Photo by Calima Portraits
Photo by Calima Portraits

If you’re a longtime reader, you may have noticed that we’ve consciously made a decision to move away from using language such as “natural” to describe childbirth. In fact, it’s been a huge mission of mine to make sure all our birth stories are told in a way that is supportive and positive. This is partly because of Offbeat Families’ values, and partly because of my own.

Instead of perpetuating the “natural” versus “unnatural” birth drama, we opted to change the terminology used on Offbeat Families to “unmedicated” and “medicated” childbirth. We did so for a few reasons, one of which is that describing one kind of birth as “natural” and another as otherwise is inherently divisive.

I delivered my son Jasper in a hospital with an epidural administered in the last few hours. It didn’t take affect, but it was still in my system — does this mean my birth was less natural because medicine was involved? As you might recall, Ariel’s son Tavi was born via cesarean section — is that birth any less wondrous because it wasn’t vaginal?

Our answer? Nope. Not a bit.

Does this mean that the choices you make before, during, and after giving birth don’t matter? Of course not. Does this mean that we’re trying to strip you of the power and wholly awesome experience you had birthing your child at home without any medication? Hell no. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from you guys (and believe me, I have learned WAY more than I ever thought I would), it’s that each parenting experience, from conception (if you consider yourself a parent at that point) all the way to wherever you are right now, is unique, powerful, and important. It all matters.

So here are my questions for everyone: who started this whole debate? Who deemed one birth “natural” and another “unnatural?” Who decided to pit woman against woman, mother against mother? More importantly: why do we, as women, as mothers, allow these terms to continue to define our experiences and allows us to look down on one another?

I don’t have the answers to those, but I do have a solution: let’s change it.

So, you had a “natural birth,” right? Awesome, because so did I.

Comments on Debunking the myth of a “natural birth”

    • Such a great post! I HATE the term “Natural Birth.” Almost as much as I hat the term “False Labor”. It really is ingrained in my moms. They all use it. I try to change their language, because anything short of a “Natural Birth” has some sort of failure attached to it. So, I use Medicated, Unmedicated or operative birth. I try to empower them by talking about decision making and that deciding to have medication is taking charge of her own body as is deciding to not have any.
      Thanks again!

  1. I think the term came about quite naturally, no pun intended. C-sections probably were considered quite unnatural when they first appeared*, afterall it’s not exactly the way your body works for the baby to come out via your belly versus vaginally. I think using the term to indicate medicated versus not medicated is relatively recent. It’s like saying crunchy or silky or whatever the inbetween is…chewy? I think that on the whole everyone agrees that birth is natural no matter how it goes about, it’s more a use of traditional vocabulary than an indictment of choice.

    Unless of course your child is gestated in a glass case and born from a genetically engineered womb outside the body altogether. That’s pretty unnatural.

    *Please note I’ve had two c-sections myself (one due to breech positioning and the other as an emergency from a ruptured uterus during failed VBAC) so I’m not suggesting they are bad in any way.

  2. I am guilty if using “natural” and “normal” interchangeably and I’m trying my best to stop. And I use the term “normal”, in opposition to “augmented”, to describe an uneventful, healthy pregnancy, labor and vaginal birth without drugs and other interventions. Obviously there are nuances here. I drank castor oil to induce labor after my water broke. Does that mean my labor was free from augmentation? My midwife turned my baby during transition. Intervention? What I’m learning is that information, education and consent are so much more important than labels. It’s your body, your baby and your birth. Ultimately, I trust women to make the best decisions for themselves.

  3. Thank you, Offbeat Mama, for continuing to feature posts that aid in building women up and helping them feel positive and fabulous about becoming mothers! My first baby is due June 5, and thanks to the community here, I no longer feel like I need to be “good” in my birth choices, nor do I feel inferior because of my choice to give birth in a hospital. Thank you so much for giving be the peace of mind that I was not receiving from other spaces.

  4. I once met an L&D nurse who encouraged everyone to use the term “cesarean delivery” or c-delivery instead of cesarean section.

    Her point was that all mothers deliver their babies from their bodies regardless of wanted/needed interventions and no one deserves to have that experience diluted with crappy termonology.

    Unmedicated, medicated, surgical, vaginal, whatever… the only thing NATURAL about childbirth is the miracle of giving life to a new soul. Everything else is just semantics.

