How You Gave Birth Doesn't Define Your Strength As A Woman
If you're a mom, have a mom, or know a mom, there's a chance you're familiar with those vivid and sometimes horrifying stories being swapped back and forth between women about how they gave birth.
When moms rehash their labor/birthing experiences, there's usually a discussion about whether or not they had an epidural, a natural (vaginal) birth, C-section, and how long they were in labor for. Occasionally, you may even hear a somewhat competitive tone slip into these conversations as to which mom was in the most pain or who had it worse during the whole birthing process. Sharing and comparing is normal human behavior and we all do it.
But sometimes moms who are feeling inadequate or insecure can get caught up in that whole idea that you've got to have that raw, drug-free, natural birth, exclusively breastfeed once the baby is born, and just be an all around super-human mother in general. I fell into this kind of trap in regards to breastfeeding (you can read my story about that here) and I still have days where I battle those unattainable expectations in other areas of motherhood. My first (and only) story about giving birth sounds and reads much differently than the actual experience was for me. It was a vaginal birth and I did not get an epidural. I've had people tell me how amazing and cave-woman-strong I am for giving birth in this manner all the time. But do you want to know the truth? The truth is that I desperately wanted an epidural and I had planned on getting one. I literally screamed for my epidural! But it never came. It was too late. My daughter was already making her way out like a human torpedo. There was no time for any of that. There are no words to describe the pain of labor without an epidural from my own personal experience other than to say I quite literally thought I was dying. (See, I just shared my horrifying birth experience with you) The entire birth process for my daughter lasted about 6 hours. As soon as I tell some moms that, they're usually quick to tell me how easy I had it compared to their experience of a much longer labor period. I get it. I'm certainly relieved mine wasn't any longer. But should you feel less proud of yourself for producing a human being from your own body if your labor finished in less time than the next mom? Nope. Are you more of a woman if you pushed a baby out the "natural" way or had a C-section instead? Nope. No matter how you did it, you're still bringing an actual human being (or in many cases more than one!) into this world. A baby's not coming out any other way other than via YOU.
You don't need anyone else to validate your journey or give you permission to have pride in how you gave birth to your child or children. Every mother has her story, her legend, her claim to the physical, emotional, and mental initiation into motherhood. One mother is not stronger than the other for being in labor longer, faster, drugged up, drug-free, or somewhere in between. It's great to have that story — that legend — that is your tale of birthing your child or children. Embrace it in all its chaos, flaws, and bloody glory. My original intention was to be completely drugged up for the birth of my daughter. It didn't play out like that and I ended up freaking out. And that's okay.
Do I wish I'd been all zen and prepared for what was coming? Sure. All birth experiences are the stunning tapestries that make a life. One is not better than the other, or more amazing than the other. They're just different and we all come with varying degrees of expectation, preparation, fear, hope, and circumstance. No woman should ever feel less-than for not giving birth in a way that someone else thinks is more superior based on a level of pain or any other factor.
I know many women couldn't care less about what other people think of their birth story, which is awesome. But there are some out there who do feel inadequate about it for one reason or another. They shouldn't. Life comes in many forms, avenues, and journeys. It is a true miracle that should always amaze us no matter how it came to be.
More from Michelle: Am I Mother Enough?