That Wife, Learning & Growing

I probably should have posted this yesterday to help settle things down a bit, as someone emailed me this morning to let me know the “black box of mystery” has made it’s way onto the comments section of the mountain post. An indicator that many of you feel as passionately about this as I do, whether in opposition or agreement. Thank you to those who have taken the time to defend me or nod in agreement, as well as those who have intelligently and thoughtfully articulated their discord.

It’s hard to believe that I could become so passionate about birth in such a short period of time, but I frequently get looks from my husband that can only be interpreted as “If you put me through even one more minute of hearing about this I’m going to explode.” A look I often deserve because if I leave my emotions unchecked I begin to sound like a small town preacher railing against the sins of mankind, pounding the pulpit to get my point across.

In terms of blogging for a very public and diverse audience, I’m still rather new at all of this. I have a lot to learn. And I’ve learned a lot over this past weekend as I’ve read your comments. I’ve had that mountain analogy brewing in my mind for weeks now, and for me it is still accurate, and will always stand. But that’s where I screwed up royally. I took my own experience, my own views, my own opinions, and applied them too universally. In some ways I don’t regret doing so because it has caused so many of you to step forward and show me that we as women are standing up for ourselves, becoming educated, and taking charge of their own birthing experience. Based on the personal anecdotes I had been subjected to before this I didn’t think that was the case.

Usually when I write things that set a lot of people off I don’t refer back to them, as I’ve found it’s best to let things die down on their own, but I am going to take a moment to explain myself this time. I’ve already told you that I don’t feel I was surrounded by very good birth stories in the past, and a lot of my opinions are based on such (aren’t all of our opinions based on our past experiences?). I’ve never heard any woman in my life explain a reason for getting an epidural other than a fear of pain. I’ve only heard people say “Birth is the worst thing I have ever experienced and I want the drugs to knock me out as much as possible so I can be removed from it.” I hear women talking about how they want a c-section because they don’t want to go through the pain of pushing. I’m happy to have so many of you speaking up to say those aren’t the reasons women today are using for medical interventions.

The ATV and the chopper comparison? For me, they still stand. I don’t dread the thought of labor, in fact I look forward to the experience. Per my religious views, procreation and birth are the closest I can come here on earth to being like God. To participate in such an act is a sacred opportunity and I intend to treat it as such. I want to be there for it, in every way possible. To be whisked away to the top of that mountain would cause me to miss out on something I am so looking forward to experiencing.

I am going to continue to write extensively about my views on pregnancy and birth, often in a very opinionated manner. But from here on out, I’m going to try to do a better job of distinguishing between fact and fears, opinions and data. I think that all of you deserve that much. Thank you again for following along with me.

30 thoughts on “That Wife, Learning & Growing

  1. Jenna, I was not a part of the mass commenters, although I enjoyed reading the various perspectives. I thought that both you and many of the posters had vaild points, whether they were based on research, personal experience, or just emotion. I have yet to go through it, but it seems that just about all aspects of parenting (including delivery and rearing) are quite sensitive. I think it is great that you are acknowledging this and emphasizing that you are presenting YOUR views. Hopefully others will continue to share their feelings and experiences while maintaining a level of objectivity. There is always more than one “right” way and I appreciate hearing your opinions on the subject and look forward to future postings.

  2. Thank you so much for this post. I identify very strongly with a lot of your passion and research in childbirth — I too went from about 0 to 500 as soon as I found out I was pregnant with all of the research that I did (I didn’t even know what an episiotomy was, much less meconium aspiration, aging placentas, or amniotomy), and my husband also gets sick and tired of hearing me say “Well, I was reading this birth blog today, and…” So it was really hard for me to see you write the mountain post, with all of the undertones that I and many other readers were picking up from it. It’s hard for me to see others who are “on my team”, whether it’s religion, birth, or politics, do something that seems to throw a bad light on whatever it is that we’re passionate about, not just for the sake of the subject, but because I feel a bond with you as my “teammate”. I’m really excited to see what you post in the future about birth, whether it’s your opinion or factual research that you’ve done, and I’m happy that you’ll be distinguishing between them. 🙂

