Reading this article about how Pitocin-induced pregnancies and c-section deliveries – both on the rise – are not really considered appropriate practices – well, it disturbs me. My baby was 2 weeks late, and after Pitocin and almost 24 hours of painful labor, I had a c-section – and yes, I was disappointed that I didn’t go through “the real thing.” The article’s title asks if the reader was satisfied with the birth of her child. Did I want a c-section? No. Did I want a natural birth? Yes. Am I, like most women, in the position of feeling slightly screwed by the whole thing? Sure.
But, despite my disappointment about the c-section, my answer about whether I’m satisfied with the birth of my daughter is a hearty YES. Why? Because my child arrived safely, I survived and recovered fully, and in the end, that’s all I wanted – a healthy and happy end result.
I’m aware and bothered that this lawsuit-triggered reaction by doctors to err on the side of caution by taking over the birth process shifts the power from the woman to the doctor. And I believe it would be great if we all maintained control of our bodies and the act of birth, as women did in the golden past. (The past past the 50s, of course,when they just blacked out for a while and let the doctors do everything.)
But here’s the thing – there’s some significant differences between the way we procreate now vs. in pre-industrial age eras – or even in the first half of the 20th century. One is that, as a woman, I no longer spend the majority of my adult years pregnant or trying to get pregnant, popping out a brood between 5 and 10 children. Instead, I control how many kids I have preemptively, focusing on one or two (to speak of myself as representing the typical majority of American females in my class). My great-grandmother had seven or eight kids – and while I’m sure the couple she lost along the way broke her heart, their loss wasn’t considered especially unusual or tragic back in the 1920s. Nowadays, losing a child, either by miscarriage or at birth or after – is a much bigger loss, because we generally have fewer, and our time spent on procreating is much smaller. We don’t spend two or more decades dedicated to spawning – some of us even wait till after age 30 to get going, reducing the open window of opportunity for doing so…
Because of this shift from large families to small, because of the change in focus from a broad swath of time to a smaller, targeted few years, our need for the survival of each child has increased. At least, that is my contention. I am less willing to risk a VBAC, for instance, than I would have been 100 years ago, because I can’t afford the risk. 60% of VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) attempts are successful – pretty good odds. But my desire for a ‘natural’ birth experience is greatly overwhelmed by my desire for a successful one – if I didn’t have a choice, if I was my great-grandmother, that would be one thing. But the fact that I do have a choice, that natural childbirth is elective, the fact that I don’t have a lot more time to have more kids – well, it adds up to me agreeing, along with the majority of doctors, to ‘err on the safe side.’
I know that people who read this post who are advocates for natural birth and midwives and the like will have plenty of stats to prove that doctors and hospitals performing deliveries do not comprise the safest or the best choice, that women having babies is not an illness that needs to be treated by a doctor, etc. – and I will agree with them, absolutely. And I hope that women continue to give birth naturally. I really do. Science interfering with our natural processes scares the crap out of me. I am philosophically opposed to the technical encroachment upon our biological rights.
However, philosophy disappears when it comes to a baby – at least it did for me. So, yes, in the end, I don’t care about the means, as long as my child is healthy and safe and unhurt in the process. I may have missed out on the power of the vaginal birth experience – but weighed against the experience of being a mother to my daughter? I don’t feel I’m missing a thing.