Actually, it’s more like 32 and-a-half weeks by now, which means that I’ll be at term in less than FIVE weeks. Excuse me? While I can’t say that time has exactly flown by–I feel like I’ve been waiting forever… did I mention that patience is not a strong suit of mine?–I am still finding it a bit surreal that this baby could be here in as little as a month.
I went to my husband’s firm’s holiday party last week, and no fewer than three people asked conversationally if I’d be having a water birth. I’m pretty sure they’re benignly thinking she’s vegan, so she’s probably a hippie. While they’re somewhat right (ahem), I’m loathe to confirm that assumption, premised as it is on a stereotype that absolves them from considering veganism for themselves (i.e. vegans are hippies. I’m not a hippie. Ergo, I don’t need to be vegan.) Instead, I deflected the question by pointing out that water can be a source of pain relief for some women, and that I’m not yet sure if I’m one of them – which is true, although a more fulsome answer would be, “yeah! Do you have any recommendations for birthing pool rentals for my midwife-attended home birth? I’m totally going to give it a shot!”
While I’m not ashamed of my choices, which I’ve made based on evidence, lots of reading, and plenty of self-reflection about what’s right for me, I don’t campaign for them. Although aspects of healthcare delivery and the medicalization of birth are certainly in serious need of reform and worthy of speaking out about, it’s not an issue I feel compelled to take up at any opportunity. For the most part, I see circumstances surrounding birth largely as a personal choice. The progress we need is to ensure that women truly are given the information to make choices, not having procedures and policies imposed on them, such that women are able to make decisions in the best interests of themselves and of their babies.
My level of concern is much greater when it comes to the billions of animals who are being, no exaggeration, tortured and killed every year by us humans. It’s hard to defend complicity in this as a personal choice. A personal choice, by definition, doesn’t hurt others. Supporting industries that abuse animals, by definition, hurts others. As such, I don’t see veganism as simply a matter of personal choice.
My decisions around childbirth are not related in any way to my commitment to opting out of harming animals by living a vegan lifestyle. But as any vegan knows, when you’re one of the only vegans in the room, for better or worse you are a representative of veganism as a whole. Knowing this, I always want to be perceived as a “normal” person who just happens to be vegan. I want to be relatable and credible so that people can think “I’m like her, and she’s vegan – is this something I should be considering for myself, too?” So these days I tend to keep my personal views largely to myself (that is, my views that are actually personal, not my views that others mistakenly believe to be personal). I try not to do or say things that are good for me, that feed into my own self-concept, when those things might directly or indirectly harm these suffering animals who already have too few advocates.
Another topic that came up at the holiday party at least a couple of times was epidurals. Now, I don’t really care too much how other women approach pain management in childbirth, so long as it is undertaken with fully informed consent. If someone has researched her options and decided that she wants an epidural at the first sign of contractions, I say, Sounds great! Enjoy your hospital stay! Make sure to have plenty to do because you’ll probably be pretty bored otherwise! Can’t wait to meet your sweet healthy newborn, whom you love no less than I love mine!
But a planned epidural is just not right for me.
I think of childbirth as somewhat analogous to running a marathon. I have zero desire to run a marathon, because ow! Also, 5 km is plenty far enough to maintain good health! And why run when you can walk! But some people do run marathons, and they love it. The disciplined preparation, the pain, the self-doubt, and the eventual triumph over their minds and bodies… all of it is part of the marathon. Inherent in its difficulty is its reward. That is, the fact that a marathon is a challenge is what makes it worth doing.
And so it is, for me, with childbirth. I want to fully experience it at its rawest, to experience what billions of women before me (including my own mother) have experienced. When I doubt myself and then prove to myself that I can, in fact, rise to the challenge, I want to carry the knowledge of my own physical and mental strength with me to other areas of my life. When my child, my firstborn, arrives, I want to think, You are my reward, and you are so worth it.
Thinking of giving birth with an epidural from the get-go feels anti-climatic to me. The baby isn’t here, and then he is here. While some women would say, um, ye-AH, exactly, that sounds perfect, that’s not how I feel. Instead, it feels disappointing, like a missed opportunity.
And did you know that an epidural is a giant needle in your spine?! Is it just me, or is that way more terrifying than the prospect of pain in childbirth? My palms are sweaty just thinking about it.
I can truly say I’m not afraid of giving birth. While I know it will suck at times, I also know that it will pass in a relative blink of an eye. I am a little nervous – but that nervousness comes from a place of excited anticipation, not apprehension. Bring it on. I can do this, and I will better for it.