As people have inquired about my birth wishes, I’ve told them I’m hoping for a drug-free childbirth. Reactions have ranged from “good for you!” and “mine was awesome!’ to “you don’t get a medal” and “why on earth would you want to do that!?”
The best analogy I have come up with is to compare childbirth to running in a race*. No matter what kind of race you might have ran, biked, swam, etc, there’s really nothing pleasant about the final stretch of a race. It’s uncomfortable. It HURTS. At times you want to give up. But you don’t. Why not? Determination for the finish line, for the PR, for the endorphins, for the experience. I’ve seen several lightbulbs go off when I bring this analogy up to those who seem to be opposed to wanting to experience labor without drugs.
*Please note I realize that the level of pain might be a bit more extreme in childbirth : )
While there are certainly people who have no desire to run a race, I feel there are far more people who fear childbirth – especially a drug-free childbirth – than people who fear running as fast as you can. Perhaps the unpredictability, length or medical intervention potential are what makes childbirth more scary – but those unknowns also come with racing. You can train for months for a marathon and just have a bad race. You can get injured, sick or find that you just have to stop and walk because the course is hard and it takes much longer than anticipated. I guess another major difference is that you can’t really just stop and walk during childbirth – once it’s on it’s on.
Like racing, childbirth requires some training (although like racing you can certainly go in without any!). It requires thinking about fuel and hydration. And it commands mental concentration, and determination.
I’ve prepared myself mentally and physically for this athletic event ahead in several ways, and I plan to fuel myself much like I would a race – with dates, coconut water, toast with peanut butter and a support crew on the sidelines. I would never expect to perform well in a long race without proper fuel and hydration, so I expect childbirth will be similar – a very long taxing physical process. Luckily doctors are now realizing this and the ban on anything but ice chips has lifted at my hospital.
Just like childbirth options, we all have different race preferences:
Some people like short + fast 5Ks
Others love steady half marathons
Then there are triathletes, ultramarathoners and Ironpeople.
No one criticizes a 5Ker for her distance or an Ironperson for her speed. The races are different styles. Similarly, if you want to feel everything during your birth or want to minimize sensation as much as possible, there shouldn’t be judgment. What matters most to one person might be of least importance to another. It all depends on why you’re “racing.“ The only thing all races have in common: a finish line.
In one way, the whole “you don’t get a medal” comment doesn’t make sense at all. Because at the end of the childbirth race you DO get a medal – one that is quite worth the effort – a baby that you’ve been training for 9 months to meet!
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