Childbirth, like war, is hell.

Soldier in his helmet with hands covering face

Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman famously said, “War is hell.” It’s an accurate description, so it’s surprising that very few people said it before the 19th Century. War is about maiming, gutting, killing other human beings. and potentially being killed oneself. It is horrifying in every possible way, yet that is not how it has traditionally been portrayed. Young men were (and in some places still are) taught that war is about courage and honor, that it is the highest pursuit of “real” men and that success in battle is the ultimate achievement.

The philosophy of natural childbirth bears as much relationship to childbirth as army recruiting posters bear to the reality of war.

For most women, childbirth is hell, replete with agonizing pain, blood and bodily fluids. Traditionally it has been portrayed as excruciating, life threatening and a punishment administered to women by God. But in the mid 20th Century, natural childbirth advocates decided to romanticize it. They romanticize the pain by minimizing it, attaching spiritual significance to it, or by claiming that it is “good” for mothers and babies. They romanticize the dangers by pretending they don’t exist, and they romanticize the death toll by ignoring it altogether. Natural childbirth advocates go so far as to appropriate the classic exhortations of war mongers. Indeed, they refer to women as “birth warriors.”

What’s the worst thing that a man can be in society that values war? A coward. There is nothing worse than refusing to fight, particularly if it is because of the fear of being killed. Cowards are vilified in societies that value prowess in war and brave men receive medals. Natural childbirth advocates have appropriated the same reasoning, even if they express it slightly differently. What’s the worst thing that a pregnant woman can be in a subculture that romanticizes birth? Someone who does not “trust” birth, but “fears” it, i.e. a coward. Natural childbirth advocates teach women that birth is about courage and honor, that it is the highest pursuit of “real” women and that “success” in birth is the ultimate achievement.

The natural childbirth literature is filled with claims about the pernicious nature of fear in childbirth. It is considered the ultimate put down of doctors, who supposedly have created a “culture of fear” around birth. Fearing pain, and abolishing it with pain relief is derided as the province of weak women who are unwilling to fulfill their true function in life. Being alert for complications is asserted to cause complications. Most importantly, just as men who fear war are shamed with the appellation ‘coward,’ women who do not subscribe to the romantic idealization of birth asserted by NCB advocates are also shamed. They are portrayed not merely as cowardly, which is bad enough, but as bad mothers who care more about themselves than the well being of their babies.

Why did generations of men romanticize war? They did so for a very simple reason, to get other men to follow them into battle. Who would want to go to war if they knew what it was really like. Why do natural childbirth advocates romanticize birth? To get other women to validate them by following them and mirroring their choices.

The most important thing that every women needs to know about the philosophy of natural childbirth is that it bears as much relationship to childbirth as army recruiting posters bear to the reality of war. Both are all about hiding the grim and painful reality because very few people would willingly choose either war or natural childbirth if they knew the truth.

  • Brooke Broersma

    Hmm….I had pleasurable contractions with my last birth. My uterine contractions we’re literally like orgasms with some, but not all contractions. I know birth can also be painful, but I think it may come from an electolyte I’m balance or nutritional deficiency. My evidence is just as anecdotal as the good doctor’s evidence, or anyone else’s experience.

    • Dr. Broersma, I can’t wait to read your peer-reviewed research about how to fix those electrolyte imbalances that have made birth painful for all of recorded history.

      • Brooke Broersma

        Is there a peer reviewed study that shows birth is painful for all of history? Is there a study that shows childbirth is painful for even the majority of births? Women have varying levels of discomfort. A minority of women would describe it as very painful, and a minority would describe it as painless. Most births fall somewhere in between.

        • You and I must run in different circles; the women I know mostly describe childbirth as exceedingly painful. I know someone who had fairly easy labors, but they were still far from painless. Dunno about peer-reviewed study, but childbirth shows up as super-painful in the Bible lots of times.

          • MaineJen

            Biblical-type people thought the pain was god’s punishment. That’s how bad it was.

          • It’s also used throughout various prophetic books when they’re talking about the terrible things God will do to the unrepentant nations; “then you will bow down and groan like a woman in travail whose time is upon her,” or something similar. I have never heard of any other ancient literature talking about painless or orgasmic birth. I’m sure it happens, and that’s wonderful, but it is NOT the norm and shouldn’t be treated as such.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Well, I can see why you would want to hold onto that belief or expectation if it is part of your faith.

          • maidmarian555

            Faith? You mean history. Heidi was referencing history/historical context. Bloody hell. I’m an atheist and I’m on the exact same page as she is with this.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Most atheists wouldn’t even use the Bible for historical context. For some reason, many people flock to this website to reinforce their negative ideas. It is like the cult of the painful childbirth and Amy Tuteur is the leader. If you really want to sit around thinking or preaching about any painful or negative anecdotal birth story you can. Why the focus on the negative? Birth has overwhelmingly not been horrible in the vast majority of cases. My great grandma had 12 before people went to the hospital, and she lived to 89. Women lived longer than men when they had a dozen or more kids unassisted at home. I could die watching TV of a brain aneurysm, it happens.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            Most atheists also aren’t historians, just as most agnostics, most hindus, most christians or whatever.

          • Who?

            Yes, yes, yes. My grandma had 14 children in 21 years and lived into her eighties too. She did go to hospital each time as a little break from the chaos at home. Her first five had their birthdays in the same month in five consecutive years. So? She was the first person to welcome all the care she or anyone could get as medicine knowledge and availability improved. Mind you she was a very kind and compassionate person, not at all in favour of suffering competitions.

            I have to say dying in front of the tv of a nice, quick, momentarily painful brain aneurysm sounds awesome, compared to the cancer, car accident, being shot at or blown up scenarios you were conjuring up earlier as ‘far worse than childbirth’.

          • Nick Sanders

            Living a long time is not an indicator of how painful something in one’s life was or was not.

          • Brooke Broersma

            I disagree. Pain is subjective, and we do tend to grow a tougher skin with age. A child balls will ball his eyes out, if he even scratches his knee. We learn to toughen up, and life experience changes perception. Pain is based upon perception.

          • Who?

            Right-so when an older person tells you something really hurts, do you believe them, because they have lots to compare it to?

            How many and what kind of painful experiences would a woman have to go through before you would believe her when she told you that for her, labour hurts?

          • Brooke Broersma

            This is a non-sequitur reply. If you read my original post, or any of my posts, never did I say I don’t believe child birth is ever painful. In fact, I said I had what I considered pain with prior labors. My first at 18, I considered it the worst pain ever. Looking back, it was an easy birth and I was being overly dramatic. At 18 many girls are dramatic. I only had one pleasurable birth, so far.

          • Who?

            So-you have had births that at the time you considered painful, but in retrospect not.

            You then claim that ‘not’ is a result of ‘doing the work’-walking, yoga and loading up on a grab bag of supplements, that btw may or may not contain the active ingredient on the bottle. Oh and also having the appropriate attitude.

            Is this a fair summary of your position?

          • Brooke Broersma

            I eat well. I do not just take supplements. I believe in getting enough calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc. I do low impact exercise. It really helps, I do what works for me. I don’t do things that don’t work for me. Contractions can be pleasurable. I also do not have cramps with my periods.

          • Who?

            So yes, my summary was accurate.

          • ukay

            Please stop attributing sheer luck to anything you did. Having easy deliveries has nothing to do with your lifestyle and you are no better or worse than anyone else at giving birth.

            And PLEASE: Stop invoking the Netherlands. Their antiquated practices have shown to hurt mothers and babies. They are not an ideal to strive for.

          • Amazed

            But now you’re a strong wombyn. Lucky you.

            Look, if I were you, I would have rushed over to the nearest doctor to check what has turned my reaction to pain into the thing you describe. Sorry, Brookie girl, since pretty much everyone in the world says childbirth is painful, hellish, a war and you’re part of a small subset who finds it pleasurable (how many orgasms did you have while giving yourself the pleasure of “birthing”?), it’s clear that something is wrong with your perception of pain.

            Of course, it’s nothing compared to this high horse you riding, galloping on the road of Improved Self and Noble Contempt for Wimps.

          • MaineJen

            “Silly girl. Stop screaming in pain, will ya? You’re just being dramatic and hysterical. Men suffer far worse on the battlefield. Here, bite on a stick.” You would have been right at home in many historical eras.

          • Nick Sanders

            That’s not at all related to what I said.

