I was 17, wearing a formal evening gown, and riding in the passenger seat of a red pick-up truck on my way to my senior prom when my date uttered the words that I knew everyone in my tiny, rural hometown had been thinking for months: “You’ll be back.”
Let me back up. I’m from a small town where maybe, in a good year, 30% of the students go to college. That is not to say that all of them go off to college. Most go to the community college 20 minutes away or to one of the small colleges within an hour or two of my small town. A very scarce few will actually leave to go to a major university or college somewhere more than an easy, I-can-make-it-back-to-my-hometown-church-for-Sunday-service-every-weekend distance away.
Most of those who do leave, though, end up back in our hometown within a semester or two and end up graduating–if they do graduate–from the small college in the town next door.
When I announced I was going away to the University of Texas, a major university 6 hours away from home, everyone was certain I’d get my comeuppance (I think a lot of people thought I was sort of a stuck-up b for presuming I could survive where most others from my hometown had not), fail out of school, and return home with my tail between my legs. While I will say, I think they all grossly underestimated my intense desire to get the heck out of dodge, the fact that everyone was oh so certain I would fail not only in school, but fail at achieving one of my major goals? Only made me that much more resolved to succeed and prove them all wrong.
I halfway credit graduating from college to sheer spite.
So now, when I keep having people say to me, when I tell them that I’d like to at least try for a natural childbirth, that, “Oh, trust me, you’ll hit a point where you’ll want that epidural, and you’ll change your mind, so don’t get too wrapped up in your ‘plan,'” it just sort of makes me dig in my mental heels and want to go, “Oh, yeah?”
The funny thing is, I’m not even particularly attached to the idea of natural childbirth. I don’t think of it as some wondrous, magical experience that makes you more connected to your babies or as some mystical rite of passage that proves that those who’ve gone through it have a special sort of strength or courage. I think becoming a mom is becoming a mom, and it’s pretty flipping magical (thanks, hormones!) for all of us. I don’t think that the drugs they give you are profoundly harmful to your baby (or babies) if you don’t go natural, and frankly, if you want to schedule a c-section because it’s more convenient for you, I can honestly see the appeal and I don’t really blame you.
My interest in natural childbirth is more along the lines of: 1) curiosity, and 2) I think I’m more likely to avoid a c-section, recover more quickly, and be back on my feet and independent again sooner if I don’t get myself started on what the crunchies would call the “downward spiral of interventions.” The being able to take care of myself bit is probably the most important thing, because after 8 months of being pregnant, I’m ready to have my body back and be back to my old self again.
Beyond that, though, I’ve always been of the opinion that there is nothing inherently superior or desirable about natural childbirth, and while I’d like to try it out, I’m not going to have regret if things don’t go according to plan. Like, I’m not going to feel terrible if I do decide that I need an epidural or if the doctor determines that, for the health of the baby, we need to do a c-section. I’m just not that attached to the concept. It’s my best case scenario, but it’s not like it’s my dream fantasy childbirthing experience that I’ve got my heart set on.
Still. When I mention to people that I’d just like to try to see how long I can go without an epidural, that I’d like to see what kind of labor I have and what kind of pain I’m in before I start making definitive statements about the kind of care I will and won’t be receiving, and they respond with, “Oh, just you wait, you’ll get the epidural, Ms. Fancy Pants Natural Childbirth,” I suddenly just really, really, really want to prove them wrong.
It’s not that I think natural childbirth is all that great or that I’m super inflexible about what kind of birth experience I want to have. I think my stance on that all along has been, “I just want to see how it goes before I start making decisions.” It’s just that my gut reaction to anyone who says, “You can’t do that,” is to go, “Watch me.” I hate when people just assume that I’m going to fail or fall short of a goal because it’s just not their experience that it’s something people can do. Or if people can do it, it takes a certain sort of special person, and I’m probably not that sort of person. I hate being underestimated, and I really, really love being right.
I have no idea what my birth experience will be like. I have no idea what decisions I will make in the moment or what sort of unforeseen circumstances might arise that could influence my decision. What I do know is that I’ve now got a little bit of spite fueling my drive for a natural birth…and in the past, that’s been an incredibly powerful motivator for me.