    • “Cesarean delivery” is actually the appropriate medical term. It’s the one used in the medical literature. But since “section” is so much easier to say, it’s what used in actual conversation.

    • I’ve heard the term “cesarean birth” used before. I definately like it better than cesarean section, but “delivery” is really good too.

    • I agree with that 100%!!! It really bothered me when people would look at me with pity after my first who was born c-section to safe her life and mine and they would say “I’m so sorry you didn’t get to experience that powerful moment, that’s just not how God intended birth to be.” I would say “I’m not sorry at all, I’m alive to enjoy my live, healthy baby girl! If I had delivered 100 years ago, my daughter and I would both be dead.” Kind of harsh, but I wanted them to know that I experienced a miracle too, just in a different way, not wrong, just different. 🙂

      • Amen mama! I was 2 weeks overdue, had to be induced, and after laboring “naturally” (read: no epidural)for 30+ hours I had only dilated to 3 cm. After an epidural and mega amounts of pitocin, my uterus stopped contracting. My doctor told me exactly what you said- if this had happened 100 years ago, and “nature” was allowed to take it’s course, I would never had gone into labor, and my baby and I would be dead.

        Our first moments were painful, raw, and emotional, just like “natural births” from what I hear. The moment I heard her cry for the first time was just as powerful! Seeing her chubby pink cheeks and full head of hair was just as moving!

        One more thing, I can’t think of a bigger sacrifice for your child than allowing someone to slice your abdomen open, risking major complications, and facing a long, painful recovery. So for those “natural mamas” I say, I am so happy for you, but please don’t feel superior! Go snuggle your baby and remember that when I snuggle mine, it feels just as awesome!

  5. Thank you posting this. I think childbirth in istelf is inherently natural. Simple as that. I have been feeling incredibly slighted for my birting choices, and even sent in an email to offbeatmama at one point explaining how I felt. I don’t know if it’s the fact that there are SO MANY people out there that insist that “natural” is the only way to go, or if they are simply a vocal minority. I have felt, through my whole pregnancy, that I am somehow slighting myself and my child by choosing to have a medicated birth. For me, it’s about being able to really experience the birth. I feel that the pain will blind me, and I don’t want that. Am I any less of a mother because of that? I certainly hope not.

    • You are absolutely no less of a mother! We all experience pain in different ways and I personally think it’s great that you’re making the decision that works best for you.

    • I TOTALLY AGREE! I was blacking out from the pain of contractions – whole periods of time are just completely wiped out. If I hadn’t had the epidural, I would have been completely out of it through his delivery and likely not remembered anything. With the epidural, I could be present, concentrate, feel him come out and be completely focused on him and not the pain. That’s what it’s really about, right? I feel like a lot of people put more focus on coping with the pain than the actual baby…not my cup of tea.

    • For me, I think my conversations about un-medicated birth is more about empowerment and health than a self-righteous debate about which one is “right”. I know a lot of women feel like ‘natural’ is the only way, and I certainly don’t believe that, but I do believe a lot of women decide to be medicated long before labor, stating that they are not strong enough to deal with the pain. This makes me a little sad. Who told these women that they are not strong enough? I would feel differently if it was their second birth and they knew they wanted to do it differently(or like Jamie, saw that it wasn’t working), but for a first birth, I wish all women felt they were strong enough to do it. We were made for this, afterall. We are women, we can do anything!

      • For me, it wasn’t about being “strong enough” to deal with the pain– I’ve passed kidney stones without medication, I knew I could “handle” the pain. I just don’t see any point to it– just like I don’t see any point to passing kidney stones without medication (and only did it because no one believed me and I was 18).

        Why suffer? Why experience pain? The pain doesn’t make me a better mother or make my delivery smoother or have better outcomes, so why endure unnecessary pain?

        • There are answers to your why’s. If you think of labor as a dance between you and the baby, the pain tells you when to find a better position to facilitate birth. Also the pain tells your body to produce opiates,endorphins and oxytocin to help you through it and to bond intensely right at birth. We are evolutionarily designed this way. I do not enjoy the pain, but I accept it as part of a larger “natural”process, and that is why women use the term natural. I think hospital birth is rarely if ever natural, just by its very nature, but I am also past wanting to change people. I just want to see a day when all women are truly informed of all the risks and benefits of each procedure, so they can make decisions that they are comfortable with.

