I've given birth twice. With my first, I couldn't ask for the epidural fast enough, but with my second I did it completely drug-free. I clearly haven't experienced every different birthing scenario firsthand, but my two very different births made me realize how many myths there are surrounding natural childbirth. Here are five things I used to think were true of giving birth naturally.
1. It's impossible to give birth naturally in a hospital setting. If you've ever watched Ricki Lake's documentary "The Business of Giving Birth," you are likely convinced of this myth. Furthermore, it seems that most women give birth without drugs at home or in a birthing center. I'm here to say it is totally possible in a traditional hospital, I've done it! I think there are two things that make skipping drugs in a hospital slightly more challenging: the temptation to ask for an epidural and unhelpful nurses/doctors. I had amazingly supportive medical staff and I honestly never felt like I needed an epidural. It can be done.
2. You must have a doula. Every natural childbirth book I read told me I had to have a doula. They make it sound as if without one you simply won't be able to do it. I have no doubt that they can be tremendously helpful, but I also know that it's important to know yourself. I chose to listen to my gut, which said "the less people in the room, the better." I'm happy I didn't spend the money on a doula, because it wouldn't have been a good fit for me.
Contrary to the way Hollywood portrays it, natural childbirth is not synonymous with mothers screaming in agony.
3. All drug-free births happen in water. Water can be very soothing during labor but it's not a requirement of natural childbirth. All of the pictures and videos you see of drug-free labors seem to be taken in a birthing tub, but it's not the only way to give birth naturally. Don't let no access to a birthing tub stop you from having the birth you want. In fact, I have friends who couldn't fill the tub fast enough or hated it when they thought they'd love it.
4. There is no reason to experience that much pain. This myth is wrong for two reasons. The first way is that it implies the pain of childbirth is immense and unbearable. My drug-free birth was not painless, but it was manageable. Contrary to the way Hollywood portrays it, natural childbirth is not synonymous with mothers screaming in agony. The second half of this myth suggests that the mothers who choose to give birth drug-free are slightly crazy or at least masochistic and that they are only doing it to say that they have done it. I actually very selfishly gave birth without drugs because I wanted to feel in control and I wanted to insure the speediest post-birth recovery possible.
5. Natural childbirth is the best way to give birth. If you've ever read a book on drug-free childbirth, you may have been convinced that this is true. They make outlandish claims, such as babies who are born of a natural birth are happier, healthier, better sleepers. Such claims are not based on facts. However you bring your baby into this world is the best way. Natural childbirth is only best when it's what the mother wants and when it leaves her feeling powerful and in control of her birthing experience.