby came along. Women from their village would come in droves to support the new mother.
This doesn’t happen as much today as we need it to. Start your own trend. Be there for your friends when they are new mothers and ask for the same in return. Be a part of the movement to bring birth and motherhood full circle with the sisterhood again. Trust that you have instincts that will guide you along the way. It truly is a beautiful process.
2 Worst: Transition In Labor
Speaking of transition, before you get to that glorious moment when your son or daughter is crowning and the worst is almost over, you have to get through the worst part that is just beginning. Transition is difficult. Transition is the latest stage in labor that takes a woman from 7 centimeters dilated to full dilation.
It is during active labor that the majority of women opt for pain medication. For this reason, a lot of them never actually experience the sensations of transition. So, they are ill-equipped on discussing it. For that reason, make sure you ask your well-meaning friends just how far along they were before they got that epidural before you take their comments to heart.
Know this: transition is also usually the fastest stage during labor. The majority of women will progress through those last few centimeters rather quickly compared to the rest of their labor. It is active labor that can wane on and on. In other words, although those contractions during transition take your breath away and make you lose the ability to communicate momentarily, they are a sign that the best is yet to come.
1 Best: Crowning Glory
You’ve done it. Not only are you a mother now, but you can say with pride that you birthed your baby. You worked with those contractions to get that little bundle of joy down, out and into your arms. You may hear a lot of women say crowning is the best part of labor. When you get there yourself and feel the intense ring of fire that emerges from down below, you might question why they all lied to you.
Here this well. Crowning does hurt almost all of the time. Think about it. This is the peak of time when your body is stretched to maximum capacity during birth. Of course it comes with pain, but again, that pain has a purpose. As soon as this part is over — which can be in as little as a handful of pushes — all of that pain will subside.
Everything you’ve endured up until this point is something you’ve accomplished, and it’s all behind you now.
The worst of it is over and it is in this moment that you get to relish everything you have worked for. You will surely be caught up in the moment and trying with all of your might to birth that baby. At the same time, take a moment to freeze-frame this in your mind and remember the instant that you met your child.
It’s over in the blink of an eye, and believe it or not, some of us are wishing we could do it all over again before the first day is up. Birth is that beautiful.
Sources: WebMD, VBAC