Labor = Empowerment

I posted something on a blog about labor being an empowering experience, and a bunch of people posted back that they would disagree with the idea that labor is empowering.  Okay, maybe in the throws of it all you don’t feel very empowered, but after its all over with, I don’t understand how you could not feel strong and powerful.

Too many women in this country look at having a baby like taking a crap.  You want to get it out of you as quickly as possible, wipe the icky residue away, and then forget the whole nasty business ever happened.  I don’t understand that outlook, personally.  I thought that the process of bringing a child into the world was pretty kick ass.  Its something I like to talk about, because it was cool.  Yeah, it hurt, and sure, there were some gross parts, but in a nation where we line up to see the latest gore porn sequel every time the masterminds behind Saw decided they’d like a little more money, can we really not handle hearing about a little placenta?  Seriously, people, don’t be such pussies.  I’m as squeemish as the next person, but this isn’t feces, its a child.

So yeah, I’ll say it, I peed myself in transition.  Several times.  I’ll say it, I pooped on the delivery table while pushing.  I’ll say it, some sort of green fluid gushed out of me after they yanked my son out.  And yeah, I’ll say it, I bled like a stuffed pig for six weeks after labor.  Its all part of that kick ass labor experience I had, and I’m very sorry if you didn’t have a kick ass labor experience yourself.

All it takes to have a kick ass labor experience is to participate in your own labor.  You don’t have to do it all natural, with no drugs, like I did.  Natural birth isn’t for everyone.  If you’re the type of person who would rather wake up in bed next to Ted Bundy than to run a mile, natural labor is probably not for you.  If you’re the type of person who cries when you get a paper cut, natural labor is probably not for you.  If you’re the type of person who makes your husband have sex with you through a hole in a sheet with all the lights out so he can’t see your shameful, shameful nakedness, you probably should go ahead and schedule an elective c section.  But whatever kind of person you are, you can still take an active role in your labor and participate fully in the experience, and wind up having a totally empowering birth experience. 

All you have to do is research your pregnancy and labor options fully, and pick the options that are best for you.  Maybe you know you want pain relief, but you’re terrified of needles.  Do a little research, and you’ll be relieved to know that there are many pain relief alternatives to the epidural, such as Demerol (which my aunt says was just great for her first labor, but not enough pain relief for her second).  Or maybe you want to look into sedation methods for when they put in that epidural needle, so that you can just ignore the whole needle ordeal.  Look into your options!  Don’t just lean back and figure the doctor is a professional, so let him decide.  Nobody knows you like you.

Next, write a birth plan and give it to your doctor.  Birth plans are awesome.  They let the doctor and nurses know what kind of person you are, what kind of birth you want, and how best to serve you during your labor.  A lot of women think a birth plan is not necessary if they are not having a natural birth.  WRONG!  Since you researched your options and have picked a specific plan that’s going to be best for the unique and special individual you are, you’re going to want to articulate that to your hospital staff – even if your plan looks like the pretty standard action plan of most OBs (epidural, augmentation with pit).  If we all demanded to be treated like the unique individuals with unique individual needs that we are, that action plan would not be standard.  There would be no standard!  For example, when writing up my birth plan, I seriously considered requesting an IV (totally not standard for an otherwise natural birth).  Why?  Because I like them.  They make me feel super hydrated.  I know I’m crazy.  No, I’m unique.  So are you.  Demand to be treated as such.  (Furthermore, you’ll probably want to specify how you want yourself and your baby treated after birth, otherwise god only knows what they’ll do to you)

Finally, ask questions.  Why? Good question.  Because things change.  You can never have total control over labor, but if something happens and your plans change, you will feel better about everything if you know whats happening and what your options are from there.  Women who report feeling positive about their birth despite emergency cesareans all say that the thing that let them feel so empowered after such a drastic change in plans was getting all the information they could from the doctor so that they were able to participate in the decision process.

Look, all the time you hear people saying that its about the journey, not about the destination.  People apply that cliche to everything, from your career to relationships.  But for whatever reason, we don’t want to apply it to labor and birth?  Come on.  Sure, that baby destination is pretty awesome, but if you don’t participate in the journey to the baby, you’re really missing out on a pretty kick ass thing your body is doing.


About Rockingthehomestead

Badass feminist environmentalist.
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3 Responses to Labor = Empowerment

  1. Katy says:

    Great post! I would apply most of that to any medical situation. Its really easy to be intemidated by doctors. People have this feeling that what their doctor says must be right because… they went to medical school. Doctor’s didn’t become God when they got the M.D. next to their name. They are still human which means what they tell you is their advise, their opinion, and hardly ever the only answer.

    The advise I always give poeple when they are going to the doctor for something major like a pregnancy (or cancer) is they need to know what they want before they ever get to the doctor. Make a list of questions you want answered, take notes of what they say. Take someone with you who is a good listener who can tell you things you missed and who is on board with what you want and can keep you from caveing when the doctor starts to tell you all the risks involved. Remeber: You are a human being, not a just a patient. Your baby is a human, not a tumor. You don’t have a desiease, you are bring life into the world. Don’t be afraid to change doctors if they ever treat you otherwise.

    (I have built up doctor issues. Can you tell?)

  2. jessimonster says:

    Most people do take as much charge as they can over other medical procedures, but for whatever reason, women don’t feel like they should take any kind of control over their labors. (Personally, I don’t even feel like a healthy woman’s pregnancy should be a medical procedure, but I’m not going to push that belief on anyone else).
    I forgot to mention in this blog that other ways to take control of and participate in your labor experience is to make the environment more pleasing. Bring comfort items, wear your own pajamas instead of the hospital gown, play your own music. There’s a reason why people send you flowers when you’re in the hospital, its because hospital rooms suck. They are depressing and ugly and boring. You don’t have to put up with that. You’re not sick. You’re having a baby. Thats, like, the opposite of sick.

  3. the holly says:

    totally agree with you here – birth has hands down been the most empowering experience for me as a woman! 🙂 thanks for echoing the sentiment!

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