The birth preparation class was very good and useful but it also had its problematic moments. For instance, we spend over 50% of the class talking about the no-epidural no-medication-of-any-kind “natural” birth. We were shown several videos where very young and very athletic women easily delivered babies in this manner. Nobody in the audience was in the same decade of life or had the same degree of athleticism as the women in the videos.
The videos and the lecturers kept using the word “powerful” in connection to the unmedicated deliveries. This method of giving birth is supposed to make one feel powerful (which is the weirdest notion I have encountered in a while), while succumbing to an epidural makes you feel like a failure.
Out of the 10 women in the audience, only 3 had college degrees: yours truly and 2 women who graduated from the local community college. The rest of the women work in menial low-paid jobs.
So imagine this type of crowd hearing figures of authority in an official setting repeat “no epidural = powerful”, “epidural = failure.”
Eventually, the lecturer did mention in a very low-key way that at our hospital over 90% of women ended up requesting an epidural. Now consider how it makes one feel to end up needing an epidural after hearing how one is deficient in wanting one. Wouldn’t it be a lot more productive and honest to begin the birth preparation class by explaining to the audience that the absolute majority of those present will need an epidural and that’s just how things are for most of women these days?
I don’t think the lecturers were so eager to promote the anti-epidural mythology because they are evil-doers or anything of the kind. I believe they want to give a positive, encouraging message to the heavily pregnant audience. The result, however, is that unrealistic expectations are created. Women begin to see delivery as some sort of an exam they have to pass in a way that will demonstrate their worthiness.
30% of all women who give birth suffer from a significant and noticeable post-partum depression. I have a feeling that the conviction that one has failed at giving birth “correctly” might not be conducive to making this number lower.
“Oh, who cares how she comes into this world?” the only woman in the “over 45” category at the class exclaimed. “This is my first child, and I just want to giver birth to a healthy baby, that’s all.”
I think this is an approach that should be adopted by all of the “powerless failures” who cannot accomplish the useless feat of giving birth in the field and continuing picking crops two minutes later.