          • MaineJen

            Have you ever passed a kidney stone? I challenge you to tough your way through without blinking.

            What, you want pain medication? You absolute WIMP

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            I agree, pain is subjective. Which means, objectively, that you have no business telling anyone else what their pain threshold ought to be, nor whether or not they should take pain meds for anything whatsoever. Since it is subjective, you can have no idea how much pain another person is in. Turn down pain meds for yourself as much as you want – I don’t have pain meds for dental work, since local anæsthetics don’t work (I have EDS) – but don’t think that (a) that gives you the right to proselytise or (b) it makes you a bigger person.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            How many women in labor have you taken care of? How would you have any idea how the vast majority of women perceive it? What makes you think that you are some sort of ideal that other women ought to aspire to? You spout a toxic combination of ignorance and narcissism, but then many natural childbirth advocates do, too.

          • Brooke Broersma

            If your care has caused the vast majority of your patients to be in horrible hellish pain, you must be a horrible doctor. If women leave comparing their experience with you to be like a deadly battle, you may be doing something wrong. Your comparison of something like childbirth to the atrocities of war is what is toxic. Thank goodness you left birth work since you obviously despise the birth process so much.

          • Who?

            Non sequitur doesn’t mean what you think it means.

          • Amy Tuteur, MD

            So I take you you’ve cared for ZERO women in labor yet you believe you are qualified to pontificate on what other women experience? Do you have any idea how arrogant and obnoxious that makes you?

          • Brooke Broersma

            I take care of myself. When did I ever do anything besides share my own anecdotal experience? Why would anyone want a doctor like you that has nothing positive to say? Who would pay you to fear monger? You have no good advice.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Assuming you are a real doctor.

          • Roadstergal

            No good answer to the question, so cue deflection.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Most atheists wouldn’t even use the Bible for historical context.

            No, but you can use it for a cultural context.

            For example, regardless of how historical any of the events of the bible are, it does not change the fact that childbirth 3000 years ago was recognized to be so painful that it was attributed to being a punishment from God.

          • Lilly de Lure

            Unless those atheists happen to be historians of the Ancient Near East.

            What you don’t seem to understand is that the bible (particularly the Old Testament) is a collection of different books that vary between law codes of the time (Deuteronomy and Leviticus for example) which are very useful if you are trying to understand the society that produced them, actual attempts to chronicle the events of the time (e.g books of Kings) written decades and sometimes centuries afterwards – frequently biased – but no more so than other sources we have for the time and highly useful when used in conjunction with archaeology and those other sources. Even the stories that do appear to be pure myth (the creation story, the story of Noah etc) are useful for what they can tell us about the societies that produced them and the connections between different societies (the Noah myth, famously is very similar to the story of Utnapishtim recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh – a similarity which provides useful evidence of the cultural influence exerted by Mesopotamia on Ancient Israel/Judah).

            It appears to escape you that ALL ancient inscriptions, texts and books are products of their time and if we’re serious about studying that time, writing them off as useless because we don’t believe in the literal truth of the theology they expouse is deeply silly to say the very least (we don’t, for example, write off all Ancient Egyptian texts that mention their gods because we no longer believe in their pantheon).

            In the case of the pain in childbirth thing under discussion for example when you are given multiple citations from an ancient text all of which describe childbirth as painful as a matter of course, you might be wise to conclude that, for the society that produced that text, childbirth was widely regarded as being painful!

          • Roadstergal

            I wish I had more than one upvote. I love learning from proper history geeks!

          • Lilly de Lure

            Aww, thanks! *blushes*

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            writing them off as useless because we don’t believe in the literal truth of the theology they expouse is deeply silly to say the very least

            The bible says that the rainbow is the sign of God’s promise to never flood the world again (although it’s coming close this week!).

            An atheist doesn’t believe God exists, therefore, we don’t believe the bible writers actually saw a rainbow or that rainbows even exist. Because the bible is wrong.

            That appears to be her argument.

          • MaineJen

            We don’t need anyone to tell us it’s painful. Many(most) of us have done it before.

            A lot of us found this website while fleeing some natcheral-birth website or other, once we realized they were feeding us BS like “childbirth isn’t painful, it’s all in your head.”

            One of my great grandmas had 16 children. The other had 7, at home, naturally, and 3 of them died directly after birth. Another died of pertussis at age 3.

            My husband is an historian/genealogist. He could tell you many, many tales of men who had 3 or 4 wives in their lifetime. Guess why that was? It’s because women died having natcheral childbirths all. the. time. I’m sure all those births were midwife-attended and pain free…right up until the time everyone died.

            How DARE you presume to come here and tell us that we’re doing it wrong, just because you happened to win the genetic lottery of having easy, ‘orgasmic’ births. I don’t know how old you are, but you’re coming off as sophomoric and obnoxious.

          • maidmarian555

            Who are you to speak for most atheists? It is absolutely possible to glean historical context and information from the Bible. Anyone who’s ever actually studied History or Classics could tell you that. People here aren’t solely focusing on the negatives of birth. I had a lovely pain-free c-section five months ago thankyouverymuch. They’re irritated at you pontificating that for some unknown reason, everyone who claims birth is painful is clearly a big fat liar or too young or too inexperienced or just not wise enough or just had tiny non-stretchy vaginas or whatever. Having a lovely experience makes you lucky, that’s it. You got lucky. You don’t get to speak for everyone else and minimising the lived slightly less lovely experiences of other women is a really ugly thing to do. My great-grandma had 13 babies by the way. Last one at 48. You know what? She was lucky too (as lucky as anyone with 13 frikking kids before the invention of the washing machine could be anyhoo).

          • kilda

            am I the only one quietly hoping her 5th glorious birth hurts like a &*@#$$? Yes, I’m a bad person.

          • Roadstergal

            The odds are pretty decent that it’ll be just like the ones before, I’d think? And the odds are 100% that even if it isn’t, she’ll say it was…

            And of course, that does not do a thing to general principle that ‘painless’ is anomalous and it’s generally anywhere from ‘pretty bad’ to ‘horrible’ if unmedicated.

          • momofone

            Is it possible that other people’s experiences could be both different from yours and equally valid?

          • LaMont

            Yeah, even atheists can respect that if EVERYONE from EVERY society refers to childbirth as hella painful – and since women literally wrote wills in advance, got PTSD, and frequently DIED while attempting natural childbirth – it isn’t an article of faith that the situation is brutal. My own very atheist mother referred to her one super-quick, unmedicated birth as something to avoid at literally any cost.

          • Yeah, see, as countless commenters have explained very clearly, this isn’t about faith. It’s about ancient documents that TAKE IT FOR GRANTED that childbirth is painful.

            By the way, my labors were painless–after I got the epidural. Loved that. I took a nap, played Scrabble, bantered with the nurses, felt aware and in control and able to understand what was happening. None of that would have been possible without that lovely, lovely epidural.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Well, most people who are not Christian consider the Bible to be a fraudulent document, not an actual historical document. A hoax, a fraudulent meant to mislead and deceive masses of people. I had an epidural with my first birth, it must have been administered wrong because it was painful. I decided to go natural afterwards, and only then did I experience painless childbirth. Of course, I was 18 and scared, so I can’t blame that on the epidural. However, you will never know painless birth if you just plan on and automatically get epidural, but that is a personal decision.

          • Who?

            Right-so your (one) epidural didn’t work, therefore nobody who has an epidural will have a less painful birth than they would have had if they didn’t choose an epidural?

            Gotcha.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Non sequitur.

          • Who?

            Why?

            You wrote:

            ‘…you will never know painless birth if you just plan on and automatically get epidural…’

          • Brooke Broersma

            I never said epidurals never work. I said if you automatically get an epidural, you will never know a (natural) painless birth. I gave birth for the first time at 18, I was also scared. I had an epidural, but I experienced pain. At 35, I had a pleasurable natural birth with my 4th child. Is it so hard to believe an older woman giving birth for the fourth time would find pleasurable what once scared her and terrified her? In my experience, every birth is unique. I don’t sit around thinking birth is always painless. I do the work: I walk, do yoga, get plenty of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It helps.

          • Who?

            Oh for goodness’ sake. You ‘do the work’. Have a koala stamp.

            Can you imagine an apparently healthier, fitter person than Serena Williams, who almost died having her baby?

            You are so blinded and deafened by your privilege you can’t recognise it.

