Giving birth is scary -- especially if you have never done it before. I remember looking down at my giant, pregnant belly, and thinking the laws of physics were a lie. I knew the baby would come out, but the suggested hole did not make any sense. Giving birth to a human seemed about as likely as regurgitating an entire watermelon. In fact, I was so nervous I'm sure I would have preferred if the baby came out my mouth.
Unlike the early days when a woman would give birth squatting in the open tundra while her friend Pog gnawed off the umbilical cord, we modern women have a lot more options. (No offense to Pog -- good looking out). Although we can all be grateful for the role modern medicine has played in saving the lives of countless women and babies, it has also psychologically impacted women's understanding birth. Rather than seeing birth as a natural process, one universal to the mammal experience, it is now commonly viewed as a medical experience.
On the other side of the spectrum, natural births sound intimidating -- and conjure images of a woman adorned with lotus flowers, and listening to the calming sounds of humpback whales while she delivers the baby herself into a pool of unicorn tears. But recent studies continue to show that this is the healthiest approach for you and your baby. There are risks and complications that come with modern birthing practices when Pitocin and epidurals are involved. So unless there is some extreme medical problem, women should be encouraged to travel down the natural path -- even if it smells like incense.
In a homebirth scenario, attended by a midwife, you would be encouraged to have a natural birth. Yet if you plan on birthing in a hospital, you may have to insist on it. Giving birth is the only time we go the hospital when nothing is wrong with us. Although being nine months pregnant is uncomfortable, you don't have a medical "condition" (that happens after the baby is born and you are losing your mind during the "terrible twos"). The central problem with the hospital environment is rooted in the emotional association most of us have with them. There is an innate sense of fear instilled just by being in a place we only frequent if a chainsaw ends up wedged in one's head, or are very sick with disease.
Fear is the number one issue women face during childbirth. If you were a deer in the woods, about to give birth, and you heard the footsteps of a hunter, your labor would immediately shut down so you could get the heck away from there (unless the hunter was Dick Cheney, in which case you could feel pretty safe knowing he would shoot his friend instead). Fear does not facilitate birth.
Being fully informed about the process will help reduce fear. There are countless articles, support groups, birth classes, podcasts, documentaries, and even a childbirth summit to provide you with information. Trusting your body, your baby, and feeling as relaxed as possible are fundamental to the process. Your rational mind may have no idea what to do, but amazingly your body and baby do! Not all women have orgasmic births (which is a real thing), but your body's natural chemistry has the endorphins to help you deal with the pain. The hormonal cocktail that facilitates bonding after birth makes the nine months of sobriety totally worth it. The beauty of birth is that with every contraction, and every push, you are that much closer to meeting your child.
Even though I gave birth in a hospital, I was also committed to having a natural birth. I am very grateful for my experience, and for all those who supported my effort. Here are some tips to have the natural birth you want -- regardless of being in a geodesic dome made from yack saliva.
1) Have a birth partner who is informed as you are, and totally aware of your intentions.
2) Work with a doula who has experience attending births and can serve as a liaison between you and the doctors / nurses.
3) Have a birth plan that you present to the doctors so they are on the same page as you.
4) Even though you may have moments where you feel like giving up. Remember that you and your baby are a team, and are in this together!