Why my birth wasn’t empowering (and that’s ok)

I have moved! I am now blogging at The Energizer Mommy. Please come join me there!

When you look into natural birth one thing you’ll hear over and over is, “It’s so empowering!” It comes in many forms, like, “It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I did it and now I know I can do anything!”, but one thing pro natural birthers seem to agree on if that the experience is ultimately positive and empowering when all is said and done.

Mine wasn’t.

And that was hard.

I never did it to be empowered. I did it because I thought it was best for me and best for baby (and because my social phobia and bad experiences with doctors made the thought of hospital experience terrifying). So I wouldn’t have thought I’d mind that the experience wasn’t positively transformative.

But I did. A lot.

Mainly because this is one thing about natural birth everyone agrees on, so if I didn’t feel it that way it must have been some failing on my part. I must have done something wrong.

Talking with my doula, I realized these kinds of feelings aren’t uncommon. Not everyone has the amazing experience advertised.

And I wish people would talk about that. Because no one should choose how they birth for the experience. That shouldn’t be a “selling point”. And no one should feel like a failure because they felt in a totally normal way.

My labor sucked. Plain and simple. I said “I can’t!” a lot. I felt out of control. Not that I think you can control labor, but you can be not out of control. It’s like being caught in a raging river. You can flail and struggle and flounder and be utterly out of control, or you can hold yourself together and ride the current. Either way you end up down river, but the two paths are not the same. I feel like I flailed. That is why, even though I “did it”, I don’t feel like I actually did anything.

My time just after birth, the supposed payoff for labor, sucked. There was no flood of endorphins. No getting lost in the wonder of my newborn. I had a lesser version of that for a few minutes, but I still felt like shit. I was having back labor to deliver my flipping placenta. I was getting dizzy from rapid loss of blood. I was exhausted on top of that. I felt guilty afterward that after a few minutes I had no interest in seeing my daughter until my placenta was out.

These experiences were not empowering.

But that’s ok.

That’s not why I did it.

I am glad my daughter got to cook until 42 weeks. She was doing great, she wanted it.

I am glad I had no interventions that made my healing harder or baby girl’s experience more dangerous.

I am glad I felt respected before, during, and after labor.

I am glad my daughter avoided formula.

I am glad there is no decision about the management of my labor that I would change. Not one. Not even minor preferences. I cannot imagine that would be the same in a hospital where my preferences are so different than their default and I had strangers attending me.

My birth was not empowering. It sucked.

But you know what? I did something hard because I thought it would be best for my daughter and myself. And isn’t that what being a mom is about?

It didn’t have to be empowering to be the right decision.

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