Can we please stop doing this, moms? In the new issue of the U.K.'s Harper's Bazaar, Miranda Kerr, the Australian model and mother of adorable baby Flynn, explains why she eschewed pain relief during childbirth. She tells the magazine that even when the doctor told her she'd need to be induced and explained that most women ask for an epidural, she replied, "I made a plan. I am determined to do this without pain medication."
Plans are good. And they're highly individual. Having a clear vision of how you want your child's birth to proceed is one of the first responsible, thoughtful things you can do for your baby. And then we get into sanctimonious territory. Kerr, who's married to actor Orlando Bloom, explains that she "had been watching all these baby bonding videos, and [without an epidural] when the baby comes out it goes straight onto the breast. The baby was a little bit drugged up and I was like, 'Well, I don't want that. I wanted to give him the best possible start in life I could.'"
We all want to give our children a good start. And it's true that some infants have difficulty latching on immediately after an epidural birth. Some. But when cervixes start dialating and stuff starts getting real, "best" becomes an incredibly relative concept. And what no mother needs is another mom declaring decisively what constitutes "best."
I have had two epidurals. I luuuuuuuuuved my epidurals. Epidurals are THE COOLEST. I would have named my firstborn Epidural had not cooler heads prevailed in the delivery room. I didn't set out to let my babies enter the world "a little bit drugged," but somewhere around the twenty-fifth hour of labor, it started looking like a pretty hot idea. And they both got pushed out, and they cried and looked around and latched on fine anyway.
Kerr was obviously speaking from her own experience, and the ultimate outcome for her and her baby was marvelous and healthy and something to be celebrated. But as Mary Fischer wrote on TheStir, "Pregnant women should respect each other for their individual choices." It's easy to make the error of believing that one's single experience of pushing out a baby constitutes the best possible outcome.
It's a long, strange trip from the womb to the world, and a lot can happen along the way. If you can get through labor close to the plan you envisioned, my mucus plug is off to you. But as we go forth into the world and share our birth experiences, it's important for all of us, even those who aren't impossibly hot Victoria's Secret models, to remember that most mothers figure out how to "bond" just fine with our children. It doesn't have to happen in the first chaotic moments of the kid's life, when the baby is still getting adjusted to being a human on the planet and all. So let's consider our words carefully. Not because we shouldn't be justly proud of the phenomenal work of bringing a person into the world – whether in a bathtub at home or in a hospital tethered to a drip or in a surgical suite getting a caesarian. Not because we shouldn't be concerned about the routine medicalization of something as natural as having a baby. But because the first thing to go when you're a parent is the notion of "best." Motherhood is messy and complicated and fraught with hasty, on-the-fly choices made by completely exhausted people. "Best" doesn't mean jack. It's not a competition, and there are no prizes awarded. Are you and your baby doing OK? Then it's good enough. And good enough is wonderful.