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It's like this, and like that....

I started this blog in an effort to track my experiences with pregnancy and beyond. Writing is therapeutic. Kind of like talking to myself without the people in WalMart thinking I'm crazy. If you find some entertainment in this along the way, then even better!

This is one woman's journey through unfathomable hunger, vivid sex dreams and a bulging belly...from conception to birth in 9 months or less...

"Remember, you're not a martyr"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause; a person who undergoes severe or constant suffering; a person who seeks sympathy or attention by feigning or exaggerating pain, deprivation, etc

We went to our Child Birth preparation class this weekend, and I took a lot away from it. Of course I learned the process of labour - first stage, second stage, third stage. I learned some tactics for dealing with pain, some relaxation techniques and some detailed information about why women poop when they birth. The hubs learned to not take it personally when I tell him I hate him or smack his hand away from my body. He learned how to best help me, and what he should do if I start to vomit (the answer is, keep my hair out of my face, provide mouth wash and tell me I'm pretty). I learned 3 uses for a can of coke (or your chosen canned beverage) that do not include drinking, I learned how to massage my perineum (not sure I can go there) and why sex can induce labour (it's not just because it rocks your world, it's because of the prostaglandin) .

It was all very useful information...very useful information that we will promptly forget at the first sign of a contraction. And that's ok, because at least we did it. And even knowing what we know now will make us that much more confident, especially in these last 7-9 weeks.

The most important things I took away were a little less technical. I'm going to start with her reminding us that if we choose to try for a natural childbirth, we are not martyrs (and end with how labour is like an erection....see now you have to read on, because you want to know that one).

I found this martyr comment very interesting. As I continue down the path of preparing myself for the birth of our daughter, I can't believe how often I'm made to feel this way. Actually, that's wrong. No one can make me feel anything, but I can't believe how many times I'm faced with someone's snide remarks or backhanded comments about my choices. And frankly, it's pathetic.

I get it. Everyone's reactions of WHY would you CHOOSE to put yourself through all that pain and suffering for no good reason makes sense. Because to them, there is no good reason. And to them, it is pain and suffering.

Don't get me wrong. I am pretty damn sure this whole thing is going to hurt. I've read a lot of stories about women who claim they had pain free childbirth, and I only DREAM I could be one of them. But that takes a certain level of confidence, self trust and focus that I'm not sure I've got in me. But what I'm not so convinced of is the suffering part. I believe that feeling and experiencing this is something I should do to bring my daughter into the world. I believe the birth of your child should be dramatic. It should be memorable, and it should be intense. And granted I am in the 80% of people who have a "normal" child birth, without any major medical interventions or emergencies, I should be able to tolerate it. And if I'm in the other 20%, then I'll deal with that as it comes.

Sure, I know there are a lot of drugs I can take to make the experience less painful. And I may choose to go that route, I'm leaving myself open to that possibility. But just because I KNOW it could be less painful, does not make me a martyr for choosing to try it without the drugs. And frankly, I am sick of the attitudes about people who choose to birth the way they do.

There are a lot of things that aren't necessarily my style. I don't think a home birth is right for us, because I think I would be too worried about the "what ifs" to let go and surrender to the experience. I don't think a lotus birth is right for us, because, well ick. I am sure there are reasons for this, and good ones, but it's just not for me, sorry. I also don't think a scheduled, non-medically required c-section is the way to go for us. But what I DO think, is any woman choosing these things, should be given the opportunity to do so without ridicule from the people around her. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is not always the way.

I do get a lot of support from other people who have managed a natural experience and lived to tell about it. I also get a lot of support from people who went the medicated route, but understand it's an individual choice. However, it's the negative, snide underhanded remarks, to myself and those around me, that start to get to a person. And by get to me, I mean, make me want to scratch some eyes out (what, I never said I wasn't petty).

What makes me a martyr exactly? What's wrong with trying to do it without drugs? Who cares if I read a hypnobirthing book? I just don't understand. Why are my choices up for ridicule and debate? Is it jealousy? Is it anger? Or is it just plain ignorance? I am not pretentious, I don't think I am better than anyone, and I certainly don't think that getting medicated means you're any less of a person. I just know what I want for my personal experience, and I think I've gained the right to focus on that goal.

I'm ranting and not getting anywhere, but this is one of those things that's been irking me for weeks. People have opinions on everything, and they are entitled to them. And I have more than anyone out there. But they are not entitled to tell me about them negatively, and they are not entitled to put their assumptions onto me either.

At the end of the day I'm very thankful for that comment by the instructor. I am happy she put it out there because it means I am not alone. I certainly knew I wasn't the only one contemplating a natural birth, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who hears the comments. But at least I know it's not something exclusively about ME that prompts people to talk so poorly about the choices I'm making for my body, and our birth experience. The fact that she said that means there are a lot of us there, feeling excited about the arrival of our babies, while simultaneously feeling stupid or guilty or ridiculed for the choices we're making.

I wish I was a stronger person. One who didn't care what other people thought, and could just let it roll off her back. And I'm getting better at it. But sometimes, someone shocks you with their true feelings about your birth choices, and well, it shakes you up a little.

