The term “Birthing Experience” is a relatively newcomer to the lexicon of pregnancy. It is, I believe, not more than 25 years old. To test how common of a term it is today, I searched for “birthing experience”. It retrieved over 5 MIL quotes on Google, and over 45 MIL on Bing. I don’t know why such a difference of returns between the two, but most certainly, “Birthing Experience” is a common term.
But what does it mean? It means many things to different people. When my patients used to tell me that they were looking forward to their “birthing experience”, I always asked them what they had in mind. I never got the same answer twice. Obviously, a “birthing experience” is in the “eyes of the beholder”.
In my search, I noted that a majority of returns were from hospitals, birthing centers, and other organizations or individuals, catering to an audience for economic gain. They all assume that everybody knows what they are offering. But I don’t think that a “birthing experience” is the hotel- like amenities that hospitals or birthing centers offer. It certainly is a nice touch and a welcome departure from the old “wards” and “delivery areas” where many beds were separated by curtains in a common room. Midwives and doulas offer personalized care, support, emotional and otherwise. That is part of the birthing experience, but not quite what a birthing experience should be, in my mind anyhow.
Pregnancy is a natural event, without which humans would vanish from the face of the earth. This is true for us, as well as for any other living creature. Most people refer to Labor and Delivery, as an entity in itself. I beg to differ. Labor and delivery is the culmination of 9 months of pregnancy, long nine months, as any pregnant woman would attest to. Throughout the nine preceding months, many things occur, which will never be forgotten by the future mom. The day that pregnancy was confirmed – “Oh my, I’m pregnant”. The first time the baby moved – “Here, honey, keep your hand right there and feel the baby move”. The day you had an ultrasound and actually saw the baby, saw its heart beating, its movements, and its sex, if you wanted to know. It was also the day you got the first picture for the baby album, the baby before birth. You probably thought – “I am really going to be a mother”. None of these events are as dramatic as the birth itself, but they are unforgettable and part of the birthing experience. Psychologically, these events slowly set your mind and prepare your body for the last event: the actual birth of your child.
I submit to you, that the entire pregnancy is to be looked upon as a “birthing experience”, not just the actual labor and delivery. Besides, focusing on labor and delivery alone may have significant drawbacks. Pregnancies are unpredictable as is labor and delivery. All the plans in the world that you made may suddenly take second place to an unforeseen emergency. Believe it or not, they do happen. The unexpected event may be because of something not being all well with you, the baby or both. When emergencies occur, you and the baby’s wellbeing take priority over everything else. It would have been nice to be able to follow the script, but having a healthy mother and a healthy baby have priority. No one can argue that. Will you be disappointed? Perhaps, but the reward of you being well and the baby crying at birth announcing to the world its arrival, is a reward much greater than the missed soothing music or the hot tub delivery that you may have planned for. Did you miss the birthing experience? I don’t think so. When you are going to hold your baby in your arms, your heart will beat faster, and your mind will be spinning. It is really your baby, the one you saw on ultrasound, the one you, and only you, felt moving inside your body. What an experience!
Sometime ago, I read a blog by a lady who was complaining that she missed her “birthing experience”, because of an unexpected emergency that threatened the baby’s life and she had to undergo a cesarean section delivery. She appeared to be inconsolable. What struck me most, was the fact that at no point in her blog did she mention that she was happy to have a healthy baby, although I am sure she was. It was the missed “birthing experience” that was the focus of her blog. How can one explain that?
We live in a society where advertising, whether direct or subliminal, makes us buy one product as opposed to another, tells us what to eat, how to lose weight, makes up our mind on political issues, tells us where to travel, what hotel or what airline to use and so forth. During the last two to three decades, well-meaning people, as well as others that have an agenda, have pounded on the concept that a woman must have a “birthing experience”. Not the one I am talking about, but the one at delivery. “Orgasmic delivery” “natural birth”, “painless delivery without drugs” (?) and a multitude of other slogans, have invaded the woman’s privacy to the point that a woman feels to be less of a woman if she does not go through such “birthing experiences” as prescribed by others.
I say, come down to earth. Be yourself. From conception to birth, it’s a “birthing experience”. It’s your baby. Would you allow for others to tell you how to educate your child? Would you allow for others to bully your child? The answer is NO. Why, then, do you buy whatever others tell you what YOUR birthing experience should be?
It’s YOUR pregnancy. Enjoy it from the beginning and throughout. Have a real “birthing experience” the whole nine months. I promise you, that it will be unforgettable. The ultimate “birthing experience” is for you to be healthy and for the baby to be healthy. Is there anything else that matters? If there is, please educate me. Tell me what is more important than a healthy mother and a healthy baby?
SILVIO ALADJEM MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist and Maternal Fetal Medicine (high risk obstetrics) specialist, is Professor Emeritus in obstetrics and gynecology at Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine, in Lansing, MI. He is the author of “10,000 babies: my life in the delivery room” now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book stores. Dr. Aladjem published extensively in Scientific Medical Journals and wrote several textbooks in the specialty. He can be reached through his website, www.drsilvio.com.