  3. I think that unless you are willing to admit that the ATV and chopper analogies apply only to women who voluntarily elect to have a C-section or drugs entirely to avoid the pain/experience of childbirth, you will be one of those women who is horribly disappointed and feels like a total failure if she has to have a C-section or needs drugs. You can be as present as you want to for all those long hours you are in labor and pushing and experiencing childbirth, but you are setting yourself up to feel like a failure if you need a C-section to save you or the baby by thinking of the drugs or section as the easy way out. I’ve seen a lot of women do exactly what you are doing – educating themselves, being proactive, looking forward to labor, and half of them had c-sections, not because they wanted to avoid childbirth but because their health or the baby’s was in jeopardy.

    Hannah Reply:

    I really agree with Ellie, here.

    I haven’t commented on the last few, mostly because I have felt that your judgement (and it did come across as judgement) of women who choose the ‘easy’ to the top of the mountain was a little hypocritical in that I know you don’t appreciate judgement about your choices. I saw your point, I just found the analogies quite insensitive.

    I personally come from a background where my mother had drug-free births that were easily up until I nearly died due to the cord being wrapped around my neck (NOT cord prolapse). She is of the opinion that a drug-free, vaginal birth with medical presence is ideal because you know when to push, you are less likely to require an episiotomy (she required four stitches because she was cut at the last minute to get me out when my heartrate plummeted, the same ob did not cut with my brother because there was no emergency to necessitate it) and that the pain is essentially worth it the second the baby is born. However, she does not judge women who choose to take other avenues because it isn’t our body. I think that, personally, my big issue is that you are being judgemental and I find that frustrating.

    Me? I plan to leave all options open. I am worried that if I obsess and become inflexible that the experience will be a huge disappointment should things not go to ‘plan’.

    I agree with Katy too. Just because one goes for pain relief via medication doesn’t mean they weren’t ‘there’ for their births or that they didn’t run a marathon up that mountain. They did, and implying otherwise does rather a significant disservice to women who choose avenues that don’t agree with your personal ideology. I really, really struggled with those analogies.

    I am also concerned that if your birth plan doesn’t go as you hope, that you will feel as though you have failed yourself or your child for taking the ‘easy’ way out.

    Hannah Reply:

    I also wanted to say thank you for this post, Jenna. The internet can leave the emotions of a situation poorly articulated and it helps to see that you recognise that some of your thoughts could be perceived as quite negative or hurtful for women whose experiences deviate from your ideals.

  4. Thanks Jenna, For your honesty and openness with a community of people who can sometimes so quickly turn from supportive to poisonous and back again. I look forward to your future posts about pregnancy and birth–to living vicariously through you as I admittedly have baby fever but know that now is not the right time for my husband and I to start trying!

  5. You can’t please everyone, you may as well please yourself, right?
    The last post just seemed to me to be you working your own feelings out loud.
    It’s so odd to me that so many people instead of turning away from a blog/website they don’t agree with feel the need to be nasty, simply because they can.
    And yet, were it a restaurant they didn’t like, they would never go to it again. If it was a store that didn’t have clothes that fit they wouldn’t go shopping there.
    I’m a recovering Mormon, but just because I don’t agree with you on religion doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy your writing! Or think you a neat person! And I think you are so darn cute! I’m super excited you are having a baby and sharing your excitement with us.

  6. I too read your analogies and thought, oh great, another “my way is the best way” mother. I think we all need to be careful when judging others’ pregnancies, births, and mothering methods. Keep in mind while you’re deciding who climbed the mountain and who took the “easy” way out, that EVERY experience is different. Maybe your climb is 2 hours long and fairly painless, while another’s “chopper ride” was after 38 hours of climbing, multiple complications and excruciating. I just want you to know that this is a VERY sensitive subject, and you need to be very careful how preachy you get.

  7. “To participate in such an act is a sacred opportunity and I intend to treat it as such. I want to be there for it, in every way possible.”