        • Personally my reason for wanting to avoid an epidural has nothing to do with whether it is “natural” and everything to do with a scary big needle in my spine and possible complications. The risks are fairly low but someone has to be that small statistic that has awful terrible side effects.

          That being said, if I am in extreme pain and not coping, in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the risks. I just don’t feel like I can make that choice until I am in that moment and take it as it comes.

          Some women dont find the pain all that bad and if I am lucky enough to be one of those people, the risks involved wouldn’t seem worth taking to me.

          And hey, if there was zero risk involved I would take the medication in a heartbeat! I don’t think suffering pain for no reason makes you a stronger person than anyone else.

      • I have had a lot of women at my workplace telling me to “take the drugs!! All of them, as soon as you get there!”

        I used to explain that I will try to get through without medication, but see how it goes and take it as it comes. This was generally met with “you’re crazy, its so painful, you’ll never be able to do it”. So now I just say thanks for the advice and leave it at that.

        I might feel the need for pain relief, I might not. I just don’t see how you can decide BEFORE you experience it that you won’t be able to “handle” it. I think its inappropriate for any woman to say to another in absolutes what she will or will not be able. (This also goes for the people who say every woman can do without the pain relief!)

        I believe just be well informed, know all your options, and take it as it comes. Your labour will not be like anyone else’s and your body and your baby will react differently to anyone else’s.

        • Right on! I had an unmedicated birth and I’m very happy that I did. Just because I’m happy with my experience doesn’t mean I’m poo-pooing on anyone else’s birth choices. I find that often in a room of moms, I’m the pariah because I’m the only one who chose non-medicated birth. I would NEVER judge someone if they chose to have a caesarean delivery or chose epidural because that’s their right and if it was necessary, I might need to do that for my next birth too.

        • I too, encountered the “take all the drugs they offer!!” advice while pregnant. My plan was to try to do it unmedicated and if I couldn’t handle it, then get the epidural and not feel guilty about it. But people would tell me I was crazy to consider doing it without medication. My own mother, who gave birth to her four children without any pain medication, was urging me to get the epidural!
          I ended up not getting the epidural but if I’d been in labor for much longer, it would have been a different story…

        • I think the women saying “take all the drugs” aren’t trying to frighten you (which is what I thought before I had my baby), but rather warning you. Kind of like when you say “you’re not going to get much sleep when the baby comes”. I was prepared for a natural birth and was shocked at how mind-shatteringly unbearable the pain became. I was part of the natural birth community and had been shielded from this, which I feel is a disservice to women.

          • I think you’re right about that for many of them KB. Some did mention that they had planned to go all natural but were absolutely unprepared for the level of pain. These were women that did hypnobirthing training, read all the gentle birthing books, tried every natural technique and were drilled throughout pregnancy that there was absolutely no need for medical pain relief and that labour would be a good experience if they believed in their bodies.

            I dont think either attitude is particularly helpful to women.

            Its not the “take the drugs” advice that actually bothers me, its the “you’re crazy for even trying natural” disdain/judgement that does.

  6. in describing birth ive heard its either “natural” “medicated” or “c-section” ive never heard of someone say they had an ‘unnatural birth’. Comparing one birth to another is like comparing a fingerprint…its not possible because everyone experiances birth differently.
    the definition of natural is-happening in the ordinary or usual course of things, without intervention. an epidural/csection are man made interventions. what you experiance when having a child come out of your body regardless of how…. those natural feelings of love and bonding, of exhaustion and the triumphant feeling that you created and survived such an awesome ordeal…now that is what is natural about birth. not about how the baby came out of you. i have had one medicated and one natural birth and i am proud of both because they both resulted in the birth of my children…beautiful healthy babies.

    • But one could argue that at a hospital, getting pain medication or an epidural is the ordinary or usual course of things… 🙂

  7. i agree with this article. labor in an incredibly unpredictable event. we can’t always foresee what is going to happen or how it is going to go. we could be trying for a natural delivery and the contractions could be so intense we can’t deal with them and need pain relief. our baby could be in danger or not in the right position and we might need a c-section. we can’t look down at other mothers for choosing differently from what we would choose. all births are different for everyone. we can’t decide for other people what they should do and judge them for their choices. we weren’t there and we aren’t them and it isn’t our experience. what matters in the end is to have a healthy, happy baby and all experiences to bring us to that point are all beautiful and important.