          • Brooke Broersma

            She almost died in a hospital, surrounded by doctors. I don’t know her, or even if her C-section was necessary.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Perhaps, but you also cannot say in any way that her C-section was NOT necessary.

          • Brooke Broersma

            I didn’t. I said I don’t know her, or even if it was necessary.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Right. You don’t know shit about anything. Thanks for your worthless contribution.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Well, I know my births. I know what I did, what I experienced. It is not unique to have a positive birth experience. I will have my fifth soon, and can only hope it is at least as good as the last.

          • momofone

            I had a wonderful birth experience too, absolutely positive. Like yours, it was so good I would not hesitate to do it again if I were having more children. The difference is that mine was an amazing c-section.

          • Brooke Broersma

            It is good that everything worked out and you walked away with your baby thinking it was a great experience. That is a sign of good care. It is a sign of bad medical care to do what this story intends to do, and that is to turn what should be the greatest day of our lives and make it feel like a hell. Only a piss poor doctor and staff would make childbirth hell for a woman.

          • momofone

            I’m not at all sure you’re in a position to define “what this story intends to do”, since you seem to be missing so much of the point. Is it possible that the war-is-hell comparison has to do with the inherent danger in both? I am also sure–crazy though this may seem–that women do not need you or anyone else decreeing whether childbirth is generally painful (or beautiful, or awful, or anything else); people are quite capable of interpreting their own experiences without your assistance.

          • MaineJen

            Only 5?????

            Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            Hey, I have five! LOL

            Guess what? My second was going swimmingly, not painless but well within tolerance limits, when his feet suddenly appeared. Ever had an emergency forceps delivery without any time for any pain relief whatsoever? Ever tried to force a whole melon into your mouth with barbecue tongs? My husband was deaf in one ear for a week.

            Only asking, because one of the twins was breech and I didn’t feel a thing thanks to the epidural that only half worked.

          • Azuran

            Good for you.
            And we know our births as well. It would be nice of you to recognise our experience to be just as valuable as yours.
            And we are not saying that birth, even with pain, can’t be positive. Something can be painful and positive, you are actually most likely to have a positive birth experience if you know what to expect and prepare accordingly, and yes, pain is one of those thing you should expect and prepare for.

          • Who?

            Quite so. But she is extremely fit and healthy, which is your recipe for a perfect, pain free delivery. But Serena didn’t have one. How do you explain that? Ebil interventions? Insufficient or the wrong supplements? The wrong kind of walking/stretching/yoga?

          • Brooke Broersma

            Why don’t you write her and ask her? Obviously, I know nothing about Serena or what happened during her birth in the hospital.

          • Who?

            I truly don’t care, am just happy the baby has a living mother.

            I’m interested in you right now. You asserted that being fit was an important factor in pain free delivery. Serena is a high profile, incredibly fit and well person who nearly died having a baby.

            Your prescription failed for her, which means it might fail for you, or anyone.

            In other words, being fit and well is not an invariable marker of a safe delivery, so how can it be an invariable marker of a pain-free one?

          • Brooke Broersma

            Where did I say that being “fit” is a marker of anything? I said I walked and did yoga. I never said I was fit. I did decide to make sure I got calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron in my diet. It helped, in my case. I had a wonderful birth. I also said it was an anecdote, just the same as the anecdotes given in this horrible opinion piece comparing all childbirth to hell and war. Child birth is usually not hell, and should not be compared to atrocities of war.

          • Who?

            The ancients disagree with you.

            Athene posted below when this topic was fresh, as follows:

            Fun fact: Throughout most of pre-christian Northern Europe, women who died in childbirth were given the same burial rites as men who died courageously on the battlefield. It was believed that the very act of carrying a child and attempting to birth it was on par with running headlong into the frontlines of combat. It gained a woman special favor with her ancestors and the gods of her tribes – especially the gods of war. In labor, she was considered a warrior – although her fight was against natural forces considered hostile and unpredictable, not other people. Wounds suffered in childbirth were referred to as battle scars.
            Childbirth was described in terms of great violence, and not sugarcoated.

            We still see this echoes of this in the sagas of the
            later Viking cultures where it was said that women who die in childbirth have a straight ticket to Valhalla and are feted even above the male dead of the battlefield, for their foe was more terrifying and the bravery required of them was considered greater.

            I specialized in European history, so those are the cases I know of in detail. I’ve heard of similar examples from the Levant and East Africa, and it wouldn’t
            surprise me if temporarily equating pregnant and laboring women with a warrior caste was common worldwide, at one time or another.

            I’m not trying to glorify warfare, or “natural” childbirth here. I am trying to show that the link between warfare and childbirth in our cultural consciousness is a very old one.

            One final note: Keep in mind, these practices and beliefs come from very close-knit tribal cultures.
            The concept of “unassisted childbirth”, as we know it today, was unheard of. A woman in labor would be surrounded by every able-bodied person who might be able to assist her. There are actually examples of midwives and birth assistants being executed or exiled for abandoning a woman in labor.

            The woman in labor cannot run away, and also cannot fail her test of bravery. Either she survives – and wins the battle – or she dies, and is still celebrated for her efforts to gift another child to the tribe. There are no qualifiers there. How she manages to bring that
            child into the world – or fails to – is not important. Only the fact that her body and life was put on the line to do so.

            The test of courage, then, was in the people who stood by the laboring woman and supported her. I think that is an important lesson for us today. Are we brave enough to face the unpredictable, dangerous side of childbirth so that we can be fully present with laboring women, and help them any way we can?
            Alternately, we could bury our heads in the sand and pretend their sacrifice is not much, critique their efforts, and tell them that positive thinking will fix all their problems. Would we dare to do that with someone serving in a military combat zone? I think not.

            ****

          • Charybdis

            Because she SEZ SO! It happened for her, so of course it will happen to everybody else if they “do the right things”, aka “what she did”. DUH!!

            /sarcasm, for those not fluent.

          • ukay

            Yes, and she would have certainly died if she had not been surrounded by doctors.

          • MaineJen

            Back up, everybody. Brooke has not yet judged whether Serena Williams’ c section was necessary!

            Please tell us, Brooke, how her PE could have been managed better by midwives.

          • Nick Sanders

            What’s so special about the natural part? Why not just guarantee the lack of pain, rather than leaving it up to chance?

          • Who?

            Where would be the bragging opportunities in that? Do keep up, Nick;-)

          • Brooke Broersma

            What do you all brag about? How childbirth is like war? Sounds like a bunch of dwelling on negative and exalting pain.

          • Who?

            To acknowledge pain, fear and danger isn’t dwelling on it.

            Your proposition is that birth doesn’t have to be painful. Sure. You assert that the reason for the pain is fear. This is based on your most recent birth, for which you prepared by walking, and yoga, and supplements, and eating right, and having a particular attitude. If that’s not bragging, I don’t know what is.

          • MaineJen

            No, see, we don’t brag AT ALL

          • Brooke Broersma

            Epidural doesn’t guarantee lack of pain. My first birth, when I was 18, I had an epidural. There are no guarantees in life. Not all women like the epidural, or find it reliable. For this reason, I figured I would never get an epidural again, because why use a method that didn’t work for me? If it would have worked, I would have done it again.

          • Nick Sanders

            I’m sorry you were still in pain, but how does one experience at least 17 years ago qualify you to tell people what they need now? From everything I’ve heard epidurals have changed and improved a lot in the last couple decades, in multiple ways.

          • Tigger_the_Wing

            I had three pregnancies in my twenties, no pain relief for any of them. I had an epidural for the first time with my fourth delivery, at age 35. It only semi-worked; I had no pain on one side, normal pain on the other.

            It was a hell of a lot less painful than my three previous ‘natural’ deliveries. 100% would do again, if I hadn’t guaranteed two years later that pregnancy wouldn’t ever happen again.

          • Azuran

            So, because epidurals don’t always work we shouldn’t be getting them?
            seatbelts won’t always save you life, so you should stop using it.

            See, the thing is, no one here is telling you that your pain or lack of pain is false, If you say the epidural didn’t work for you, we believe you and support your decision not to have one again because they do have side effects. We accept and respect your experience

            The problem is that YOU don’t accept and respect OUR experience.
            You didn’t have pain on your 4th birth, good for you.
            Most women still have pain, they did for all of recorded history and they still do today. Many women also have epidurals and find them wonderful.
            Your experience does not make you better of worse than anyone else here.

