It has been so exciting to watch your relationship blossom into marriage and now to await the news of your impending “new arrival!” I imagine it is a challenge to go through pregnancy and birth in the public eye, especially because we place so many demands and expectations on celebrity women to dress their baby bumps in the height of fashion, look fabulous and perky even though their ankles are swelling and their feet are bursting out of their Jimmy Choos, and their round ligaments are strained and painful. Mila, you are doing a great job! I’m sure you are getting more advice from well-wishers than you would ever care to put to use, but I’m going to throw in my two cents anyway, because, well, why not?
I hear that you are planning a natural, unmedicated birth in a hospital, and that you are sure your vag will be “ripped apart and shredded.” Then, I came across an article on Facebook (that I’m sure was from a reliable source – ahem, not) that said you were advised against a natural birth because you are “such a small girl.” Ashton, according to an insider, “refuses to see [you] in pain.”
Here’s my opinion, as a complete outsider who knows absolutely nothing about your health, your circumstances, and doesn’t know you personally, so take it for what it’s worth. And just as a disclaimer, this does not constitute medical advice in any way.
Go for the natural birth! There are so many great health reasons for you and your baby to set the intention of having a natural birth, so it is a great place to start! It simply is not true that petite women (or women with big babies, or women who go past their due dates) can’t give birth unmedicated. Your pelvis is made to flex, the bones in your baby’s head are made to flex, and no one can tell in advance of labor whether the baby will or won’t fit. Stay upright or do a side-lying position while pushing so your pelvis can move freely. And, the pain of labor can be over-hyped. Don’t let someone else’s fear (even if it is your doctor’s) force you to make choices that aren’t medically indicated. Do your research, know your stuff, and be an active partner in your care. Then, you will be able to make informed decisions when they need to be made. Chances are, they won’t need to be made for medical reasons before your labor even starts. Most inductions are really for liability concerns masquerading as health concerns. Some doctors are uncomfortable with natural births because they don’t have a lot of experience in attending them. If your doctor or midwife is fearful of natural birth, find another one who loves natural births and can give you the support and care you need and deserve! Also, having a doula attend your birth is scientifically proven to improve several birth outcomes, so having one would be a great idea.
Epidurals, narcotics, cesareans, and all the other technologies available today are just tools. In and of themselves they are neither good nor bad. We are blessed to live in a day and age where they are available if we need them. Labor can be unpredictable and one of its challenges can be maintaining the intention to forgo medication but recognizing (and feeling okay with it) when that is no longer the medically appropriate way to proceed. The important thing is for you to feel that you have control over what happens to you and that interventions are not pushed on you against your will. For my first birth I had every intention of having a natural birth, but it wasn’t in the cards for me. I made choices based on what my labor required. I feel comfortable with the choices I made, and in fact, probably would have been better off accepting medications sooner in my labor. I went on to have two more natural births, and each one required a different set of choices. Again, knowledge is power, because when you are well-informed the choices become much clearer.
Ashton, as far as refusing to see Mila in pain, here are a few thoughts for you. No one likes to see a loved one in pain, and watching Mila labor will probably present a whole set of learning “opportunities” for you as a husband and as a father-to-be. Women laboring naturally can take on an appearance that can be distressing for others to see, but this transformation is normal. In the excellent short movie “Birth Day,” the laboring mother, Naoli, is a great example of how a woman can look AWFUL in labor but actually be handling it quite well. She is sweaty and red in the face, her hair is frizzed out, her eyes are rolling back in her head, she is moaning and shuffling like a zombie and she is ROCKING her labor! That is what it is supposed to look like! Imagine labor as a very hard, physical workout, because that’s what Mila will be doing – working her uterine muscle really hard. We don’t freak out about seeing athletes push themselves hard, making faces, grunting and groaning, sweating and being deep in concentration. There’s no need to be freaked out by watching a woman in labor doing the same thing. Not that anyone as cool as you would freak out anyway, but you know what I mean.
That being said, Ashton and Mila, there is a distinction between pain and suffering. This is a lesson I learned after my first birth, and why I think I should have accepted meds sooner. Pain is manageable, suffering is not. Memories of pain quickly fade, but memories of suffering can linger for a lifetime. There is no need for suffering in labor. Your caregivers and your doula might recognize when you are approaching it, but only Mila can know if she has crossed over the line. If you find that you have, Mila, then it is time to put those tools, such as the epidural, to use.
And about the “ripping apart and shredding” thing – it is not a given. That’s fear talking. I gave birth to a baby over 9 lbs. without needing a stitch, and one of my clients birthed a 10 lb. 2 oz.-er with nary a skid mark. We are just two of many women who have come through labor just fine, thank you very much. Good positioning and allowing time for the perineum to stretch can help a lot.
Natural births in the hospital don’t “just happen” most of the time now. Hopefully you have done the prep work to be well-informed, well-supported, and physically ready to have the natural birth of your dreams. If you have, then even if your labor throws some curves your way, you will be able to make decisions based on your needs. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about your birth. What matters is how you think and feel about it.
That being said, there are an awful lot of people who are going to be thinking things and saying things about your birth, no matter how it goes. I might be one of them. For now though, I offer my best wishes to both of you for a healthy happy birth for you and your child.
Michal Klau-Stevens is The Birth Lady. She is a maternity consultant, pregnancy coach, consumer expert on maternity care issues, Past President of BirthNetwork National, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and mother. Her website is TheBirthLady.INFO. Find her on Facebook at The Birth Lady page!