Recently on The Unnecesarean blog, you have participated in many discussions, saying lots of different things, occasionally including some things I agree with. However, one thing that stuck out most to me was your insistence that natural childbirth (i.e., not receiving pain medications) made no difference in a woman’s birth experience — basically, that the stories of countless women who have told stories of how wonderful and empowered they felt after having given birth drug-free were bunk and hokum. Your proof of that? Just your own experience. Really? — That’s it? — “I did it, so your experience will be exactly like mine”? What else would you apply this narrow-minded view to?
I recently had a miscarriage, and the experience was shockingly normal — that is, it was neither dramatic nor traumatic for me, and was not even terribly emotional nor upsetting. I was a little sad, but would not say that I “mourned” or “grieved” unless those terms could be used in a mild form. But I would never tell someone who had a different reaction to a miscarriage that she shouldn’t feel the way she does — that she should feel the way I do/did, and handle things exactly like I did. Some of my friends have mourned their early miscarriage the way others have mourned a mid-pregnancy loss, a stillbirth, or an even later loss. I didn’t. Some of my friends have had D&Cs. It wasn’t necessary in my case. One of my friends experienced such heavy blood loss that she was air-lifted to the hospital (it was rush hour in a big city plus there was road construction — otherwise an ambulance would have sufficed, or her family may have even been able to drive her). Nothing like that happened to me. One size does not fit all.
Some might think that women who are pro-life will experience more grief than those who are pro-choice. [I’ve heard many pro-choicers say that the fetus isn’t really a baby until birth, so it is not too big of a stretch that a woman would feel more grief over losing a “real” baby than a “potential” baby.] Yet that is not necessarily the case. I believe that life begins at conception; yet I know of two women for sure who are both pro-choice (one of whom actually had a prior abortion), who both mourned more for their miscarried babies than I did. Perhaps the length of gestation may have something to do with it; yet I know of women who mourned more for their early-pregnancy loss, than others did for later losses. Some women may feel deep grief if they see the fetal or embryonic remains; others may get a sense of closure, and find it to be a healing experience. Some women may feel more loss for a planned and/or wanted baby than for an unplanned baby — yet that is not necessarily the case. When I was pregnant the first time (unplanned and certainly not the best timing, in my estimation), I had a miscarriage scare due to a negative pregnancy test after a prior positive one. Although I had not wanted to be pregnant, I immediately felt a strong maternal protectiveness for the baby I was carrying. Some women may even grieve or mourn more for a miscarried baby they had not planned on conceiving, because of the initial negative reaction they had to finding out that they were pregnant. They may have guilt added on to grief.
There is also a wide variety of reactions when it comes to natural childbirth. There are a lot of women who intend on giving birth drug-free, but end up taking drugs. Some of these women decide that natural childbirth is “for the birds,” and plan on having an epidural as quickly as possible in subsequent births; other women approach their next birth more determined to go natural, even taking steps like planning a home birth to make it more difficult for them to be offered and/or to acquiesce to drugs. Not every woman who gives birth drug-free will feel empowered; but many will. Some women feel empowered from choosing a C-section. Some women who have drug-free births go on to have epidurals with subsequent births — some of these may regret the decision, but others may regret not having had an epidural during previous births. To each her own.
But, the bottom line is, do you not see how preposterous it is for you give your one, single anecdotal experience as if it were a gold standard? — and thereby to completely dismiss all other women and their birth stories who have a different tale to tell? In future, it would behoove you to say, “I’ve given birth both with and without drugs, and could not tell any difference, except that it was more comfortable to have the drugs; but other women may have difference experiences.” That’s a much more credible response, especially when said amongst hundreds of women who would strongly beg to differ about whether or not drugs affected them during their birth!