  8. I suppose I am part of the problem, but it just goes to show how personal birth is.

    I planned a homebirth and was forced to transfer after 3 days of labor and had a ton of intervention at the hospital just trying to deliver vaginally. My daughter was ultimately born via c-section and despite the 50 hours of labor, 4 hours of pushing, and fighting like hell with my midwives and hospital staff, I don’t feel like I gave birth. The trauma of having my child taken out of me was absolutely un-natural and goes against my very belief that my body could birth my baby. How can I think that I gave birth when I had nothing to do with the c-section? I was completely removed from bringing her into the world. Of course that’s unnatural.

    • What a difficult experience that must have been for you. Have you processed it with anyone? My planned homebirth also ended in a transfer, and while I didn’t have a Cesarean and it wasn’t traumatic, it’s still been difficult to work through all the emotions around the experience. Talking through it with my midwives, my partner and my best friend has been huge in helping me with that. I hope you have someone you can talk to.

    • I had the same birth experience with my first baby 3 months ago. Planned homebirth, long labor and pushing and eventually, when she got stuck at the end, a c-section and horrible hospital experience. They whisked away my daughter at birth (for no medical reason) and I didn’t meet her until 2 hours later. She could have been anyone’s baby, I felt no connection between the baby they handed me and the one I had carried for 9 months. We had trouble bonding, and she wouldn’t breastfeed because they were giving her formula against my loudly expressed wishes that she only breastfeed. My hospital birth experience was hell, and to add insult to injury, I (like you) had both a homebirth and hospital intervention/ c-section so both “sides” of the natural v medicated debate have reasons to comment and criticize! It’s like…I failed at both? Ugh. I feel like I never had a birth, but that’s mainly because the hospital I was taken to had archaic attitudes like the 1950s. My girl and I are now finally bonding and are so-so at breastfeeding, but she still damages my nipples because she thinks they are bottles. And yes, I have started seeing a therapist, and she says bad birth experiences can possibly lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Post-Partum Depression (PPD).

    • Thanks for posting this too!! I also had a similar experience with my daughter!
      Although I hadn’t exactly planned on having a homebirth… I had a Doula (birth coach) and our birth plan was to be unmedicated and at home until last possible moment.
      We had complications with the pregnancy and my daughter was breech, thus requiring a Cesarean. Now although my Doula was supportive and did everything she could to help me with before/after birth… It was a truly horrible experience. I was given a extremely painful spinal (couldn’t feel or move anything from the neck down), laid on the table buck naked, cut open and then wasn’t able to hold my daughter for over an hour. Followed by a less then pleasant 4 days in the hospital with breast feeding complications stemming from not going into labor.
      I understand the need for people to not feel “less than” others. And they shouldn’t!! You are a mother and type of delivery doesn’t effect your ability to be a fabulous one!
      However… Having experienced what I did, not being able to follow my beliefs and the depression that ensued… There was nothing “natural” about my birth.
      I am NOT saying that I’m not grateful for the doctors and the procedure, my daughter was born healthy and I was able to live to be her mother! So for that I am thankful.
      But I stand by what I said… My delivery was not natural to me.

      • Just posting to this comment Sarah/Beth/Liz/Ellen to say, I totally understand what you wrote – I was also a homebirth-to-hospital transfer! 3 days of labor at home for a planned homebirth, hospital xfer, c-section, feeling like I didn’t give birth. I’ve come around a bit, I accept that it WAS birth, just so far from my conception of what I was going to experience that it was very hard to reconcile! An unplanned c-section can be very jarring to the psyche, to say the least. I found the book “Rebounding From Childbirth” a wonderful first step in healing for me – just wanted to post that title in case you don’t already know about it. It’s good for all women who didn’t have the birth they expected, not just those who had unplanned c-sections.

  9. This post really hit home for me as my son was a cesarian birth! I was part of an attachment parenting group and felt less than the others when I decided to take my doctors advice and have my son through cesarian! This is such an eye opener because it is pure truth! All births are natural and should all be respected and treated as any other birth choice! With that said I will be trying a vbac with the next bundle of joy but unlike my strong sisters out there I’ll most likely choose to be medicated lol I know myself to well!

