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Supermom Does Childbirth—The Natural Way?

When I was this pregnant with E, the end couldn’t come fast enough. I thought it would be the same this time around—that I’d be sick to death of being pregnant, that I’d be as anxious to meet my new little one as I was to meet E. But it turns out, this time I’m more than happy to wait it out. I’ve started bargaining with my belly. #2 and I are having long conversations about why he needs to stay inside until I’m good and ready for him. My to-do list is hundreds of pages long; my (and E’s) social calendar is jam-packed through Thanksgiving. I have a blanket to finish, lots of onesies to wash. Take your time, little guy. Mommy’s got things to do.

Deep down I know no amount of negotiating with an unborn child will stop him from making his appearance whenever he feels like it. For his own sake, I’d like him to cook as long as possible. But if he decides to show up early (and we all know due dates are far from a perfect science) I guess I’d better have a plan in place for how, under ideal circumstances, I want to handle his delivery.

My birth plan with E was simple: Go to hospital. Have healthy baby. Come home. There’s this video they make you watch in the childbirth preparation class we signed up for. The video features three different birth scenarios: a natural childbirth, an epidural birth, and a C-section. I’m not sure why they’ve chosen this particular video to display, as it hardly seems like a fair fight between the three. Natural Childbirth Lady is screaming and red-faced in agony. C-section Lady is anxious but stoic in her blue elastic surgical cap. But Epidural Lady is blissful, calm, and apparently pushing out a baby with the greatest of ease. She’s not sweaty, or crying, and her makeup looks good.

I chose to have anesthesia. Who wouldn’t want to be Epidural Lady given those choices? And because I was induced at 40 weeks with E, I never had that 3am, “Honey, it’s time” labor experience you see in the movies. My birth experience with E was great. There were some glitches here and there, some seriously scary moments, and—pre-epidural—some indescribably intense pain, but overall it was a positive experience for everyone involved.

So. Shouldn’t my birth plan for #2 be the same? Choose the easy way, get the epidural, and be on my merry way? The answer is yes. It should. Except I can’t help wondering if the grass is greener on the natural childbirth side of the pasture. Did I miss out on a true birth experience by taking the path of least resistance? Should I have waited for labor to begin, done the birthing ball/squatting thing, and showed up at the hospital unmedicated and ready to push? Would I have been strong enough to do it on my own? Would it have changed me as a person, as a woman?

Being a mom means sometimes I have superpowers. Or at least, E thinks I do. I can make boo-boos feel better, help her fly through the air like an airplane, and make exciting toys out of ordinary household objects. For this brief moment in time, E thinks I can do anything. And I like living up to her high opinion of me. Shouldn’t Supermom be able to handle natural childbirth with strength and grace? I’m fascinated by women, like my own mother, who have delivered multiple children without the benefits of anesthesia. If she could do it, shouldn’t I be able to? If I’m strong enough to be a mom, then maybe I should be strong enough to go it alone starting with that very first contraction.

This might very well be my last pregnancy. And if that’s the case, then it’s also my last chance to have a natural childbirth experience. Go into labor without medical intervention, make it through contractions and pushing without anesthesia. It’s not too late to study up on breathing techniques, or invest in a birthing ball. If I go with what I know—and what I know to be a positive experience—will I be cheating myself out of a female rite of passage? I won’t be able to take it back. I’ll never know if I was strong enough to do it on my own. I’ll never know if Supermom can do natural childbirth, too.

I’m looking for stories on both sides of the spectrum. Moms and moms-to-be, what’s your ideal birth plan—and why? I want to make the right choice for #2 and I, without setting unrealistic goals. My ultimate birth plan is still the same: Go to hospital. Have healthy baby. Come home. But when it comes to the other details, I’m on the fence. Stick to the path I’ve walked before, or blaze a new trail? Just a few more weeks to decide!

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