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News Flash: Birth Isn't a Competitive Sport

Like many first-time mamas-to-be I had a lot of ideas about pregnancy, birth and parenting. The thing about ideas though is that they are just that—ideas—and often times they don't play out quite as well in the real world. Sometimes it takes some life experience to realize the error of one's ways, and that was certainly the case for me as a mama.

When I became pregnant for the first time I knew early on that I wanted to have a drug-free water birth. My husband and I settled on an out-of-hospital birthing center and I ended up having a wonderful birth experience. After giving birth I felt strong and empowered and ready to take on the world. In fact, I sort of did start taking on the world... in the form of extolling the virtues of natural birth to anyone who would listen.

And while I probably wouldn't have admitted it at the time, somewhere deep down I did feel a bit superior for having had a natural birth and anytime I heard of someone's epidural or c-section a small part of me questioned whether or not that had "really tried hard enough." That sounds awful when I say it now, but it was the truth.

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In retrospect, I'm pretty sure I was more than a bit obnoxious at times, but at my core I was coming from a good place. I was just so excited about what I had experienced. I truly believed in birth and I had seen how beautiful it could be and I wanted to shout about it from a mountain top to let other women know that birth didn't have to be a horrible, terrifying experience and that it didn't have to end up with a series of invasive medical interventions. Birth was natural and lovely and something that women could look forward to instead of dreading.

And then it all came to a screeching halt when I gave birth to my son.

I realized that I had been viewing birth as a competitive sport—one that I prided myself on being good at—but I was beginning to see that birth is something that is out of a person's control.

Since my first birth experience had been so wonderful, I decided that I was ready to take on a home birth. I didn't spend much time preparing for the birth, because I had already "been there done that" and was just certain that the second time around was going to be faster and easier than the first. The reality was much different than the expectations I had built up in my head.

My son's birth was longer and harder than I could've imagined. It was 7 hours longer than my first labor and I pushed for four hours. He finally emerged at 10 pounds 8 ounces and 23 inches long... and posterior. His head was a gigantic 15 inches and he had a barrel chest that nearly got stuck. Despite the fact that I was thrilled to finally have him here and the fact that he was born safe and sound and I didn't have to have any interventions I left the experience feeling more than a bit shell shocked and honestly scared of birth.

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I had spent so much time secretly judging moms who opted for voluntary inductions and epidurals and c-sections, but now I felt like I was able to understand that birth is different for every one and a good birth experience isn't just limited to the ones that are intervention-free.

I realized that I had been viewing birth as a competitive sport—one that I prided myself on being good at—but I was beginning to see that birth is something that is out of a person's control. Even if it's been done before, it can always change with every child and every experience. Birth is wild and untamable and different women experience it differently. Until I experienced my son's birth I didn't really understand that, but I get it now.

Birth is beautiful in its many different forms and there's no reason for shame and judgement to exist. Period.

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