Pain Management

It seems like the biggest debate in birth these days is pain management. It is an obsession. I guess now that we have the option of drugging the pain away we are suddenly faced with choice, and moral quandaries about the extent of human power and what is true experience.

I want to give birth without medication. This isn’t because of any study regarding the health of the baby, or the bonding, or anything that scientific. I quite simply hate needles, and even more so, I hate IVs. The thought of having an IV inserted into me, dripping liquid into my veins or spine, makes me sick to my stomach, and I don’t think I could stand that for twenty hours. I am the type of person who would tear out an IV, and the nurses would hate me. So, while I am trying to prepare for the eventuality that I might need one, I am also trying, selfishly, to avoid it. If Bulgaria had access to the nitrous oxide they use in England to manage childbirth pain, I would seriously reconsider my “natural” approach.

All of that being said, I think it is obvious I am not on the, “Natural is better,” bandwagon that my hippie-self is expected to be on. However, I am not convinced that medicating away birth pain is necessary either.

I was reading an article the other day by a woman who is vehemently against all natural birth movements. She is against home birthing, and advocates for the use of pain medication. According to her it is absurd that we would NOT medicate a birth, as we medicate any other pain. Instead we (as women) are glorifying the pain of birth, or denying it altogether, and insisting that others do the same. It is true. There is a lot of guilt around using pain medication. However, this woman was going to the extreme in the other direction, guilting women for NOT using pain medication. The main comparison people seem to use is a broken arm, or the removal of a cancer, all of which the patient would be heavily medicated for.

I think the idea behind natural birthing is not to deny pain medication, but to take the word, “patient,” out of the equation. Birthing became a medical process. It is compared to emergencies. Whereas the natural birthing movement would rather consider birthing a natural circumstance, not an emergency. Moving birthing into the realm of medical expertise is yet one more way that we allow society to make decisions about a woman’s body as opposed to the woman herself. Society decides when the woman has labored long enough, when she needs medication, when she needs to be cut, when she needs an enema. Society regulates the birth and just expects the woman to go along with it. Of course, as soon as the baby is born it becomes the woman’s responsibility. The very people who are claiming that the medicalization of birthing is done in the best interest of the baby, which society has to protect, want nothing to do with supporting that baby once it is born. As a society we tend to lay claim to unborn babies, quite possessively, and then forsake our full-bodied citizens. It seems absurd to me.

So, yeah, it makes a lot of sense to me to medicate a birth, if you want. It also makes a lot of sense to deal with pain in other ways, and attempt to have a spiritual experience, if you want. The key here is whatever the woman wants. If she wants to give birth in a field, cool. If she wants to give birth in a hospital, cool. Elective cesarian? I wouldn’t choose it, but it is a valid option. It is time that we start respecting other people’s choices, especially women’s. If we want to live in a society that values the individual over community, then community no longer has a right to the offspring of an individual, and the individual should be allowed to choose what they think is best for themselves and their unborn children, without backlash of being considered a “weak woman.” Without religious guilt for Eve and her apples. Without the definition of self being how you decide to give birth.

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