    • You are not less strong for choosing to be medicated. It may even take more strength to make the right decision for you when it goes against the norm in your circle.

      People have told me I was “strong” for refusing meds during my first labor (ultimately ending in cesarean). I disagree. I was foolish. I put myself through hell and by the end I was too exhausted to care what happened. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  10. It’s funny (funny/sad, not funny/haha) – I think every woman ends up feeling attacked at some point for her birth choices. It might just depend what group of people you’re talking to that dictates which group is in the minority. I love the idea of judgment-free language to describe births of all kinds.

  11. Word. And while we’re at it, let’s stop talking about “natural” conceptions.

    I must say, thought, that the word “natural” probably got attached to unmedicated births pretty innocently.

  12. I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but I support using the word natural to mean an unmedicated vaginal delivery because I think that’s what nature intended. I do not support using the word natural to replace “better” or “best”. Thank goodness we have necessary medical interventions in place when going with nature means risking a problem to mother or child. I wanted a “natural” birth at home and I ended up in the hospital to have my labor augmented with pitocin. I wouldn’t refer to my sons birth as natural, even though he was delivered vaginally with no pain meds. I also don’t feel bad about it, because I feel it was necessary to prevent further complications – it was the best for us. I think that’s the problem, not whether a birth was natural or not, but the connotations. Natural shouldn’t mean better but in our race to “take back birth” as it were, we forget that medical intervention when used wisely saves lives.

    Until the stigma is gone from using the term natural, I totally understand shying away from the term, but I do think it’s semantics and the definition supports using the word for vaginally and unmedicated.

    • “Natural shouldn’t mean better but in our race to “take back birth” as it were, we forget that medical intervention when used wisely saves lives.” <— Love that! I am a total advocate for being able to birth at home and all of that hippy stuff lol, but sometimes I feel like people forget that medical interventions are sometimes VERY necessary! I realize that a lot of them are overused and a lot of people do not know the risks of them, but there are times where an intervention needs to be done for the health of the Mom or baby, and no one should feel guilt because of that. We should all be grateful we have that tech.

      Hopefully our world will find some balance in birth.

    • “I hope I don’t get in trouble for saying this, but I support using the word natural to mean an unmedicated vaginal delivery because I think that’s what nature intended.”

      Nature has no intentions. If you mean evolution, well, that’s a system of jury-rigging one feature to serve well enough in a new situation to cause relatively good survival.

      We are a bipedal species with a quadrupedal skeleton jury-rigged to our new needs. Our lumbar skeleton is much thicker than our ancestors’, but not re-designed enough to prevent progressive lower back pain from being endemic in our species.

      Our jury-rigged skeletal system means that, in order to prevent our organs form falling out (which, eventually, they do in some women; it’s called vaginal prolapse), the opening in the bottom of our pelvis is smaller, proportionally, than is typical in quadripedal species. On the other side of the coin, our evolutionary strategy consists of large brains, which requires large heads. Large heads + small pelvic openings = very high death rate at birth.

      In areas with no medical care, 0.97% of labors end in the death of the mother, and a significantly higher number end in the death of the baby, or permanent disability of the baby or mother.

      *&^% nature. Nature can be as cool and loving as a welcoming breeze. It can be as hard and cruel as smallpox. Until “natural” stops meaning “better”, “healthier”, and “morally superior”, it’s time for it to exit birth narratives.

  13. Love the concept of women-and people in general- being more supportive of one another instead of crapping on their choices. I see it all the time (medicated vs unmedicated, formula feeding vs breast feeding, circumcision vs not, etc. etc.). I think for the most part everyone makes the choices they feel are right for themselves and their families and there is no need for anyone else to judge that. It’s very frustrating.

    • YES. I find the whole thing VERY frustrating. I was unable to joint a local mom’s group because I don’t breastfeed, cosleep, baby wear, stay at home, cloth diaper or attachment parent. I didn’t fit in with those women at all and I could see the judgment written all over their faces. I’m endlessly frustrated by this need mothers have to justify their own choices by putting different ones down.

      • Save me from the competative mothering games- I’m looking for a approach that works. You approach works for your life- GO YOU!

  14. Thank you thank you. I feel that polarizing language is rampant in our culture and I’ve felt it specifically as we’ve prepared for the birth of our daughter. We’re trying to avoid medical interventions as much as possible, but we would NEVER begrudge anyone their personal choices.