    What you just wrote there has helped me articulate my feelings a little better on this whole birth schtuff. Every woman needs to decide within themselves how they can be *there* for their birth.

    I wanted to be “there” for my birth and I knew that by getting some pain relief, I could be more mentally in control. I felt that as my pain continued to increase, so was my anxiety and inability to communicate and focus. (Maybe if I had a better pain tolerance that would have helped, but I’ve never thought of myself as a wimp.) Thanks to the epidural – I was THERE for my first baby and enjoyed it. It went so fast actually – I thought I’d get some time to ‘relax’ but I didn’t and labor progressed (without the pitocin I should add). I was able to focus and cherish watching my child emerge as they lifted him up and put him on my chest. I enjoyed that moment.

    Does this mean every woman should get pain medication? NO. But every woman should figure out what she wants to do to help her be in that moment and focus. Sure, I didn’t experience every pain towards the end (with my first at least, the second I was pretty much doing it natural!), but I labored at home with both for quite some time – I experienced every single pain and contraction.

    I think sometimes those that rally against epidurals forget that unless you are already at the hospital before labor begins (to be induced for instance), that epidural stuff doesn’t show up till the well WELL into the “Second Act”. We go thru all the same pain and work and everything – an epidural does not mean a complete escape from pain and work.

    Erin Reply:

    I liked your comment. There are a lot of reasons to get an epidural, and one of them is pain relief – and that does not make someone bad, selfish, not there, etc. I enjoyed your perspective.

  8. I will admit that my first thoughts on the origional post were negative… and then I realized where you were coming from. I was born at home and have always known that there were many options for birth. My parents wouldn’t let me see most depictions of birth in the media because they did not want me to be scared. My husband and I watched “The Business of Being Born” together the first month we were married.

    It is so sad for me to realize how “new” the idea of healthy birth is for you. It makes sense for you to be so zealous about it when your background is so negative. I hope that you keep learning and have a great experience! Thanks for being willing to explain yourself.

    R Reply:

    PS Also realized that I should share the link to one of Boston’s hospitals:
    It obviously is not useful for you for your birth plans, but it might help you see that not all hospitals are as anti-woman as you might imagine. 🙂

  9. I completely support your belief that women should as much as possible take control of their own birthing experience by educating themselves and considering the many possibilities. And I completely support your decision as to your own birth plan. But I share the concern of some other commenters (1) that just as I support your choices, you also affirm the right of other women to make their own personal choices, and (2) becoming wedded to a single version of the birth experience as the only “right” way might not take into account the surprises that our bodies can have for us.

    In any case, if you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend “Birth Day” by Mark Sloan. It’s by a pediatrician specializing in newborns, but has a very wideranging focus on the history childbirth, and is written in a very approachable style. It had some truly fascinating trivia as well as information that I think you would find useful.

    TJ Reply:

    history *of* childbirth, that is. Whoops.

  10. I just wanted to go on record for saying that I think that this post was a very classy thing to do. Thank you for that.

    Sometimes, shoot, most of the time, trying to communicate and articulate what we are feeling through comments can come across totally different from what we intend. There are a hundred different ways to read a sentence, and sometimes it’s just near impossible to get everyone to understand what you are trying to convey.

    Having said that, I honestly hope and pray that you are blessed with the experience that you are hoping for. But like so many other readers have already said, please, please understand that something less than that will not make you a failure. It is ALWAYS alright to change your mind.
    Ultimately, I think what we all want is to come out on the other side of birth with our bodies healthy and our babies intact.

