It’s 2020, yet people (men and women alike) are still referring to an unmedicated labor as a “natural” birth. I don’t think this is always said in a malicious or demeaning way, however it can still be hurtful and stigmatizing to women who have had medicated labor or C-sections.
Let’s get one thing straight – all birth is natural. The English word nature actually comes from the Latin word naturalis, which comes from natura, meaning “birth, nature, quality“.
Sure, some forms of birth require some assistance or a “push to start” if you will, but you’re still giving birth even if you don’t push a baby out of your vagina. And birth is a thing of nature, as you can see from its root word.
Birth is actually defined as “the emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent“. So even when a mother has a C-section, they are still giving birth to their baby and that is natural. The same can be said of a mother who gives birth vaginally but requires medication – they are still giving birth.
Vaginal delivery is not required for birth to occur. Similarly, pain is not a determinant of something being natural or not. Opting to stop pain, by using medication during labor, is a personal choice and based on each person’s individual and unique pain threshold. You may be able to withstand pain very easily, while your closest friend may not.
Just because someone has a medicated birth does not mean that their birth experience means less than someone who didn’t. It doesn’t mean that they were doing something unnatural – it means they were following their instinct and doing what was right for them.
The term is a loaded gun – it has so much potential to make women feel like they did something wrong in their labor & delivery experience. Yet, what people also forget is that people do not have a choice how their labor will go, how bad the pain will be, if they will need to take emergency or life-saving action – these things cannot be decided by us.
You cannot ever plan birth down to every minute detail – you can hope that your birth goes a certain way and have decisions made in advance regarding different scenarios (such as – if I need a C-section, I want… my husband there with me/my sister there with me/I want to be alone, and so on).
You can make a birth wish list outlining what your ideal birth would be like… however, recognizing that it may not be like that is important. It’s realistic. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of choice involved in birth, it’s just that you may not get the choices you expect. Some parts of the process are out of our hands, but that doesn’t mean we can’t, in some situations, make the best of what we’re left with.
So next time you go to describe your ideal birth, and you want to go unmedicated, just say that. Say – I would like to try and labor unmedicated. If you hear someone else using the term – maybe nicely let them know that all birth is natural, and that language matters.
Know that birth might not work out the exact way you hope; that things can change in the blink of an eye; that tough or emergency decisions might need to be made. Be OK with the fact that things might change, and don’t get down on yourself for that. I see so many women who feel badly because they couldn’t achieve an unmedicated birth… but all birth experiences are special, amazing, and hard friggen work! So pat yourself on the back (or your friend) and remember…
…we are all superstars.