But that's enough of that. I am not a martyr, and I am not going to let anyone make me feel like I am from now on. Screw it, I've only got somewhere between 5 and 9 weeks until this baby arrives, and it's time to build my confidence.

So what else did I learn?

Well, I learned that I can do anything for a minute, and that piece of advice I'm going to take to the grave. She did an exercise with an ice cube to simulate the differences between focusing on the pain, using distraction and working with your breathing, and you really could tell. I learned that I like to focus on the countdown, and breathe through it, and that if the Hubs was in labour, he'd choose to simply embrace the feeling and know it would end soon. I'm pretty sure contractions will be harder to tolerate than an ice cube tightly gripped in my palm, but it demonstrated that I can in fact, do anything for a minute.

I learned that the 2 steps forward, 1 step back of baby's exit routine is not some cruel joke designed to punish me for Eve's mistakes (AHAHAHAHA). No, instead it's a favour she is doing for me, so that her dad may in fact get joy out of my body again at some point in life. Nothing like your daughter giving you the gift of an intact vag, and not a tear from hole to hole.

I learned that some people like contractions more than pushing, but that most women find relief in the pushing process (UH YAY! Something to focus on and work towards!).

I learned what a fully grown woman of around 50 years old sounds like when she simulates the different types of contractions, and what that simulation will do to a room full of men.

And finally, I learned that my vaginal opening was designed to stretch to exactly the size of a babies head, and that the stretching itself does not hurt. In fact, it stretches the same percentage as a mans flaccid self (yup, I said flaccid, twice!) stretches when he get's an erection. And since that does not hurt, neither does this. I also learned that I think that comparison is a bit of a stretch.

At the end of the day, I am really glad we did the class. Sure, lots of people told us we didn't need it, and I am sure we would have coped if we hadn't. Like my sister who was in labour during the time her birth class was occurring. However, I think confidence is a big part of this, for both me and the hubs. And I think anything we can do to help us build that confidence, is worth a few hours on a weekend.

Now, I'm off to find something else to be a martyr for........

10 comments to "Remember, you're not a martyr":

TheFeministBreeder said...

Okay, so, a few things (coming from a mother who has not only been through two births, but helps many other women through birth advocacy) - anyone who tries to tell you there's no reason for a natural childbirth is flat out WRONG. There are a ton of seriously important reasons to avoid every obstetric invention ever invented (unless there was an actual good reason, and these are RARE.)

A basic childbirth prep class is just the beginning. In those classes, tou're lumped in with a bunch of people who probably haven't picked up a single evidence-based book (and no, freaking Jenny McCarthy books do NOT count) so they have NO idea what they're talking about. Oh, how I know those people - I used to be one of them! That's how I ended up with my nice, traumatic cesarean. I thought childbirth prep was for hippies, but as it turns out, childbirth prep is for really SMART people who want a HEALTHY birth, as opposed to the system the money-grubbing medical community loves to push women through. If you don't know your options, you don't have any!

But I digress - suffice to say that way, way smarter people that me (MANY people with PhDs and medical degrees, etc) have written at length on this topic - and a really good provider would be directing you to this, and NOT questioning your desire for a natural birth.

So, to unravel some of the reasons that people like me have such strong feelings about this, I'm going to recommend the following books, and one movie:

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
Birthing From Within
Your Best Birth
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
The Business of Being Born (movie.)

(and btw, the crazy people like me who beg you to research natural birth and all the very valid reasons for it are people who are really looking out for you - it's a like huge warm hug and non-secular prayer that your increased knowledge will provide you with a truly beautiful and healthy birth experience... I know I sound like a freaking hippie, but I'm as Type-A as they come.)

Natural Childbirth is not about martyrdom - it's about healthy choices and empowering experiences. Nothing more.

Too much? ;)

The Mommyologist said...

Stick to your guns girl! You have to do what is right for YOU. Forget about those other people. I do think that the martyr comment is a little extreme. I think maybe it should be reworded into something like,

"If you do change your mind in the delivery room and decide that you need some sort of pain intervention, don't beat yourself up about it. You're only human."

I think something like that sounds less offensive.

And what the heck is a lotus birth? Do I even want to know?

cheesefairy said...

I read a book shortly before each of my son's births, called Baby Catcher, by Peggy Vincent. She is a midwife and the book is a memoir of sorts... it is a really positive, empowering collection of birth stories. I recommend it to everyone who is getting close to labour because reading about X number of women who DID IT makes you know you can do it too. However you do it.

In my experience with my 2, people see the belly and they want to talk about their own experiences. They had expectations before their births and their expectations were thrown out and they were hurt by the experience. So they say "I want to save you being hurt" and maybe they mean it, sort of, but really, it's because they have to process their own disappointment with their own experiences.

I'm sorry to say that this will keep happening after the kid is born. I remember walking my firstborn around in a stroller to get him to sleep and two strange ladies told me I shouldn't because he would just get used to it.

Now he's 3.5 and I still walk him around - oh wait, no I don't, he sleeps in a bed. Suck it, strange ladies.

