Yesterday our doula Holly came over for our two-week postpartum visit. I can hardly believe it's been two weeks. It, at once, feels like 2 days and 2 months since V arrived in our lives.

Holly came over at 4pm yesterday — the same exact time she arrived 2 weeks ago to see us through my active labor. Yesterday we talked about the birth, how we all felt it went, what was surprising about it and if there was anything any of us would have done differently.

While there were some surprising aspects of it for me (finding out that I was already 8cm when we arrived at the hospital), there is nothing I would have done differently. I continue to feel incredibly grateful that it went the way it did. There are few things in life that I'll admit to being proud of myself about, but giving birth to my daughter naturally is easily one of them. 

Natural childbirth has been something that I've been interested in for a long time. It's something that several of my good friends have done and it's something I already knew a fair amount about, even before I got pregnant. I don't know that there was ever a time when I considered giving birth any other way.

After I became pregnant though I truly delved into the world of natural childbirth, reading books, watching dvds, taking classes and workshops and talking to other moms who had chosen this route. The more I learned, the more resolute I felt about this approach.

And while it was wonderful to immerse myself in a community of such like-minded people, I still met a lot of resistance to my decision. It's partly why I didn't write much about it here — I wanted to keep any criticism of it out of my head. Throughout my pregnancy, when I would mention my natural childbirth plan to certain people — coworkers, family members, other moms — I would often get responses along the lines of, "Oh, you just wait until those contractions really start. You'll be screaming for an epidural."

I learned to just smile quietly in return and not press the issue further, hoping that my actions down the road would prove them wrong. And as I've gone along in this process, I've become deeply saddened by the way American culture approaches childbirth — the extreme medicalization of it all lends itself to intense fear and a lot of unnecessary procedures and interventions.

(I also want to point out that childbirth is a tricky thing and no matter how much you plan for it, all sorts of things can happen. There are plenty of women who do as much work and research as I did and still end up having c-sections and getting induced, for one reason or another. Again, why I'm so grateful that things went the way they did for me.)

I think in some ways I'm still processing the whole birth experience, but as each day goes by, I feel prouder and more grateful to have had the experience I did. I have a new appreciation for my body and for what I'm capable of working through. And I know that Greg has a new respect for me as well — I can tell just by the way he looks at me when he tells people about the birth experience and about how amazed he was by the way I handled it. (Our friends Sandy & Sarah also had a wonderful natural birth experience recently and Sandy writes eloquently about his awe of his wife in this post.)

When I'm asked about why I chose a natural birth it's easy to cite all the facts about c-section rates in the country and the effects that epidurals have on mother's and babies, but the real reason is that I just wanted to be as absolutely present for the experience as possible. I've been through a lot of hard things in my life — things that I was forced to breathe through no matter what — so having a baby, while hard, was something I wanted to face as consciously as possible.

And I did. And sometimes I still can't believe she's here.



  • Carroll
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I’m so glad it went the way you wanted, Claire. Just like with babies, every woman is different and what’s right for one may not be “right” for another. Both of my babies were natural births, and that was “back in the day” when a plan like that practically labeled us “hippies”. I think my husband probably has some arthritis in his hand from all the squeezing I did on those two occasions, but having him with me (and *that* was pretty avant-garde at the time as well, if you can believe it!) meant the world to both of us.
    When I think of it, it’s a bit of a miracle that so many babies of your generation actually did pop out healthy and whole. No ultrasounds, no fetal monitors (well, they had those, I think, but it was not offered/required at the place where we birthed at the time)…wine was fine, and sushi (had I ever eaten it at that point in my life) would have been perfectly OK too.
    I chuckled when we had dinner last weekend with our son and daughter-in-law. Her request was to go for sushi, since she had just found out for sure that their first month of “trying” had not produced results — she was trying to load up on that favorite food of hers as if it was a “last meal” 🙂
    I’ll be sure to let you know the moment she tells us she can’t have any more sushi for a while!
    So, bask in your accomplishment, my dear — without in any way denigrating the necessities or choices of other people who might have different birth stories to tell, yours is definitely one of which you deserve to be proud!

  • EAL
    Posted June 25, 2009 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    This post was just what I needed to read today; I’ve been having a rough week. Thanks!

  • Posted June 25, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Who knew that the beautiful and mostly private experience of giving birth could become such a hot public and political issue! In Australia the government is considering new laws that make it difficult if not impossible for midwives to practice outside of hospitals. It would effectively discourage any natural or home births. While not having children yet, when the time comes I would definitely like to have a natural birth and have heard of many great experiences from friends who’ve given birth.
    Congrats on your wonderful new adventure into motherhood.

  • Jonathan Vogel
    Posted January 25, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    After reading your birth story, I thought you’d might be interested in this special screening of the classic home birth documentary “The Chicago Maternity Center Story” at the Gene Siskel this Saturday at 1:30. It’s a really compelling and gripping story that deals with a lot of the controversies surrounding home birth and the health care industry. You can check out the trailer for the film here-
    There’s also more information about the film here-
    Sorry, I don’t mean to spam such a personal story, but it would be great to get people out to see this important documentary!

  • Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    This looks great! Thanks for letting me know about it!

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