  15. Having thought some more about it: I don’t think the polarizing language is responsible for the polarization among women. The polarization is the result of differences of opinion. We can use other language, medicated/unmedicated, spontaneous/non-spontaneous, etc, but as long as people disapgree, there’s going to be polarization.

  16. Thanks for this.

    I hate when, while reading birth stories on this site, I feel the person writing it is apologizing between the lines. Like somehow birth can be measurably offbeat and if she hadn’t HAD to do it the way they did, they would’ve done BETTER.

    Like there’s a rating system. (+10 labor points for a water birth, +20 points if it was in your own tub?)

    It’s BIRTH. Whether you can feel it or not, whether you’re playing bongos naked in a mud pit to get into the birthing rhythm, or whether you’re in a hospital gown, hooked up to monitors and blissfully unaware that you even HAVE legs, it’s WILD and it’s hugely important. You’re moving an entire person from the inside of your abdomen to the outside. EW. And How. Fucking. COOL.

    There will be no one word to describe it because you’ll fit into a bunch of categories. Like, do you still get points for an unmedicated labor if you only didn’t get meds cause it didn’t hurt enough? What about if you got meds but they didn’t work? Which one means I love my kid more and makes me a bigger badass, again?

    Judging ourselves, judging each other, invalidating our own experiences in the face of another’s or feeling superior for doing things the “right” way is so NOT the point of going through labor and sharing our stories. It’s so NOT the point of having a community of mothers, partners, and caregivers to talk to about it.

    Thanks for posting this, Stephanie.

      • You’re welcome. I have a lot of guilt related to the way that I gave birth and I hurt for any other mom who feels judged by how their child was born. It sucks, I’d love to see it stop.

    • “Which one means I love my kid more and makes me a bigger badass, again?” Exactly!

      My mother and mother in law both had uncomplicated labours under 3hours every time without the need for anything more than gas. They actually have said many times that labour doesnt even really hurt that much.

      Well great for them! But I feel like if my labour DOES hurt a lot and I choose medication I will be letting them both down….

      I dont think you can compare them doing it without medication because it didnt hurt that bad with someone who labours without medication for 20+ hours and is in huge amounts of pain.

      I dont think you can compare anyone’s labour with anyone else’s and assign who did it “better”. We will all have different labour experiences and what is right for one person is not always right for another.

      • Amen. I have heard people say things like, “oh, labor isn’t that bad anyway” and I tell them, “no, YOUR labor wasn’t that bad. But MY three days of back labor WAS that bad. Unfortunately, no one knows what they’re going to get.”

        My second labor actually wasn’t “that bad” but after a full day of it, I just wanted some sleep. If it had been a three-hour thing, I probably would have gone without meds too.

  17. Stephanie, Ariel et al, I don’t know if it’s something you or your contributors have considered, but I’d love to read or learn about how sharing birth stories (especially online) became so prevalent. I remember a real life friend was getting so worked up about writing a birth story for a forum she uses (she had intended to have a home birth but ended up being induced in hospital) and she was terrified of what the responses would be.

    In the end, I gave her a hug and said, “Dude, these people don’t know you – you can just make something up!”

    I’d be very interested to learn more, especially as I’ve noticed friends now including details such as an unmedicated labour/home birth etc on Facebook-style birth announcements. It used to just be the name, birth date, time and weight.

    • I have noticed this as well in the birth announcements! When my friend’s husband sent round a text announcing the birth of their daughter, he included that my friend had an unmedicated labor. I’ve seen another friend’s husband list this as well in email announcements, also drawing attention to the short number of hours in labor (as if that is something all women have control over?!). To include this in a short text or as you mentioned, Facebook announcements I thought was really interesting. Thank you for pointing out this phenomenon.

    • For me, personally, because my second daughter was a VBAC, and drug-free at that, I really celebrated the fact that my body had done a complete 180 the second time around. I’m not going to lie– I was proud of myself and proud of my body, so yes, I made a point to say that I’d not only had a VBAC but a drug-free one at that. It was an important part of my need for closure on having an undesired/unwanted c-section the first time around. This is not a judgment on others–it’s all about ME, selfish as it may sound. If other mamas feel judged by it, then that is something those mamas need to work through. I’m not going to diminish or downplay my pride because of how it might make someone I don’t even know feel.

