I suppose I shouldn’t say “chose” — because I haven’t had my baby yet. Yet a decision was made seven months ago about where we would like to birth our little one and that decision was driven by a deep desire on both our parts to birth this baby as naturally as possible.
The longer I have lived with our decision, the more I’ve realized how much confusion surrounds all this talk of midwives and birth centers and home-births. When The Business of Being Born came out several years ago, it raised awareness — and may have also simultaneously started a “new trend”. It is a trend that rightly has resulted in a renewal of cultural appreciation for midwives and natural birth, as well as creating a context where some women feel guilty if they decide they actually want an epidural. I feel for these women, and do not want to participate in that guilt trip. Which is why I desire to clarify our choice.
Birth is a miracle. Whether or not you believe in miracles, whether or not you believe in God, I can’t imagine a mother birthing her child and not being in awe of the gift of life — that came from her womb! I firmly believe that birth is intended to be a moment of worship — a depiction of God’s glory to which our hearts respond with wonder and joy.
This is why I think the miracle of birth is under attack. The constant debate over abortion is one battle. The abusive use of medication during labor and delivery is the other. And like most battlefields of this kind, mis-understandings and generalizations abound.
So let me clear: I do not believe hospitals are all bad, nor do all doctors over-medicate.
I do, however, believe that some doctors may not value the miracle of birth in the same way, and so may be more prone to suggest the use of medication when in fact is not always necessary. Pregnancy and labor are not a disease that need to be treated — rather they are a miracle of life — and one of the few physical experiences that for the most part do not actually need our intervention.
I remember a few weeks ago in my birthing class, it struck me: I do not need to do anything during labor except to relax and let my body do what its going to do. Its just like breathing. I do not need to consciously think about exhaling and inhaling unless something is wrong with my body. That is the miracle of natural birth — that a woman’s body knows exactly what it needs to do without her ever having to tell it to do it! So much of our lives involve work, effort, maintenance. Birth is one of the few experiences God has preserved for us that is purely a gift.
Let me be clear: Natural birth is not for high-risk mothers. Its for those who are generally healthy and who sustain a healthy pregnancy. I am incredibly thankful that my midwives know the warning signs for an unhealthy condition in pregnancy — and are prepared for a low-risk pregnancy to turn very quickly into an emergency situation that does necessitate medical intervention. They are trained in birth just like surgeons are trained in surgery and pediatricians are specially trained to treat children!
One of the reasons I think natural birth has become such a “fad” is because it is in and of itself in a stage of revival in a society that previously rejected it. Therefore those choosing it — particularly those who do not have the option of a midwife or birth center — must advocate for it. Advocacy necessarily results in more attention than normal, more passion than normal, and an “in-crowd” and an “out-crowd”. Its par for the course when its very presence is under attack. It must defend itself.
It is a shame that one of the side affects is that this battleground is creating a culture where people receive too broad of a message and suddenly feel that those advocating for it are then judging those who may not be as sold to their cause. While I firmly desire to discover for myself the fullness of the glory of God in the process of birth, I am also quite aware that God has graciously preserved the miracle moment regardless of what method a woman chooses for the birth of her child.
So if I am going to advocate for something in this “natural birth” craze, it is that we all fully participate in that moment of worship — that we give glory where glory is due. God alone creates life and God alone deserves our awe and wonder in response to when He gives it! Wherever you stand, however strongly or not strongly you feel about natural versus medicated births, know that what is at stake is far greater than empowering women and an experiential bliss.
I am choosing a natural birth because I desire to discover God’s glory in birth to the fullest and give Him the fullness of my praise in return. And if my baby is born in a hospital because the need arises, I will know that it is that setting that He deems fit to best reveal His glory to me.