          • Heidi

            Or your cervix had an easier time of dilating. I don’t experience menstrual cramps now that I’ve given birth. It had nothing to do with fear or electrolyte imbalances. You know what I wouldn’t do? Go to a forum for endometriosis sufferers and tell them their experience isn’t real, tell them I don’t experience debilitating pain anymore so just put in the hard work I do. You know, the hard work of shoving food in my face and stretching. But I guess while I am not 100% satisfied with my accomplishments in life, I am not desperate enough to shout from the rooftops that I have balanced my electrolytes and orgasmed during birth.

          • rosewater1

            It helps/helped you. And that’s great. You do you. But what if a woman doesn’t want to do that? What if she wants an epidural? Or IV pain meds? Or a c/s?

            It really boggles the mind how so many people talk about choice and mother’s rights…and then when it bumps up against what they are SURE is the One True Way…no, that’s wrong.

            Why does it matter to you what another woman does for pain relief in labor? Or doesn’t do?

            You and other people who advocate for drug free potentially pain free births have stated your case. Why not let women make up their own minds?

          • Roadstergal

            And a co-worker of mine (it came up in the Birth Chat I mentioned above) had epidurals for both of her births, and they were quick and painless, both kids healthy. See, more anecdotes.

            Sooooo, Brer Brooke, how do we know _which_ anecdotes are more representative of the most likely experience for someone contemplating a course of action? It’s a short, simple answer, and I’d love to see if you can come up with it.

          • Heidi

            Hmmm, I definitely didn’t know painless birth before I got my epidural. I was even in my 30s and can’t say I was scared. I went into active labor fast, like blink of an eye, even as a first time mother. How’d I know I was in active labor? I went from feeling no pain to OMIGOD, push the call light and tell them I want my epidural now! I happened to be in the bathroom when labor started out of nowhere and it took everything in me plus the help of my husband to hobble back to the bed. It took several doses to get the epidural to work so I got to experience a big chunk of labor without effective pain relief. Thankfully, the wonderful doctors got me pain free. I’m so glad they didn’t tell me too bad because while ideally I’d have liked to have done the whole thing pain free, at least I didn’t have to push in pain, feel what it’s like to rip both ways or receive stitches without relief!

          • Brooke Broersma

            In the same page, the snake was cursed to crawl on his belly and eat dust? Do snakes really eat dust? You are really stretching it if you have to quote the Bible as proof.

          • MaineJen

            I don’t need the bible or anything else to prove that childbirth is painful. I’ve done it twice. It’s painful as hell. I appreciate that it wasn’t that way for you, but you won’t seem to accept that you’re in the minority.

          • Brooke Broersma

            Only twice? The first time I had a baby I was 18, and for me it was painful, because I was nothing but a young inexperienced girl. Sure, stretching that far may be uncomfortable or considered painful the first time.

          • MaineJen

            …could you be any more condescending?

            Tell me, oh wise woman, in all your considerable years and worldly experience, have you learned about empathy? Humility?

          • Who?

            I’ll spare BB the trouble-it’s nothing and nothing.

            What use are empathy and humility when you’re trying to set up and win suffering competitions?

          • Brooke Broersma

            I also know that it is a very American thing to think childbirth is very painful. In the Netherlands, where I have lived before and given birth at home once, women do not consider childbirth to be very painful. Very few women ever see a doctor either in the Netherlands. So, I do know that it is a very cultural thing and not something inherent in birth.

          • Who?

            So the thesis now is that Americans experience birth as more painful than a small subset of Europeans do. Were the people you met representative of all women in The Netherlands? Or were they a small subset?

          • momofone

            “So, I do know that it is a very cultural thing and not something inherent in birth, for me.”

            Fixed it for you.

          • LaMont

            Very few women see doctors? So the well-documented risks of pre-eclampsia, retained placenta, uterine atony, don’t affect them? They don’t die of these fatal complications? Wow!! Belief really is magic!!

          • Brooke Broersma

            In the Netherlands, the majority of women only go to a midwife when pregnant. They don’t get referred to an obstetrician unless the midwife detects a problem that needs an obstetrician. Child birth has better outcomes in the Netherlands. Belief must be magic along with a good lifestyle for them. They also have a high rate of home birth and few women need epidurals in labor there. American obstetrical care is notorious for it’s poor quality and outrageous costs.

          • Who?

            Since giving birth at home means they can’t have an epidural even if they want one, it might be a bit of poetic licence to assert few are needed.

          • Mishimoo

            Do you have decent citations to support your claims?

          • Who?

            Do you have citations to prove birth is painful? Despite having experienced pain during birth herself, before she got all learned about how to do it right, BB doesn’t believe so.

          • Mishimoo

            Ah, but all evidence is anecdotal, apparently. Such a post-modernist view on science!

          • Who?

            I have some doubts about post-modernism.

            Loving this cooler weather!

          • Mishimoo

            Same here on both counts!
            Back to uni next week, currently being a bit sneaky and starting the coursework early because it has been uploaded to the site. Hope you’re well!

          • Who?

            Sounds very fine, good job getting ahead of the curve. It buys you some wriggle room when those inevitable distractions arise.

            All good here, have decided to dip my toe back into the world of work, so am talking to a few people to see what’s out there. Not sure I’m really ready but the first step is the hardest, so when I get that out of the way I’ll feel better about it.

          • Mishimoo

            Thanks, and exactly! I’m taking 32 points worth of subjects this session, as well as organising what feels like a million other things for elderly/sick family members. Yay, scheduling!

            Good luck in the job search, I hope you find something lovely (especially considering the last place!)

          • Roadstergal

            That’s not sneaky, it’s smart. My inner Loki approves, and would do the same thing in college. 😀

          • Mishimoo

            Thanks! 😀
            I’m incredibly grateful for online classes, they make life so much easier. Pretty excited because I’m taking the core research subject this session, and it looks interesting.

          • Who?

            Great weekend for online classes-stay safe and dry. At least it is a lot cooler!

          • Mishimoo

            So grateful for the rain. Hope you stay safe and dry too!
            Hit the first hurdle already lol – one of the kids ended up with a stomach bug, so the other two will probably develop it too. In happier news, the official results for last session have been posted. I managed to achieve a High Distinction in one subject and Distinctions in the other two subjects, which is just…wow!! I wasn’t expecting to do that well.

          • Amazed

            Congrats! It’s such a thrill!

          • Amazed

            “Child birth has better outcomes in the Netherlands”

            Bwahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

            Did midwives tell you this?

          • Lilly de Lure

            Well, from the midwive’s perspectives they probably are – ebil intervention rates are much lower after all and what’s a skyrocketting perinatal death rate next to that?

          • Amazed

            Makes sense!

          • Roadstergal

            What is the perinatal mortality of low-risk women in the Netherlands seeing only midwives, vs high-risk women in the Netherlands seeing OBs?

          • MaineJen

            “Silly little woman. You’re so young and inexperienced. The pain is all in your head.” Now who does that sound like?

          • Lilly de Lure

            Silly MainJen! Didn’t you know misogyny is just dandy so long as its midwives and birth hobbyists doing it? /s

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I know that there is a culture of homebirth with midwives in the Netherlands, although that is changing (the homebirth rate in the Netherlands has dropped significantly). But even given all that, I do not see how it relates to your claim that they do not consider childbirth to be very painful.

            (that is an example of a non-sequitor)

            They can consider childbirth to be very painful, but still avoid doctors because, you know, that is the culture. “Deal with it”

            Meanwhile, I do hear a lot from natural childbirth proponents and epidural avoiders about wanting things like the ability to move around during labor, having birthing tubs, and not having to labor on their back, for example. Why do they insist on that if they are confident that labor is not so bad?

            The whole basis for “moving around” during labor is so that you can adopt a position that doesn’t hurt so bad. Sounds like those epidural avoiders are absolutely planning on doing things to try to minimize the pain.

            You need to convince THEM it’s not very painful.

          • Roadstergal

            In the Netherlands, where my co-worker comes from and homebirthed her two children with midwives, she had to space them out more than she originally planned because the (straightforward vaginal) birth of the first was so horrifically painful that she had to basically get to the point where she couldn’t remember it well before she could face having her second.

            She was able to tell us at the ‘water cooler’ birth chat a few of my co-workers had. She wasn’t able to tell the midwives – they don’t want to hear it.