      Also, my theory is that publishing birth stories came into vogue in response to the alarmingly high rate of c-sections being done in this country. All these birth stories remind us that there is a HUGE range of birth experiences, all of them equally valid and important but also to send the message that while c-sections are prevalent, they are not inevitable.

      • It’s not just higher unneccessary intervention rates, etc..but the fact that EVERYTHING about our lives is getter more and more public. Mothers still talked about their birth experiences 15-10-25years ago it’s just that now these cirles are much larger and tend to include people all over the place…social media has changed how we share information. Plus it’s a wicked thing to talk about. I loved mybirth expereince and WANT to share it with others. AND i was really proud of having a med-free homebirth, so I wanted to share that too.

    • I don’t know why online birth stories became so prevalent, but I’m so glad they did because I LOVE reading about all the different experiences! No two are exactly the same. 🙂

      • I’m in a “pre-trying” place rn(diabetes needs some wrangling first), so I’m obsessively reading this stuff and I’m so glad I can hear about such a wide-range of real experiences. Bless the internet.

  18. I really appreciate this post! I have felt a lot of sadness and guilt that my birthing experience went counter to everything my husband and I had hoped and planned for. Our son was born via c-section after we tried everything our midwife/doula/on-call OB could think of to have a vaginal birth. His head was too big to fit through my pelvis and his heart started to drop, so I remind myself to be thankful for medical intervention because without it I hate to think what might have happened to us. I have a healthy, happy almost-1-year-old and that is the most important thing!

  19. Thank you so much. I read someone’s comment (not here) that not only is C section not natural, it’s not even a birth. It’s an “extraction.” I laughed that off until I discussed the comment with a friend, and she looked me in the eye and *agreed* that it wasn’t a birth. I am still angry and hurt by this. Thank you for trying to un-divide this issue.

    (obviously, my son was a C Section, and his BIRTH matters)

    • ME TOO! It irks the crap outta me! Especially because with my second son I did EVERYTHING humanly possible to widen my hips and make that baby drop–but lo and behold it was not meant to be.
      I think the real problem is lack of education about medically necessary cesareans (and shit the planned ones too!)
      *HUGS* sometimes people are just plain dumb with their words 😉

    • I agree with this so much!

      My neice and nephew were both cesarean deliveries due to complications. But I would NEVER call their births disgusting, or not real. They are the sweetest things in the world who are VERY real children, who had a very REAL birth. I don’t care how they got out of their mother…the point is…they are here. They are alive. And they are healthy!

  20. Damn! You know I never really put much thought to this. What really is a “unnatural” birth? Sharing this awesome post with friends

  21. THANK YOU for supporting ALL mommys/parents! This is THE ONLY mommy site I got to, specifically because of the divide between ‘natural vs unnatural birthing’ and the inherent guilt that is pressed upon you. I had 2 cesareans, both of which were necessary to get my sons out! Had it been any other way (if I were a cave woman per-say) my children and I would’ve died.
    I’m not sure where this divide started…quite frankly i don’t care enough to find out!…but it is a sad thing to divide mothers because we ALL need EVERYONE’S support because dam it! This mommy (and parenting!) stuff is hard as hell no matter which way you slice it!
    Maybe with more sites like this, we can all come together and celebrate what is important–BEING A MOMMY….no matter how that ‘being’ came to be.
    And HOPEFULLY *fingers crossed* this understanding will span beyond the world wide web and into the ‘real world’ so that mommy’s everywhere can stand together and work towards our goals. 🙂

    • I suspect the divide began in 70s when women began pushing back against the standard hospital births. When the medical establishment dismissed unmedicated birth as pointless, there was a “medicated/surgical birth is inauthentic” backlash.

      • i totally agree with this. i think the term “natural” came after a period of terrible violence towards labouring mothers, like the whole twilight sleep era where women were literally strapped to beds to give birth. Originally, i think the term “natural” was a way to empower women and make their options more visible. whereas i think a medicated birth is no wrong thing, i think a twilight sleep birth is very unnatural and inherently violent to woman and babe. thank god they don’t happen anymore. i do agree that NOW the terms may need a change because the opposite of “natural” is “unnatural” and i don’ t think that’s accurate or empowering to anyone.

