Natural Childbirth and Marathons

So, I am not, at heart, a runner. I will jog along like a tired old mare if absolutely essential, but you are not going to make me like it. I think I can say with reasonable certainty I will never run a marathon, and you can’t make me.

But maybe marathons make you feel alive. Maybe it’s a goal you work toward in concrete steps, keeping in mind that the purpose, in the end, is to have fun, be safe and use your body — though completing the race would be beyond amazing. You read about running, you prepare for the big day, you talk about it with anyone who shows even a glimmer of interest. No one’s making you do it, but it’s something you always wanted to try, and if you pull it off, you feel rightfully proud.

I feel that way about natural childbirth. No one’s making me, but I wanted to try, for a host of noble and ignoble reasons (mostly because I’m a control freak), so I put a lot of work and reading into it, and it worked, and I’m proud (though some of that success has nothing to do with me), and I’ll talk your ear off about it if you give me a chance.

Pregnancy sucks for me, pretty unequivocally. But birth — that’s my day. I come away feeling like a shocked, tired goddess. My body, which is mostly something I drag from library to library, is reborn: I DID IT. I GOT THIS SMALL PERSON OUT OF ME!

Maybe you don’t feel that way. Maybe you feel about childbirth the way I do about marathons — why go through that much discomfort if not strictly necessary? Why suffer needlessly when you can watch your way through Downton Abbey during labor? It’s a fair question (to which I counter: why run on a Saturday morning when you could eat bacon and take a bubble bath?). Then again, maybe you like both unmedicated birth and running long distances, and to that, I say: You are so ready for the zombie apocalypse.

We can agree to disagree on these matters. While I still am going to say that I think it’s a really good idea to learn about natural labor just in case you have a lightning labor like my second one — so you know what the hell is going on if the meds don’t work out — like most of motherhood (and most of life, I guess), I think with birth you just do what seems most survivable to you, and that might look different for you than it does for me. As Amy Poehler writes on the subject in Yes, Please“Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.”

But I think we can all agree that birth would be even more awesome with rainbow color powder at the finish line.

5 thoughts on “Natural Childbirth and Marathons

  1. Don’t mind if I do just comment on all your blog posts (I’m trying to make the most of naptime here but I think I’ve found a kindred spirit in you and am getting sucked into reading every single one of your posts 🙂 )

    I love the idea of natural childbirth, but I suck at suffering and while I was pregnant, I was well aware that I might want that epidural the minute a contraction hit. And I did. And while I don’t regret it, I do think there’s something to be said for natural childbirth being a type of passion, death, and resurrection. There’s still a part of me that hopes with future childbirths, I might be able to do it naturally at least once.

    When we read Kristin Lavransdatter in my book club (well read mom too!), we spent a bit of time talking about how anesthetized our modern experience of suffering and death is and how, in the book, death is a long drawn out experience that ends with a sense of relief for both the dying and the witnessing family members (not with sudden or unexpected deaths of course). Then we talked about the parallel of death and childbirth (particularly the scene of Kristin in childbirth for the first time) and how we’ve anesthetized that too so we miss out on that overwhelming sense of relief that follows the pain.


    • I love all the comments! I took a brief look at your blog while trying to get the baby nursed down last night, and I’ll have to read more at our nap time!

      I had a TERRIBLE time suffering during pregnancy, especially with my first baby. The key for me was a) my friend’s traumatic emergency c-section after cascading interventions and b) another mom saying that after a lousy pregnancy labor’s NBD because it’s a day or two, tops. (But my second pregnancy was easier because I had a medicated pregnancy, just not a medicated birth! So it all evens out!)


  2. Oh yes I had a very similar experience with your friend: cascading interventions that almost ended up in a c-section. I had a comparatively easy pregnancy so no excuses–just a lack of fortitude. I feel like I probably should have read and reflected on something like the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas rather than binged Call the Midwife in the weeks leading up to labor haha


    • Focusing on the saints would be wise for me, too. For my second labor I was prepared to offer up intentions since my first labor had been calm and long, and with the second it was super speedy and I cussed straight through :/ I had done a morning offering that morning, at least, though…


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