  11. Classy post. I agree with most of the comments here, particularly about keeping your mind open in your own case. Don’t be disappointed with whatever happens. It will be a spiritual experience no matter how your little one arrives. Your relationship with your husband and Heavenly Father will guarantee that. 🙂

    Although, I do want to add, I would hope that someday when I have a baby and end up having an epidural or c-section, you won’t think that I took the easy way out. 🙂

  12. This was super classy Jenna. I have a hard time articulating my thoughts in a manner that is non-judgmental and politically appropriate. It’s hard when your thoughts and feelings are as public as ours are.
    I might not always agree with you, but I’ll continue to follow you. Your passion for life is truly inspiring.
    I didn’t comment on the mountain post. I didn’t even read any of the comments until last night. And then the black mystery box sort of stopped me from reading too many of them. I felt the need to respond, but didn’t want to write a whole post in your comments, so it’s over on my blog if you want to read it. I hope it didn’t come across like I was trying to attack you, cause I’m not. At all. I admire you for your honesty and willingness to speak your mind.
    I hope that this pregnancy (and all future pregnancies) are everything you hope they will be. I also hope that should something happen, you won’t be disappointed with your experience. Having a baby is so much more than laboring and delivering.
    And I hope you won’t judge me for taking the ATV the rest of the way up!

  13. Hey Jenna

    Hope that everything is ok with you and the baby, and Husband too.

    I read your ‘mountain’ post (just like I read every post) and didn’t comment because I don’t know very much about pregnancy. I am not even at the stage of thinking about getting pregnant but I had always assumed it would be in a hospital. I didn’t even know what some of the words meant (and I am educated with a postgraduate degree, so formal education isn’t everything) and had to google them.

    I think the problem with posting about issues where there is more than one accepted outcome is that coming down heavily on one side or the other always sounds judgemental to the other side, that ‘my’ choice is better than ‘your’ choice, when it isn’t really, it’s just better for me, in my situation.

    I know 2 people in ‘real’ life who have given birth recently and more ‘virtual’ friends. The 2 real friends both ended up having c-sections. I don’t know the ins and outs of they whys but they are both highly educated women who would only have been making the best plan for their babies and themselves. I think that the best laid plans do not always work and in an emergency one might have to accept that another plan is the one to use. I really hope that your birth is the way you plan it but also I hope you are willing to consider other options if you need.

    Thank you for your posts, as I said, you have definitely made me think about things if and when I am lucky enough to choose to and become pregnant. I hope you do continue posting about pregnancy as it is very interesting to hear your views. I guess what we all need to remember when we post is that we are simply airing our own opinions and the greatest gift we can give each other in blogland is support not judgment.

    Rachel xx

  14. Just remember that even the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Plan all you want, just remember that sometimes life gets in the way and that if things don’t go 100% according to *your* plan, you’re not a failure for changing your mind or for giving in. Sometimes a human can only take so much, be it labor or whatever, before they become so emotionally and mentally exhausted their body simply can’t go any further. Some women (like my mom) are not “wide enough” to actually give birth and this is a great concern of mine and am fully expecting a scheduled c-section because I’m built just like my ma. Doesn’t mean I suck, just means I’ll have a different experience than what I would like to have. Of course, what I’d like to have NOW, while i’m not in amazing pain and whatnot, is a lot different from what I want *then* I’m sure. I hope your birth is quick like my SIL’s….she had a quick labor and out popped the baby within an hour. No meds, nothing, b/c she came out so fast. Not all of us will be so lucky. All that matters, in the end, is that your baby is healthy and outta your belly, right? =]

  15. Okay, it’s me again – I wasn’t going to share anymore (and keep beating the dead horse that is my opinion/advice).

    But I had a really rough night last night and it reminded me of all this talk of ‘go for what you want, but don’t feel bad if it doesn’t go as planned’. You see, I’ve ALWAYS planned to breastfeed my babies. Major supporter and advocate for it and will even admit that I pretty much looked down on people that didn’t nurse or gave up too quickly.

    Baby #1 had to be G-tube fed and could not eat by mouth. I had to put my sadness at not breastfeeding aside and pump so at least he’d get the milk. Then Baby #2 seems to nurse alright on his end – but I’ve experienced lots of problems and pain. Now, even after 3 months, it’s still painful (though not too bad, only for the first few seconds). I’m trying to use different holding methods, get myself off the shield the lacation consultants reccommend, etc. and most of the time I have a good attitude about it, but sometimes (last night) I break down. I’m so upset that I’m still having problems, that it still hurts. (I went through FIVE breast infections until they went away finally). This is NOT what I pictured when I pictured breasfeeding my babies. I want to do it so bad and my stubborn nature won’t let me give up yet, but because I wanted this so bad I feel so guilty everytime I think of switching to formula. Or even just pumping (which I’m a pro at!:) and giving a bottle makes me feel guilty.