          • maidmarian555

            The OB that delivered my son (via c-section, no less!) was from the Netherlands. She was *lovely*. Seriously, the nicest, kindest, most honest person I came into contact with during my entire birth experience. I wasn’t shown much kindness during that experience, and I will always remember her fondly. It was also her extensive notes about what went wrong that got me a second c-section with my daughter with minimal argument (once I’d actually got my foot in the door with pushing against a VBAC) too. I do wonder if she came here to the UK bc they’re so pro-midwives/homebirth in the Netherlands. If so, they are missing at least one pretty fucking excellent doctor for sure.

          • Charybdis

            So, tell me then: Did you find anal sex to be painful the first time as being stretched that far can be considered uncomfortable/painful? How about the first time you deep-throated a guy? Any issues with your gag reflex or breathing as your throat stretches to accommodate the erect penis?

            I find anal sex to be pleasurable with quicker and more intense orgasms. If you don’t, then perhaps you have an electrolyte imbalance or nutritional deficiencies. Better look into that.

          • Roadstergal

            My first time doing anal was SO much less painful and more fun than the time they dilated my cervix just a little to put in the IUD!

          • Mishimoo

            I also had a baby at 18, and it wasn’t even in the top ten most painful things I have experienced. It’s just sheer good luck, not age or experience.

          • Brooke Broersma

            I am glad to hear that, I have friends that did not find there first birth to be horrible either. I was a bit of a wimp at 18. Looking back, my birth was fine. At the time, I complained. My last birth was fantastic.

          • Mishimoo

            See, I have a dear friend who initially said that she felt like she was dying during labour and birth. She did all the ‘right’ things, birthed in the ‘right’ way, and yet: it was the most horrific experience of her life. Of course, with time and exposure to the ‘right’ way of thinking (homebirthing women’s circles) she accepted the ‘truth’: it was just intense surges and not really pain. So now the narrative has been rewritten to be a bloodless, painless, intense, wonderful birth.

            Your discussion of birth experiences follows a similar narrative, and therefore suggests that you have mentally rewritten your births in order to re-frame it as a very positive experience with yourself as a superior being. It’s not a particularly helpful stance to adopt in relation to connecting with others, and I hope you grow past it.

          • Who?

            Upvote this.

          • Anna

            You’ve certainly been born a lot of times! Me, I’ve only been born once. Ive given birth 4 times though. For me it wasnt tear your skin off painful but it didnt tickle. C-sections much less painful but a little uncomfortable recovery. First vaginal couldnt sit on a hard chair for 3weeks. Second vaginal was much easier so I guess a lot more stretchy. Maybe you just have a really huge vagina?

          • fiftyfifty1

            What do you mean a wimp? If birth doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t hurt. If childbirth is actually pleasurable, not painful, why would anyone need to toughen up? Do you mean to say that at 18 you were lying? That it felt great but you complained to everyone that it was bad? I am so confused.

          • Azuran

            So? My mom had 4, stretched over 10 years. So I’m pretty sure she was ‘experienced’ by the fourth one. All four births were painful.
            The last one was easier, as is often the case after multiple birth, but it was still painful.

            For that matter, why do you accept that having a leg blown off by a mine in a war zone is painful? Where is your study proving that those war-veteran actually experienced pain?
            Why do you believe them when they say it’s painful but not the thousands of reference everywhere in history (or just mothers living today) claiming that birth is painful for the majority of women?

          • Gaest

            Do you actually know for certain that snakes DON’T ingest dust? I mean, we do when we breath in air where the dust has been stirred up. I never took that passage to mean that snakes ate only dust, just that it’s an unpleasant existence to be so close to the ground all the time where you’re going to end up eating dust whether you want to or not.

          • Roadstergal

            Yeah, snakes sample the air with their tongues for chemical cues, so it’s reasonable to think some pre-scientific nomads would have observed that accurately, then explained it wrong as ‘eating dust.’

            Much like how they would have observed, accurately, that childbirth was insanely, overwhelmingly painful for most women most of the time, and explained it wrong as ‘a curse from God.’

          • Brooke Broersma

            Where? Besides that nonsense with Eve and the snake, I can’t cite one scripture that includes information about any birth being painful or dangerous. Do snakes eat dust? Are rainbows really proof of God’s promise? Where are these lots of times you speak of? Does the Bible prove anything? Is it scientific? No.

          • Many commenters on this site think of the Bible as nothing but a collection of stories, either. However, these are the stories told by ancient people. We have women dying in childbirth (Rachel and Eli’s daughter-in-law). Verses speaking of childbirth pain include:

            John 16:21: When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

            Isaiah 13:8: “They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.” Also Isaiah 21:3, 26:17 and 42:14; Jeremiah 13:21 and 22:23; Psalm 48:6;I could go on.

            For ancient people, having children was wonderful, but the birthing part was widely recognized as painful and dangerous.

          • maidmarian555

            Precisely this. You don’t need to believe in the theological aspects of the Bible to appreciate that it certainly holds a fair amount of historical relevance.

          • Brooke Broersma

            All B.S. written by men who may have never even seen a woman giving birth. You can hold onto your pain and your Bible.

          • Empress of the Iguana People

            *snort* my Luo African History professor recommended The Bible to us as a potential tool to understand both something of the lifestyle of the writers’ society(ies) and their understanding of the world. You can use Greek, Chinese, Shawnee, and any other mythology the same way. Of course you take it all with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some socio-historical use. Even men may recognize that their wives are in a smidge of pain.

            But, please, do continue to tell me how your low-level of pain during childbirth means I’m mistaken over how much mine hurt.

          • maidmarian555

            Riiiight. Ok genius, please explain to me why most of the references given use birth as a comparison to explain the pain a given character is going through. Birth is often used as a reference, a comparison for extreme pain/agony etc etc in the Bible- not as a direct reference to birth. Why would they use birth as the benchmark for that if it was not a given societal truth that birth is very, very painful?

            Whilst we can obviously agree that Christianity, like many successful religions that have lasted for over 1000yrs and more, is patriarchal, it would make zero sense for the Bible to lie about the pain that most women experience in birth. Zero. The way that religions perpetuate successfully is for their acolytes to have children, who have children, who have more children in order to keep the religion going. If birth were genuinely a painlesss, orgasmic, pleasurable experience for the majority, the Bible would be full of multiple references to how amazing it is, and would not mention pain at all.

            What difference does it make to you that other women find birth painful? Why do you feel it’s so important to deny that pain is a part of that process for the majority? If you have never found it painful then you’re amazingly lucky but to pretend that’s anything other than astoundingly good luck is horribly disengenuous at best.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Why do you think the men who wrote the bible never saw a woman giving birth? Or never talked to a woman who gave birth?

            They weren’t morons. They know what what was going on.

          • maidmarian555

            Yes ancient men who often lived in one-room dwellings with their entire family and indeed livestock absolutely never ever saw a woman give birth. Or heard a woman give birth. I mean sure, educated and wealthy men may have got through life without doing so but back then (and indeed throughout most of history) people lived in such close proximity that life, sex, birth and death were things that pretty much everyone would get to experience up close and personal.

          • Yep. Childbirth and war were present, intimate realities to ancient peoples. To argue otherwise is astoundingly ahistorical.

          • Roadstergal

            Here’s the written account of an actual human woman who gave actual birth in the actual past, who had a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle and ate only ‘organic’ and ‘non-GMO,’ who started her labor with a midwife and had a homebirth:

            “She was being borne away on a wave of pain. A gust of cold, fresh air brought her back and she saw a tall man drop his snowy overcoat by the door and come towards her in the lamplight.
            She vaguely felt a cloth touch her face and smelled a keen odor. The she drifted away into a blessed darkness where there was no pain.”

          • I’m not the one whose religion is dependent on accomplishing birth in a certain way, thanks.

          • maidmarian555

            Here ya go:

            https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Labour-Pains

            They have 27 right there.

          • Oh, much more efficient than my listing, thanks.

          • maidmarian555
          • Azuran

            OMG, just go out and ask mothers, not everything needs a freaking study.
            Just ask people, anywhere, ask them if they felt any level of pain on childbirth.
            From my entire family, friends and coworker, every mother I know have said that it hurt every single time they gave birth. They mention varying levels of pains, it varies between birth and they will rate it differently on a scale depending on their past painful life experience, but they still have pain. The vast majority of women will tell you that they had pain during their birth.

        • MaineJen

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          Sorry. Excuse me. Did you just ask for *proof* that childbirth is painful?