Parenting can be very lonely, in that things don't always go the way you think they will and you assume you're the only one any of this unexpected stuff is happening to. 1. You're not the only one. 2. Whatever you're doing is the right thing for you. 3. No one else - except your partner - gets an opinion.

(and, of course, semi-anonymous people on the Internet) ;)

Laura said...

I think one thing that helped me with my natural childbirth was keeping in mind the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is OK, pain can be a positive thing, it is normal to experience pain during childbirth. So, yes, I was in pain, but I wasn't suffering. Suffering would have been focusing on the pain and allowing myself to be consumed by it. You can liken it to running a marathon. Will running that marathon be painful at some point? Why yes, of course. Are most people suffering while they run? Probably not, as they are making the choice to run that distance and they are working towards a positive goal and outcome. And no one gets an epidural before a marathon, right? So, I guess what I'm saying is that if you experience pain during childbirth, you can decide if you want it to POSITIVE pain or if you want it to become suffering. [Stepping off soapbox now] Good luck! :)

Amber Page Writes said...

It is your birth experience and you are entitled to do it any way you darn well want to. I applaud you for your dedication to a medication-free birth - and I think everyone else should too.

If I ever do it again, that's what I'm going to try to do too.

If you ever do haul off and hit someone, just blame it on the hormones. You can get away with anything at this stage...

Beth said...

No matter what decision you make in any facet of your life, I have learned that someone somewhere will strongly and vocally disagree with it. Consider these women your pre-labour practice, and when they start up with the comments pretend they're contractions you have to work through.

Also, I really liked what you said, that you can do anything for a minute. That's really all labour is, a minute of pain, a minute off, a minute of pushing, a minute off. If you are the kind of person who can focus on the "only a minute" aspect you will be fine.

I've been reading your blog for awhile now, and I have to say, I'm starting to get really excited for your birth story! Oh yeah, and the baby too.

Janine Lim said...

My dear, the judging from other people doesn't stop when your darling daughter is born. There will always be someone who thinks you should have her in a hat/sweater/less clothes/different diapers/blah blah. Eventually you will learn to tune them out, no one knows what is best for you and your family more than you. :)

Love the blog, looking forward to the home stretch! Yay March baby!!

The Wifey said...


With everything but the stretching part. Sometimes your vag doesn't get the memo and you find yourself being sewn up because your baby's head was 13 centimeters and you only went to 9. =/

Babe_chilla said...

Oh man so much to reply to. I thought I did this the other day, but clearly I didn't. I must have missed the post part. Arg!

Feminist Breeder - thanks for all that. No, not too much at all! The hubs wasn't totally stoked on child birth prep either...he figured the same thing, it would be all hippy love in's and how if you don't breast feed you're the devil (not that we aren't, we just hear that a lot.) Luckily, the one we took was, in my opinion, very good. She touched on all the possibilities, from med free to scheduled C, and the possible consequences of each. I feel a lot more prepared, and a LOT more empowered to make it through this naturally. I didn't feel that she pushed the natural route, but she did make it clear the benefits of doing so.

Like I mentioned, I've seen the video and have 2 of those books. I REALLY appreciate the recommendations for the others :)

Mommyologist - no, you don't. A lotus birth is where you leave the placenta attached to baby until it comes away naturally....as in 3-10 DAYS!

Cheesefairy - thanks for the book recommendation, and advice. I think you're right. Plus some of my FAV people are from teh internet :D

Laura - you got it. Pain vs. suffering. Not the same thing at all. I think it will hurt, yes, but do I think I will suffer? No.

Amber - I will keep that in mind. I have wanted to hit a few people :D

Beth - thanks! Post baby, I'll be moving to the mommy blog so stay tuned!!!

Janine - oh I can only imagine wow! Also, I hope she's a March baby, as opposed to April cause, well, I'd like her to come around on time :S

The Wifey - OUCH!

Raine said...

I think it's so weird how people feel like they're qualified to tell you how you should give birth but, like some of the other comments have said, it seems to get even worse once the baby's here. I'm due in March, too, and most people around me know I have my mind set on the type of birth I want, so I'm already getting advice on why I shouldn't co-sleep, how hard breastfeeding will be and why I shouldn't even try it, and why cloth diapers are icky. My family thinks I'm turning into a hippy! ;)

I do wonder where people get the whole "martyr" thing from though. I absolutely hate the feeling of pain medicine or sedation, and have already had one surgery in the last year, so for me a natural birth is avoiding those things because I dislike them, and opting for a few hours of possible pain versus several weeks healing from a surgery if I had a c-section.

I think part of the criticism comes from the fact that so many women are competitive or even catty, and feel like everyone must make the same choice as them for their decision to be valid. Some feel like natural birth advocates look down on them for making a different choice, which is sad - I think we should educate people, but ultimately support them whatever choice they make.

btw, if you want even more birth stories, I've really enjoyed the book "Journey Into Motherhood" by Sheri Menelli. You can Google it to read the reviews on Amazon or buy a hard copy, but she's also giving away a .pdf copy for free at http://www.birthingbusiness.com/Book/giveaway.html

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