    Was it bad for me to have such high hopes of perfection in breastfeeding? No, but I’m sure learning now (for like the bazillionth time in my life) that things don’t go as planned. Perhaps if I had had a more ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude, I wouldn’t be beating myself up so much right now – I don’t know. Like I said, I’m not willing to give up just yet (and I always have pumping to fall back on to get him the milk), but all the planning and hoping in the world didn’t prepare me for the hard, painful, disappointing moments I’ve faced. One good thing to come of this struggle is that I’m waaayy more understanding of other women’s struggles with breastfeeding. Believe me when I say, that I truly hope everything goes the way you want it to Jenna – nothing would make me happier than to hear of a women getting what she wants with all this birth and nursing stuff!

    Sorry to go off on a completely different tangent and yet again graffiti your comments section with my words – – as I lay in bed frustrated last night, this issue was running through my mind. Thanks for allowing me the venue to spit it all out in a respectful environment. 🙂

    Amanda W Reply:

    Nursing was VERY painful for me too! My daughter was very aggressive when she would eat! I even thought that I might need to stop nursing which broke my heart, but I stuck with it. I used a shield that helped her to latch properly and eventually we didn’t need it. My husband helped me by checking out a movie at the library about breastfeeding and it helped to know that it will hurt for the first few seconds. After a few months it wasn’t so bad and the only uncomfortable part of nursing was the “let down” but that wasn’t necessarily painful, just uncomfortable. Hang in there! It should get better 🙂

  16. Jenna, I think it is really good that you acknowledged the previous comments – and I truly, truly do hope you get the birth experience you desire.


  17. I Jump onto your blog every so often, as I grew up in a neighboring town as you and we know a lot of the same people. but I just went back and read your post and WOW! I am not sure I agree with most of it. But instead of stating my hugo opinion I just hope that you have a birth that goes how you want it. Mine as the dr. states was the labor from HELL. But I will say this, even after 30 hours of labor, epidural didn’t work, dialated to a 10 but both our lives were on the line, felt them cut into me for the C section, put completely asleep. I still was able to breastfeed minutes after I woke up. I don’t think breasfeeding is a problem no matter how you have your child. But I just hope yours goes as planned because it sounds like you might be pretty disappointed, which I think might be rather sad.

  18. Thanks for speaking up because even though I agreed with your original post, when you referred to the hospital as “The Farm” I really felt insulted and judged by someone who had never delivered. Didn’t seem like you were being very considerate.

    MrsW Reply:

    FYI, I’m pretty sure the references to “The Farm” were to Ina May Gaskin’s midwifery center in Tennessee:
    Correct me somebody if I’m wrong.

    TH Reply:

    MrsW is right, “The Farm” is the opposite (so to speak) of hospital birth in That Wife’s post.

    Sophia Reply:

    They wrote a beautiful book called “Spiritual Midwifery”. Really good read, the main midwife in the book is a legend 🙂

  19. I’m sorry, but I’m confused. So you understand that for some women that had a C-section or epidural was something that that research/needed for medical reasons e.g. “I’m happy to have so many of you speaking up to say those aren’t the reasons women today are using for medical interventions.”

    However the ATV/Chopper analogy still stands? That just feels like you are calling those women who have chosen that path lazy and are judging them. “to be whisked away up the mountain” as you said.

    Maybe I read that statement wrong, but it didn’t really read as true apology to me. More like a sorry I offended you, but this is how I feel and you’re still wrong/bad/lazy so deal. I guess it is your blog and your life, and yours to live under God’s plan, but I would have hoped for something to be more from a place of true compassion and understanding for others.

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