          I won’t debate that there does exist a small, very lucky minority of women for whom birth will not cause great pain. To them I say: Hoorah! Enjoy your great good fortune!

          I would argue that the vast majority of mothers will describe it as one of the most painful experiences of their lives. Also the most joyful, certainly, considering that you get a brand new baby at the end. But painful? YES.

          • maidmarian555

            My C-sections didn’t hurt. I somehow doubt she’d even considered us non-natcheral birthers when making that statement though…..

          • Brooke Broersma

            We can argue anything. I would postulate that only a very young and inexperienced woman would consider childbirth the most painful experience of her life. I have seen people die from cancer, or suffer the long term effects of automobile accidents. I think it makes light of war injured veterans that have lost limbs or been disfigured from explosives to compare it to a normal childbirth .

          • MaineJen

            wow

          • Who?

            Right-so let’s get this straight.

            You’ve moved your position from ‘natural birth doesn’t hurt’ to ‘natural birth might not end up being the most painful experience a person experiences or witnesses in their life’.

            So now what you propose is a suffering competition, which you, having set the fast moving parameters, win.

            I imagine being injured in a car accident does hurt, as does being injured by weapons the whole job of which is to maim and kill people. And yes, I gather cancer really hurts.

            And you throw in a little shout out to ‘our boys’: perhaps (just for completeness) you might include in the list those people who were maimed and killed in school shootings, or church shootings or shootings at rock concerts. Or does their suffering not have quite the same heart stirring ring?

            Do try to be serious.

          • swbarnes2

            Yes, of course you postulate that. It reveals a lot about your character to think that the claims of women about what happens to their own bodes is meaningless in the face of your pet unprovable, unquestionable unevidenced axiom.

          • Azuran

            Yet, it’s still the most painful experience of her life.
            Doesn’t matter that being blown up by a bomb is more painful, it’s not a competition.
            It’s HER pain, it’s the most pain that she’s ever been in and that’s all that matter. And pain is pain, discomfort is pain and anyone who feels pain deserves to have their pain taken seriously and treated.
            So what if OTHER people experience pain worst than childbirth?
            I gave birth, it was painful. More painful than anything else I’ve been through. And that includes a couple of surgery and an open fracture.

            I started having my period again, and cramps hurt. Sure, it’s nothing compared to giving birth, but I’m still taking painkillers for my cramps. Should I just suck it up because cramps are ‘not that painful’ compared to giving birth?

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          Brooke, do you disbelieve women and girls when they complain about painful periods?

          And you yourself have just made Certified Hamster Midwife’s point.

          “A minority of women would describe it as very painful, and a minority would describe it as painless. Most births fall somewhere in between.”

          What is in between ‘very painful’ and ‘pain free’. That’s right – painful. You are arguing against everyone else’s point that childbirth is painful for the majority by… claiming that childbirth is painful for the majority. I fail to see why you’re still arguing.

    • I’m glad your experience was good. It does not reflect most women’s experience.

    • Box of Salt
    • Roadstergal

      I was able to drive and do chores with a broken collarbone for several days before I was able to see a doctor (properly pieces-floating-around broken). People who have pain with broken bones just have an electrolyte imbalance or nutritional deficiency. My anecdote is just as good as anyone else’s who _claimed_ to need pain relief.

  • shay simmons

    OK, technically he wrote “war is all hell.”

  • susannunes

    Heck, the psychology profession even labels women who have legitimate concerns about childbirth and justifiable fear of it as having “tokophobia.” A phobia is an irrational fear. Being afraid of dying in childbirth or having one’s body damaged or destroyed in it is not irrational.

  • Erin

    I am a CNM student, and I hear the “trust birth” mantra everywhere. But I don’t trust birth, not one iota. I have not seen nor experienced anything that makes me trust it. Birth is a force of nature, not some benevolent deity you can appease by singing its praises. It can be as temperamental as the weather. Nurse-midwives are like meteorologists: we read patterns of pregnancy and labor to predict the outcomes. Often it’s blue skies, and that’s where we’re comfortable, but when a storm rears, we collaborate/refer to the disaster response team: the obstetricians and specialists. Failure to accurately predict a storm brewing can leave OBs unprepared with a mess to handle (like homebirths gone South) and a bad outcome for our mothers and babies.

    This can happen even with low-risk patients. I should know; my first pregnancy ended in a stillbirth. No one can tell me to “trust birth” when I’ve held my own dead infant in my arms. “Trust” has nothing to do with it.

    • Spamamander, pro fun ruiner

      I am very sorry for your loss, but thank you for channeling it into helping ensure other women have the safest births you can assist them to have.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I am very sorry about your loss. And agree, thank you for channeling your efforts.

      I can imagine that you hear a lot of things that are pretty insulting when you come down to it. I know it can’t be easy, but I hope that when you do hear crap like that (“you have to have good thoughts!” or worse, attempts to blame bad outcomes on the mother), that you remind everyone that they are talking about YOU. Are they saying it’s your fault?

      They’ll come back with, “Oh, we didn’t mean you” but you need to remind them, when they are talking about loss, they ARE talking about you. Maybe they will realize that they are insulting real people.

      • Erin

        Yes. I swear, even among (some) CNMs, there’s such a woo-woo echo chamber. The most insulting thing to me is when I read professional midwifery literature and they list c-sections and epidurals as “poor outcomes”.

        Yeah…no. Process =/= outcome. Needing a c-section or pain medication does not constitute a failure of any kind. It is so paternalistic and condescending for midwives to push their agenda under the guise of female empowerment. Is the mother okay and healthy? Yes? Is the baby alive and healthy? Yes. Maybe the delivery didn’t go the way the mother or the provider wanted, but if the mom gets to walk out of the hospital with a healthy baby, then it was a successful birth. The only way to “fail” at birth is if mother and/or baby don’t get to go home…

        • LaMont

          C-sections might indicate something medically interesting at least, but epidurals? Like, wow, a universally-known-to-be-painful experience *required pain relief*? How is that a poor outcome? What is to be done about that? C-sections might indicate some sort of problem with labor that OBs might be interested in working on in the future, but what is to be done about the pain beyond *offering pain relief*??? Good god.

          • Erin

            I couldn’t begin to tell you. That is where I disconnect from many of my fellow CNMs. I don’t see epidurals or pain relief as any kind of undesirable thing. I don’t know where it became feminist and empowering to convince women they *should* feel the full pain of childbirth, and that there is some sort of morality to their suffering. I decided to become a midwife to advocate for my patients choice and preferences (provided they are safe, sound, and the baby cooperates), not my own birth preferences and agenda. Forcing what I consider to be the best way to give birth on a woman is paternalistic, and replaces that historical patriarchal structure of obstetrics that midwifery pushed back against with a new condescending matriarchy; it’s no better, really. I’m an aspiring midwife to promote patient autonomy, which is not inherently synonymous with natural childbirth–this is something many midwives have lost along the way.

          • LaMont

            I’d go so far as to say that I *advocate* for use of pain relief. Not if a woman is determined not to use it, but the fact that many/most women who go in with a “no pain relief” plan end up using it anyway says that we should start speaking up for the positives in pain relief. We need to stop setting up women to fail because they are in pain. We need to start putting “go without pain relief” in the same “stupid/insane” bucket with the JW’s “let yourself die if you need a transfusion” belief.

          • Indeed. When someone says they used no drugs in labor, I say “Ah, wow, good for you,” but what I’m thinking is decidedly less complimentary–more along the lines of “I ran a marathon without drinking so much as a sip of water, wearing woolen long underwear!” It’s not really something to aspire to….

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          The only way to “fail” at birth is if mother and/or baby don’t get to go home…

          That is definitely a bad outcome, but I find the description “failed at birth” to be pretty insulting. The birth attempt may have been a “failure” but no one failed.

          • Erin Williams

            I understand what you mean. I didn’t phrase that well. I certainly don’t view a stillbirth or maternal death as anyone’s failure (unless there was provider negligence involved). I don’t think that losing my baby makes me a failure, which is why I put “fail” in quotations. That’s not reflective of my personal feelings. I was trying to express that there is a big difference between c-sections and epidurals being considered a bad outcome and a dead mother and/or baby being a bad outcome. Firstly, one is truly an outcome while the other is just a mode of birth/intervention. Secondly, and most importantly, the death of a mother or baby is a far greater tragedy than a deviation from a birth plan or preference.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            The problem is, Erin, that some people WOULD consider it to be a personal failure. They have to believe that, because it is a consequence of the “nature is perfect, trust birth” philosophy.

