There is a fad, which the author was surprised to find even friends one otherwise respects to be engaged in, of
natural childbirth. By that is understood to be meant a voluntary choice to give birth in the same manner our prehistoric ancestors did—without sophisticated medical assistance or pain relief. As one is reliably informed that human childbirth generally involves at least hours of substantial pain, and sometimes days of excruciating pain, one is rather surprised that any woman would volunteer herself for this ordeal. But whenever one inquires into what might motivate such a strange choice, one hears a variation of one or more of the following:
Natural childbirth is working great for wild animals, so surely it must for us too.
Perhaps, if one includes levels of maternal and child deaths which most would consider intolerable among the things that
work great. Moreover, it must be noted that human evolution has delivered us to the point that the ratio of brain volume, and hence head size, at birth to maternal hip size is uncommonly large. That renders natural birth considerably harder and more traumatic for humans than for most other species.It has been remarked that given this difficulty, the human species has three choices: (1) stop getting smarter, (2) get wider hips, or (3) give up on non-surgical childbirth.
But it is natural!
Maybe so, but then so is a life-expectancy at birth of 30 years, illiteracy, incessant violence, and the bubonic plague. One should regard assertions that something is
natural, not as guarantee of harmlessness and wholesomeness, but as evidence that it is likely dangerous and disagreeable compared to a product of civilization.
It puts the women in charge.
One understands that some people feel strongly about signaling that this is a heartfelt desire. But surely one can find a less unpleasant or dangerous signal? Perhaps, employing the services of the countless highly qualified and competent female obstetricians? Putting one's life on the line for this purpose—for sometimes women kill women for the cause of women—seems excessive.
Women who go through with natural childbirth, despite the great pain, are admirable.
Reading the stories of those chose to bear great pain and torture, rather than desert some noble cause, certainly fills this author with equal parts admiration and gratitude that he has never, and hopefully never will, be so tested. However, about those who eagerly volunteer for the rack one feels differently. For regardless of what they say, on the whole they must enjoy it. While de gustibus non est disputandum , one has no need to admire those who merely seek their own pleasures. So women who went through with natural childbirth, when they had easy and available alternatives, either made a mistake or find uncommon pleasures.
Natural childbirth gives the mother a wonderful feeling of happiness and empowerment.
This counter-intutive argument is one the author actually credits. For while the author has not yet given birth, he has needed to have an infected tooth treated via root canal. While the pains suffered until a dentist's services could be procured may not have been as great as those of many births, they were considerable.
So the author can from experience confirm that once a protracted and severe pain ceases, an experience of elation and joy lasting for hours is not uncommon. Such elation at the cessation of pain is what many women having undergone natural childbirth describe.
But this elation, while genuine—much like the genuine relief felt when one stops hitting oneself in the head with a hammer—seems hardly to make up for all the pain experienced earlier. On the whole, one would still have rather avoided the root canal, hammer hits, and natural childbirth.