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A little less than a year ago, my best friend had a baby, which made me painfully aware that my own biological clock was ticking away. Being the research hound that I am, I began making weekly trips to the library, bringing home every book on pregnancy and childbirth I could ﬁnd. I came across Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. I had heard about the Bradley Method from a cable television show called “A Baby Story.” Curious, I took the book home. This book was the turning point for me, as I haven’t viewed childbirth the same since.
I had always assumed I would have a conventional birth—hospital, epidural, IV, legs in stirrups, episiotomy, and baby tucked nicely (and quietly) away in the nursery once born. Every woman I knew had had her baby this way, so why should I be any different? And who on earth would
voluntarily put herself through all that pain? After reading the McCutcheon book, I began to wonder if maybe there isn’t a better way—maybe I could give birth naturally, unmedicated, and with as few interventions as possible.
Admittedly, I was still skeptical. All the usual visions of childbirth were still ingrained in my head, and I was afraid of what might happen if I put myself in the position of not being able to have access to all the technology should I need it. I decided that I would try to have a natural, unmedicated childbirth, via the Bradley Method, in a hospital—but not be totally closed to the idea of pain relief. Best of both worlds, I thought.
The next books I read were Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley (the founder of the Bradley Method™), and The Birth Book by Dr. William Sears. These two books were also pivotal points in my transformation, in that the more I read, the more I came to the realization that my dream of having the best of both worlds would more than likely not come true. Simple statistics show that by walking into a hospital you are upping your chances of being subjected to routine hospital policies and time limits, invasive procedures, and about 30 percent of the time, a surgical delivery via cesarean section. The conditions a laboring woman is expected to endure in a hospital are simply not conducive to achieving a natural, unmedicated childbirth.
The more research I did, the angrier I became at the obstetrical field in general, not only for unnecessarily tampering with something that was created perfectly by God, but for robbing countless women of their inherent right to give birth to their babies.
I am so saddened by story after story of completely healthy women with completely normal pregnancies being made to feel that their bodies do not know how to operate properly. Failure to progress is one of the most common reasons doctors give for initiating a c-section. Have you ever known a woman to be stuck at seven centimeters forever? To be in labor forever? Or to be pregnant forever? Who on earth do these doctors think they are kidding! Why won’t they acknowledge that nature progresses at its own pace, not according to a textbook, and certainly not according to any hospital schedule!
After reading these books, I made my decision ﬁnal. I wanted to have a natural birth, the way God designed it, with no drugs and no interventions unless absolutely necessary. I could not have such a birth in a hospital environment. I knew I’d made the right decision. Convincing my family, however, was going to be another story.
My husband, Randy, was a little nervous about embarking on a tremendous unknown without the beneﬁt of close-by technology. However, he totally trusted that I had done enough research on the subject and told me that if I felt comfortable with my choice, he would support me. After taking a little time to get used to the idea, he totally agreed with me. My mother was another story. When I told her my plans, she freaked out. I wasn’t quite prepared for her reaction but should have expected it, considering that when she gave birth it was quite common for a woman to be totally anesthetized. For weeks she questioned me about every aspect of my choice, but ﬁnally she said she would support me. Showing her the books I’d read as well as sharing the statistics helped a lot. The others in my family have been totally supportive. In fact, I learned a neat bit of family history when sharing the news with my family. My grandmother informed me that my great-grandmother was a midwife!
When I talk about childbirth with my friends, they look at me in fear. They ask if I am really going to try to give birth unmedicated, as if I am some freak of nature for wanting to do so. They tell me I am brave. But I don’t believe my choice has anything to do with bravery. Ask me if I am scared, and I will tell you yes. Even though I am not yet pregnant, I am scared of putting myself in the position of having to handle something that I don’t have the ﬁrst clue about. I am afraid that I might not be able to manage the labor, and I am afraid that some unforeseen emergency might occur. God made my body to handle the job of childbearing perfectly, however, and knowing this, I am more afraid of what might happen to me if I surrender myself to the care of a hospital and an obstetrician.
A friend of mine had a baby a little over a month ago. She’d eaten well and exercised regularly, and she’d gained 37 pounds, which according to the standard, is just about perfect. Hers was the epitome of a healthy pregnancy. When her labor started on a Sunday night, she told me she had
thought, “okay . . . here we go!” Her contractions stopped the next morning. That afternoon, the contractions started back up, but they were sporadic and not very strong. This lasted into the night. About 7 o’clock that Tuesday morning, her water broke. Even though her contractions were still sporadic, she and her husband decided to head to the hospital around 11 a.m. on the advice of the nurse that was on duty. Once at the hospital, my friend wanted an epidural because she had not been able to rest at home. However, since her cervical dilation hadn’t even reached four centimeters, the nurse gave her Demerol, which necessitated an IV. Demerol only made her feel dizzy and out of it, and ﬁnally she was able to get her epidural. Because the epidural slowed her labor as normally occurs, the doctor decided to administer Pitocin (also common) to get labor started again. Finally, around 5:30 the next morning, even though her cervix had dilated to nine centimeters, the doctor decided to do a c-section.
I didn’t understand the decision then, and I don’t understand it now. From my point of view, my friend had her right to birth her baby stolen from her, and that makes me mad. And it angers me even more that her chances are lessened of ever being able to give birth the natural way. That’s not to say that natural birth will be impossible for her in the future. But next time, it will be even more difﬁcult.
And here’s what saddens me the most. She told me before she had the baby that she was going to try to give birth unmedicated, because she believed it was the best way. She told me that she was scared to have her baby with a midwife in case of an emergency, and that if she could make it through the ﬁrst birth with no drugs, she would have her second baby at home. She thought, like I thought in the beginning, that she could have the best of both worlds. But this didn’t happen. Unfortunately, it rarely ever happens.
So, yes, I am scared, but not necessarily of the pain or the possibility of an emergency. Instead, I am terriﬁed of having my right to birth ripped from me, and that after nine long months of taking care of my unborn baby and myself, some doctor or on-call nurse will deem my pelvis too small or my labor too long. Most importantly, I am scared of being reduced to being a patient in a hospital, rather than being a strong mother gloriously giving birth the way God intended it.
Christy Rogers is a veterinary technician living in Texas. As of this writing she has been married for two years and is trying to get pregnant.