          • Erin

            I agree with you…but I am confused…you said you found what I said insulting. Even after I clarified, do you find issue with what I said, specifically, or more the idea out there that some people legitimately would feel that way?

    • Tara Coombs Lohman

      Me too, Erin. Nothing makes you a believer in the “childbirth is deadly” philosophy like spending hours giving birth to a child who has already died. Many of us had to learn the hard way that you absolutely cannot trust birth. But I absolutely trust the medical science that allowed me to survive that birth, and that allowed me to monitor my next two children so they did not end up following their older brother to the grave.

      • Erin

        Tara, I’m so sorry that you are also among the ranks of loss moms. I wish no one else knew that pain, but alas, here we are. Rose-tinted glasses shattered.

  • Gæst

    Sing the praises of the epidural!

  • MaineJen

    Amen.

  • Anna

    Interesting analogy. I think when everyone comes out alive and in one piece from birth we forget that not everyone does. I can’t imagine a veteran that comes home and says “well I survived a helicopter crash so that means theyre safe” or “we need to stop looking at mortality as the only measure of outcome”. I wonder if a vet who lost his legs would go on the we love war FB page and be talked over by a bunch of lay people that have never seen action. Told to shut up and stop trying to ruin it for others? Or ignored while people talk about the trauma of having surgery to save their lives or being bullied into wearing a helmet.

  • Athene

    Ooooh! I get to finally use my history degrees!

    Fun fact: Throughout most of pre-christian Northern Europe, women who died in childbirth were given the same burial rites as men who died courageously on the battlefield. It was believed that the very act of carrying a child and attempting to birth it was on par with running headlong into the frontlines of combat. It gained a woman special favor with her ancestors and the gods of her tribes – especially the gods of war. In labor, she was considered a warrior – although her fight was against natural forces considered hostile and unpredictable, not other people. Wounds suffered in childbirth were referred to as battle scars. Childbirth was described in terms of great violence, and not sugarcoated.

    We still see this echoes of this in the sagas of the later Viking cultures where it was said that women who die in childbirth have a straight ticket to Valhalla and are feted even above the male dead of the battlefield, for their foe was more terrifying and the bravery required of them was considered greater.

    I specialized in European history, so those are the cases I know of in detail. I’ve heard of similar examples from the Levant and East Africa, and it wouldn’t surprise me if temporarily equating pregnant and laboring women with a warrior caste was common worldwide, at one time or another.

    I’m not trying to glorify warfare, or “natural” childbirth here. I am trying to show that the link between warfare and childbirth in our cultural consciousness is a very old one.

    One final note: Keep in mind, these practices and beliefs come from very close-knit tribal cultures. The concept of “unassisted childbirth”, as we know it today, was unheard of. A woman in labor would be surrounded by every able-bodied person who might be able to assist her. There are actually examples of midwives and birth assistants being executed or exiled for abandoning a woman in labor.

    The woman in labor cannot run away, and also cannot fail her test of bravery. Either she survives – and wins the battle – or she dies, and is still celebrated for her efforts to gift another child to the tribe. There are no qualifiers there. How she manages to bring that child into the world – or fails to – is not important. Only the fact that her body and life was put on the line to do so.

    The test of courage, then, was in the people who stood by the laboring woman and supported her. I think that is an important lesson for us today. Are we brave enough to face the unpredictable, dangerous side of childbirth so that we can be fully present with laboring women, and help them any way we can?
    Alternately, we could bury our heads in the sand and pretend their sacrifice is not much, critique their efforts, and tell them that positive thinking will fix all their problems. Would we dare to do that with someone serving in a military combat zone? I think not.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      OK, I know that Pablo’s First Law of Internet Discussion is to always assume that someone participating knows more about the topic than you do. In this case, I think we can say that Athene IS that person who know more about the topic than we do 🙂

      Thanks for that information!

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      I think I love you

  • StephanieJR

    Isn’t it an oft repeated fact (that I have no idea the accuracy of), that in ancient Sparta, the only people to get headstones were soldiers and women who died in childbirth?

    This doesn’t mean that war and birth are glorious events to be proud of; all this means is that war and birth are both hell.

    Also, there is something super squicky about ‘birth warriors’ being so proud of their fannies. Like, I’m pretty sure you’re more than just your reproductive parts, so please stop bragging about them.

    • Athene

      well said. 🙂

  • LaMont

    Oh! Today I crunched some numbers. Apparently, risk of dying by gun in the US each year is about half as high as the risk of childbirth. Idk if that makes me feel better or worse about having kids one day, but it does make me think that all my “gun control now” friends should stop being “nachural or bust” about women’s stuff.

    • Heidi

      Everyday something makes me feel bad that I decided to bring life into this world. If I’d held off childbearing another couple of years (got pregnant early 2015), I guarantee I’d have decided to not have a child. Of course, I love my child, but I love him so much, I really worry what kind of world I brought him into.

      • MaineJen

        Both my kids were born during the Obama years, too.

        Those were more innocent times…

        • Gæst

          I voted for Obama while pregnant.

        • LaMont

          sweet summer children…

      • guest

        I definitely have been feeling this way about my two kids as well.

      • Gæst

        Someone told me that having a child is the ultimate expression of optimism. When I have similar feelings about having brought a child into the world today, I think about people from past eras where things looked much worse. Sure, pregnancy was less of a choice in the past, but times that looked like the absolute worst did eventually turn around many times. And got worse again. And better again. Etc.

        • Merrie

          Yeah, this always gets me down too. I try not to think about it. My dad told me they were worried about nuclear war when I was born, and it’s always something.

      • Maybe a better one for having your child in it. Who knows?

    • fiftyfifty1

      Risk of childbirth to whom? The baby I am assuming. Certainly not maternal mortality.

      • LaMont

        Maternal mortality is what I was using, deaths per-100,000 births (as compared to gun deaths per 100,000 Americans annually).

        • fiftyfifty1

          Wow, this surprised me! I had thought that when you added it all up (homicides, suicides, accidents) that the total gun death rate would be higher than the maternal mortality rate, but no. (Gun death is ~12 per 100,000 total population vs. maternal mortality is ~26 per 100,000 births.) I guess my perception is skewed by the fact that total gun deaths are so much higher than maternal deaths.

          • Toni35

            Gun deaths get more press.

          • Wren

            Well, some of them do. Mass shootings or police shootings do. Suicides and single gun deaths often do not. I’m pretty sure if 26 women all died from maternal mortality in one place at one time, that would get a lot of press too.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “Gun deaths get more press.”

            Which makes sense. It’s ~14,000 gun deaths per year vs ~700 maternal deaths. If we cut maternal deaths in half (as some have estimated we could) it would save ~350. Cutting gun deaths in half would save thousands.

        • Tigger_the_Wing

          Isn’t that a mistaken comparison, though? Everyone in the US is at risk of gun violence, thanks to outrageously lax gun control, but by no means do all women give birth each year – and no men. So a woman can reduce her risk of dying in childbirth to nil by not getting pregnant (or reduce it to nearly nil by not carrying a pregnancy long enough to have to give birth) but there is nothing she can do to protect herself from death by firearm except by leaving the country.

      • OrionsMom

        It’s definitely the Maternal death rate IF one is assuming the USA. For a terrible reason the US isn’t doing a good job of taking care of postpone Mama’s. It’s ridiculously high for a developed country. I mean part of the problem is hospitals try to push mom’s and babies out of the hospital after 24-48hrs after delivery! They focus completely on baby and they don’t educate mother’s on her healing complications.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    It is considered the ultimate put down of doctors, who supposedly have created a “culture of fear” around birth

    Mind-boggling.

    It was doctors who wrote the book of Genesis 3000 years ago?

  • Empress of the Iguana People

    Posthumous glory doesn’t do much for a person, and usually that renown is fairly short-lived, a few generations maybe, unless you did something remarkable in life. Who fell with King Richard when Henry Tudor seized the throne? Even the other nobles are largely forgotten.

  • OT: There was another mass shooting yesterday. It was a small town in Texas; there are 26 dead and 24 wounded last I checked.

    The shooter checks all the usual suspect boxes. White, male, domestic abuser. This was probably a “domestic dispute” according to the latest updates. Are we going to take domestic abuse seriously now, now that unrelated innocent bystanders are increasingly at risk because of men’s entitlement and misogyny? I don’t have high hopes.