  22. I’m sorry, I completely disagree with this.

    There is nothing natural about a cesarean section or an intervention filled birth. Does that mean that a birth that was induced can’t still be amazing? No! Does that mean that c-section mamas can’t have good birth experiences? No! And it certainly does NOT mean that mamas who had interventions during their births somehow love their children less. I’m not sure where those thoughts or assumptions are coming from.

    Calling those births natural though? I’m sorry, but they aren’t. We’re already losing normal, natural birth here in the US? Why make it worse by letting everyone define their birth as natural to avoid hurt feelings? Referring to interventions as natural only perpetuates the myth that they are a normal and necessary part of childbirth. They may be necessary for some, but those “some” should be in the minority.

    • I agree with this completely, with one caveat. It’s no skin off my nose if someone who’s had a c-delivery or an epidural wants to call her birth natural. Doesn’t take anything away from me. But the *overall* concept that any birth is a natural birth seems off to me. On the one hand, I don’t want to hurt moms who’ve already been bullied (mentally or physically) into a medicalized childbirth any more than they already have been by telling them their birth experience was somehow inferior. And I certainly don’t want to stigmatize those moms who chose, consenting, to have a medicalized birth. On the other hand, I don’t want to give the medical industry a linguistic pass that makes their overuse of interventions acceptable.

    • I don’t think the crux of this issue is that women who have had c-sections wish to call their birth “natural.” I could be wrong, but I believe the idea is that the word “natural,” (with all of the meanings we’ve attached to the term) implies that any other version is lesser – it’s more about about connotative meanings, not denotative ones.

      Since both the word “natural” and the act of birth are emotionally charged, and since OM works to use inclusive language, the idea is just to omit “natural” when describing any birth experience. Using terms like “medicated” or “un-medicated,” if one feels the need to use such descriptors, is less exclusive.

    • I agree – I feel that the current way “natural” is being used implies somehow better, implies the way labor and delivery is supposed to be . . . Certainly there was a time when it was natural for women and babies to die in childbirth, but we do not live in that time anymore. There are real, medically necessary reasons for interventions. While I do not call my cesarean delivery natural, without it, in a different time, perhaps either myself, my son or both of us might not have survived the “natural” process. I wanted the intervention-free labor and delivery experience, but it didn’t happen.

      Natural, unmedicated, intervention-free vs intervention-filled, cesaeran delivery, cesarean section – whatever you call it – good or bad, we all went through the same process to become mamas.

      • Death is not completely absent from childbirth today: http://www.inamay.com/?page_id=79 I think one of the deeper fears of proponents of unmedicated vaginal birth are concerns about the interventions and medical guidelines (must deliver in X number of hours after water broken) are not always in favor of the mother and child, but in favor of the convenience of the doctor or the fear of medical lawsuits.

    • May I gently suggest using the term “vaginal” instead of “natural” for a vaginal birth? It is more accurate as natural is…is a value loaded word these days and avoiding the implication of an “unnatural” birth could spare some women some undeserved hurt. Never a bad thing 🙂

      • Personally I’m happy to use the word vaginal in birth conversations, but I know a lot of people who are extremely uncomfortable using correct words for anatomy lol (the same people who think penis is a funny or dirty word).

    • “Why make it worse by letting everyone define their birth as natural to avoid hurt feelings?”

      This! When I say a “natural birth” I choose the word natural because I think it is the most accurate word, not as a value judgment against others who need or choose other types of births.

      It seems like by choosing to call these births unmedicated rather than natural it reinforces medicated births as the norm. Why should I use a negative to describe my natural birth? I prefer to use natural birth rather than unmedicated for the same reason I prefer intact rather than uncircumcised penises and singe rather than unmarried/unwed mothers – it describes what they are rather than what they are not.

      • On the other hand, I could see that being a blow in the face to parents who, for whatever reason, chose not to do things that way.

  23. Good on ya, Offbeat Mama, for standing behind all women. I’m now in my second pregnancy, and there are fewer and fewer places online and off where I feel comfortable and safe enough to discuss how I will be using a hospital for the birth of my baby AND — wait for it! — a DOCTOR to deliver him or her. (And don’t tell anyone, but I might even use disposable diapers, too. Shhhh…) Thanks for making this a safe place to discuss the experience of birth, in whatever its form.

Read more comments

Comments are closed.