Pardon me while I ruminate over childbirth for a hot second as I scarf down a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios at 3:30AM and deal with insomnia. Usually, when I’m up surfing the internets at this hour, I’m Dr. Googling stuff like “19 weeks 3 days pregnant” or “extremely painful bowel movement” but today I somehow came across a site that was literally the You.P*rn of natural childbirth video sites. If you don’t know what You.P*rn is…ask your husband : D
Anywho–I basically started watching a slew of bloody, painful, screaming, pooping, natural childbirth videos, and although I’m (surprisingly) not completely traumatized by them, it has the ole gear shifts in the brain turning that the whole “do it naturally” thing will most likely end with me with a triple chin screaming “It burns!” or “Get it out!!!” while shitting myself and looking like a bloated cow. I searched the hundreds of videos for those mystical “quiet” natural childbirths where the woman does a few moans and gently pulls her baby out. I found one, but this woman also had like 3 kids running around her birthing tub, and the whole thing felt waaaaaay too weird for me to get behind.
I haven’t written much on my birth plan (which basically only exists in my head right now), but part of the reason I decided to hire a doula was in hopes that having a trained professional at the birth will help me as I attempt to go au natural. Yes, I would like to attempt birth without meds. I know it may sound corny/strange/sadistic, but feeling the raw pain of childbirth and coming through the other side has actually been something I’ve known I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. See– I have an odd relationship to pain (and not in a 50 Shades of Grey kind of way. Spanking/bondage/gags don’t do it for me, ladies!). My relationship to pain is that I don’t tend to fight against it, but rather, I like the challenge of the mental game it takes to get through it. From what I understand, this may help me in childbirth. Of course, who am I kidding. I have no fucking clue how much pain I’ll be in. But I want to experience it, if that makes sense. Depending on what literature you read, there is a slew of info that also highlights the benefits of going natural by correlating it to a decreased C-Section rate, and a more calming birth experience for the baby, so I’m down with that too. But again…I just don’t know how the pain will feel, and I don’t want to beat myself up if I can’t make it through the birth without some pain intervention. That being said, I don’t want to go into this with the mindset that I will quit if the pain becomes intense because I really want to push myself to go as far as I can.
Before I got on the pregnancy/infertility crazy train, I was happily running marathons. I miss running, but mostly, I miss the rush I got after completing 26.2 miles. Like I said–I have a weird relationship to pain. Before my brain was permanently seared this morning with episiotomy images and close ups of vaginas with extremely large baby heads protruding out of them, I thought that childbirth may be like running a marathon: You pace yourself, breathe through the pain, mentally focus on the sound of your shoes and the road ahead, and then you cross the finish line with a baby in your arms, and the pain goes away.
Childbirth will not be like running a marathon. And here’s my logic behind this:
1. Marathons have mile markers. This means that there is a sign for every mile you complete, allowing your brain to mentally “check mark” how far along you are in the process. For me, Miles 18-24 were always the most difficult, as your body is screaming at you, and there is still quite a ways to go. But you push through because you have to, and also because you know the end is near. Each mile marker you see gives you more confidence to push through. There are no mile markers in childbirth. You can be in excruciating pain and still be on Mile 4 and never know it. It’s a mental mind fuck, the likes I’m not sure I will know what to do with.
2. Blisters, bloody nipples, shin splints, knee pain, and back pain all suck the big one when you’re running. I usually pop a couple of Advil during the run and keep going. But a human head splitting your vagina open *may* be more painful. Just a guess.
3. Marathons generally last anywhere from 4-6 hours, depending on how fast you run. That’s a pretty small margin of difference, and also not very long in the scheme of things. Labor can last for 10, 20, 30 hours…Yes, we’ve all heard stories of the lucky few who feel a few painful contractions and then plop a baby out, but that’s usually Baby #4. I’m not kidding myself. First time childbirth will most likely be a long process.
4. Marathons and running in general is very “inward” focused. It’s you and the open road, and what you choose to do with it. Sure, the cheering spectators add some smiles and moral support, but they are not there to tell you how to run. You decide how to push through the next mile. Unless you’re birthing in the woods and gnawing off your own umbilical cord, childbirth is both “inward” and “outward” focused. It has to be extremely difficult to get into that “inward” zone when you are being shuttled around to the hospital, filling out forms, and getting monitored every 15 minutes or so. I want to “go inward” but I feel that this will be a challenge.
5. In a marathon, you can dial back the pain. I usually do this by walking a bit, having a snack, listening to a great song on the iPod. Unless you’ve seriously injured yourself, pulling back on your pace generally lessens the pain. Not so in childbirth. In fact, your body starts to act on its own. There comes a point when there is no “walking”, you are pushing out a human watermelon from your nether regions whether you like it or not. And that shit is painful. I’ve seen the videos.
I guess my whole point in writing this is not to discourage anyone from trying a natural childbirth–God knows, I’m still going to attempt it. Just trying to process how I’m going to get through it, is all. I had gone into this with a somewhat cocky attitude that being a marathon runner somehow made me mentally more able to endure a natural birth. I’m rethinking that a bit after watching all of these videos!
How about you gals? Anyone else planning on attempting a med free birth? Anyone think I’m absolutely insane for wanting it this way? Any moms out there rolling their eyes yet, and saying, “Oh, you’re so cute with your little marathon analogies…you’ll get the meds.”