    • LaMont

      I feel weird about this, as a NYCer. When we are attacked by foreigners, red-staters try to tell us our business and how afraid we should be of immigrants (because as much as they fantasize, ISIS isn’t coming to THEIR rural middle-of-freaking-nowhere neck of the woods). It’s gross and absurd when they talk to us. So who am I to tell a town of god-fearing people, who believe that earthly life is inferior to the next life and far less important, who believe that women should not have reproductive/personhood rights, who believe that the second amendment is all but literally sacred, what to care about? If this is the “Freedom” issue they care most about, fine. And we’ll keep our immigration doors open here in Blue America.

      TLDR: This whole situation is eroding my ability to care about people who tirelessly vote to get themselves killed.

      • Well, as someone living in Texas, please believe some of us are trying to make it better! You wouldn’t know it from the news, but Texas is actually about 40% Democrat-voting (gerrymandering ensures we have less than that impact on state and national politics). Don’t write us off yet!

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Actually, Texas is even trending higher democrat than that. It is probably the southern state that is closest to tipping, and if that happens, it is a HUGE impact on the EC. If you get Texas, California and NY, you don’t need a lot more.

          • LaMont

            Oh I’m aware that Texas is split. But super-small-town Texas where the entire town can fit into one small church (and really does all go to church)? I’m guessing this is as red-blooded of a red-state situation as you can get.

          • Gene

            They are. I’m Texan and my parents currently live in that kind of small town. My mom jokes she knows all of the five other Democrats in the county by name.

            I can’t even get into the mental gymnastics there, but it tends to be xenophobia plus nationalism mixed with prolife and bootstrapism. A close friend is in a biracial relationship (married with kids) and her brother is gay (married to his partner), but she is a rabid trump supporter and thinks he can do no wrong and isn’t going far enough.

    • MI Dawn

      But, but, but TEXAS! The home of open carry and men and women who can kill a shooter with their eyes closed, right? How did this man kill 26 and injure 24 with all those brave people with guns around? (sarcasm, for those who miss it).

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        The gun-loons are praising the neighbor who came with his gun to scare off the shooter….after the shooter killed 26 and wounded everyone else in the church.

        Like having the police show up wouldn’t have gotten the same result…

        • FormerPhysicist

          I think this is called closing the barn door after the horses have bolted. Sigh.
          He was brave, and good, and deserves props for trying to help, but we’ll never know if that neighbor actually made any difference at all. The shooter may not have had any plans to go anywhere else.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            According to NPR, he quit shooting because he used up all his ammo. He didn’t stand down in response to the other guy with the weapon.

            The neighbor may have helped chase him down in pursuit, but he certainly did not save any lives at the church.

          • MaineJen

            Someone commented at me that the bystander “stopped the shooting,” and thank goodness he was there.

            My reply? “NO ONE stopped the shooting. 26 people died.”

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I have heard that it was a small congregation, only around 50 people.

            26 dead, and 25 more injured, right? He pretty much shot everyone. What did anyone stop? Stop him shooting them again while they are lying on the floor bleeding?

          • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

            In a town of 300 people, everyone knows or is related to someone dead or injured. Jesus Goddamn Christ. Gun control needs to happen before this happens again.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I almost think this is going to the case that sheds the light on the domestic abuser common thread.

      I mean, how many times do we have to hear that it is someone who is having a domestic spat and taking that out on the masses?

      • Or even if not, that they have a history of domestic violence? Because the Pulse shooter wasn’t taking things out on anyone per se, but he still had that history.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Yep.

          It really is something that creates that common thread, doesn’t it?

          • Yep.

          • guest

            I heard on the news today that 50% of mass shooter have a history of domestic violence.

        • MaineJen

          They have Kelley’s court martial papers published now. They’re horrific. This man beat and strangled his wife, beat his child, and threatened them both with a loaded firearm before he was finally jailed. And yet, the air force did not report him to the national database, and he was still able to go and purchase an AR15.

    • MaineJen

      It’s okay! Dear Leader has assured us that this was a mental health problem. The guns are, again, blameless. /sarc

      As someone with an *actual* mental health problem, I’m getting REAL TIRED of hearing that the real problem is mental health.

      • Especially because this guy wasn’t mentally ill. He was an abusive asshole, but that doesn’t mean he had a mental illness. Most abusive assholes are legally and clinically sane.

        • LaMont

          Yeah, we should look at a history of violence. If certain mental health conditions are related to certain instances of that history, whatever. We’ll capture the *real* problem if we look at domestic violence, but let’s be real, the politicians who fetishize guns also believe that women are property.

      • +10000000

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Mass shootings while horrific are a tiny part of the problem with guns in the U.S.:
      https://splinternews.com/more-children-are-shot-every-day-in-america-than-the-nu-1820188019

      “According to a study on children and firearm injuries, published in the journal Pediatrics in June by researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Texas, approximately 19 children a day die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the United States. The study, which is one of the most comprehensive of its kind, found that in total, between 2012 and 2014, an average of nearly 1,300 children died and 5,790 were treated for gunshot wounds every year.”

      http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2017/06/15/peds.2016-3486.full.pdf

      • Oh yeah, well aware of that. But if the deluge of shootings spread out over time and place doesn’t do it, we’re stuck with mass shootings to bring attention to a public health issue that kills as many people as car accidents.

      • Totally. But Domestic Abuse is a BIG part of the problem with the rise in mass shootings, which I think was the point.

  • Heidi

    I was pondering the other day if sex was negatively viewed back in the day because the consequences could be so dire? I was thinking how scary something I consider a lot of fun would be if I was likely to become pregnant and on top of that, absolutely none of the reassurances I had giving birth with great prenatal care at a modern, well-equipped hospital. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to know you could easily die during childbirth, you had no way to prevent the pain, no way to know if your baby was doing okay in there, no way to get an endangered baby out, no way to really prevent a hemorrhage, no way to guarantee your baby had safe nutrition if you couldn’t breastfeed. I had a fairly straightforward labor, but I tore. When did they even start suturing tears? If I hadn’t gotten my second degree tears sewn up, would I be facing incontinence or excruciatingly painful sex forever? My baby and I probably wouldn’t have died during childbirth myself, but I think there’s a very good chance my child wouldn’t have survived after the birth. He’d probably be fed bacteria-laden, nutritionally inappropriate goat or cow’s milk out of desperation.

    Thinking about this, I can’t really blame people for not being sex positive. Women paid a heck of a price to have sex. I’m not sure how anyone can claim natural childbirth philosophy is feminist or pro-woman.

    • Sheven

      Sadly, you have it the wrong way around. People have had condoms since Roman times–they were made from sheep intestines and reused, but they did work and people did know about them. Moralists argued that if unmarried girls were told about them, and had access to them, they’d have sex before marriage instead of being chaste. And if married women knew about them they’d refuse to have babies because who would want the pain, work, and danger?

      There were some decent moralists who argued for birth control. Even religious people did, because they didn’t like the idea of young mothers dying in childbirth on their fourth kid, or families becoming poverty-stricken because they had too many mouths to feed. But for a lot of people, the pain of childbirth was punishment for unchaste behavior and a lesson to girls to keep chaste.

      • Sarah

        It’s interesting because we’ve also had ways to achieve mutual orgasm that don’t involve risk of pregnancy for a very long time.

    • attitude devant

      In answer to your question: YES. Read Freud’s case histories. There are several references to men who had a morbid fear of having sex with their wives because it could quite literally kill them, either by spreading disease or by causing pregnancy-related death.

    • OrionsMom

      Good question, when did they sew mom’s up after birth?

      • Didn’t. You stayed in bed 40 days with your legs together and hoped for the best. My private theory is that was really why virginity was so prized by men, not the idea that because a man had her first he could be sure of paternity. After repeated unsutured lacerations the vagina was slack.

        • Roadstergal

          Oh man. :/ When did suturing start being a Thing?

    • Merrie

      Yeah. It was bad enough being in college and using birth control but getting worried that it would fail and I’d have to have an abortion which I wouldn’t be able to access because there were few providers in my state who were far away and I didn’t have a car or a credit card and my parents would not approve.

      In the era you describe I probably would have become a nun.

  • Sheven

    The worst thing you can be as a mother is “selfish.” Meaning at any time you put your own needs ahead of your child’s. And since the person calling you selfish is the one who decides what your child’s best interests are . . .

  • Daleth

    Great analogy.