Perfection vs. Purpose OR the Birth Experience vs. Giving Birth

To interrupt the series on “Integrating Yoga and Lamaze” for a moment…  I’ve had something nagging at me for a while…  I keep hearing the same theme from mothers who didn’t have the natural birth they wanted; the birth they were told they were *supposed* to have.  They feel like failures because their “birth experience” didn’t go as planned.  I see this in the comments on facebook, on blogs.  I hear it from students, from mothers at the ICAN meetings.  I hear it in many forms – “I failed because I had the epidural and I didn’t want one.”  “I failed because I had a c-section.”  “I failed because I had more medical interventions than I could count.”  “I failed.”

So, how do women come to have the expectation of the perfect natural birth?  How is it that our egos are tied intrinsically to the “birth experience” that we forget to be present in the moment and enjoy it for what it is – A once in a lifetime event, your baby’s birthday. This is not to say that there isn’t value in the experience, because there is – quite a bit.  In fact, it’s such a close second to “health and safety of mom and baby” that it’s more like 1.5 instead of 2…

It seems that women are sold the idea of a perfect natural birth.  We are sold on the idea that birth *should* be intervention free, pain free, drug free, quiet, calm, orgasmic, blissful, well supported by partner and medical staff, delayed cord clamping, immediate, easy breastfeeding…  These things can, and do happen.  However, some of these things are not realistic or possible, depending on the circumstances of your pregnancy and your birth.

But yet, women are sold on a “method” or a “technique”.  Women are sold on a script – follow this plan, use these specific techniques (breathing, meditation, postures, etc), use the right flowery language (rushes, surges, waves – but we don’t say contraction!) and you’ll have the perfect scripted birth that you were sold.

Labor and birth are big unknown, unpredictable events.  Things that are unpredictable and uncertain are scary!  We want the comfort of knowing what to expect when we are expecting.  We want to be able to say that we’ll labor for 10 hours, push for 45 mins and have a perfect baby who will latch on and nurse like a champ right away.  Some births are like that.  Many are not.  We crave that comfort of knowing what comes next.  Following the script – or writing our own (can you say birth plan!) helps us find certainty in an uncertain situation.  The script is perfect – even if it involves drugs or interventions.  The script is what we are sold on; it’s what we create for ourselves; it’s perfect.

When you expect perfection, you set yourself up for failure. Any deviation from the script will result in failure.  This is something we do to ourselves.  We are sold on the idea of an ideal birth.  Funny, I wrote about that: Attachment to Your Ideal Birth

We focus so much of the script, the perfection, that we forget the purpose here.  The purpose is to birth a healthy baby and to be a healthy mama!  We must be flexible.  We must be able to go with the flow of our labors.  We must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and to make informed decisions about what is best for ourselves and our babies.

This isn’t planning a wedding where you can plan out every single detail (and even then things go wrong).  Women spend so much time energy and effort planning the wedding, and then forget that the focus is the marriage!  The marriage is the bit that lasts past day one.  It’s the part that sustains you as a couple, as a family.  With birth, it’s the baby that lasts past day one.  Sure the wedding or the birth is important, critical even.  But adding perspective here – the marriage, the baby, these are really the purpose of the one time events.

Remember folks, yours truly here crashed and burned on the natural childbirth the first time around too.  I was disappointed – absolutely, but I never felt like a failure.  Why not?

Right – I fully understood that a hospital transfer was possible.  I fully understood that I could have a c-section.  I fully understood how all the medical interventions were performed.  I fully understood and accepted my situation for what it was.  It was my son’s birthday. So, although I was disappointed that the “birth experience” wasn’t what I’d intended it to be, I didn’t feel like I’d failed either.  I had full informed consent with regards to any and all things – anything done at the birth center, the hospital transfer, the c-section…  *I* made the decision to have the c-section.  It was my choice.

Do I wish I had a natural birth with my 1st?  Of course!  Am I over the moon with joy that I was able to have a successful all natural VBAC? Absolutely!  It’s all perspective.  It’s not about forgiving yourself for having a c-section, or for getting the epidural.  It’s about choosing to use your experience to better yourself.  If I hadn’t had a c-section with my son, I’d never be a childbirth educator and a prenatal yoga instructor.  I wouldn’t be working hard to help women make their own choices with regards to their births and their babies.  So, in that sense, I am grateful for my c-section.  It put me on my path.

Everyone’s feelings are *valid*.  Your birth experience matters.  However, your health and your baby’s health matter more.  Don’t lose perspective.  If you are pregnant now, take those steps to prepare for your birth.  Do read up on labor and birth.  Do take a childbirth education class.  Do eat healthy, get some exercise – come to prenatal yoga!  Do plan for the birth you want.  Do plan for what to do when you encounter bumps in the road to birthing your baby.  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  That will take some of the uncertainty, the fear, away.  Allow yourself to let go of the perfection.  Allow yourself to let go of the second guessing.  Accept your birth for what it is – your baby’s birthday and your transition to motherhood.  It can be what you make of it.  Go in with open eyes, a warm heart and a willingness to ride one of the most exciting, scary, wonderful, memorable, life-changing moments you will ever have.

Sat Nam.


  1. Charlotte says:

    Thank you for posting this, I know that we have had conversations about the topic previously. We, *as a culture* are obsessed with perfection, and that if we don’t reach that level, means we have failed. Why is it that women – who in every other respects are all about the joys of a more nuanced existence – feel the need to belittle the birth experience of women when they fall short of the expectation??

    Failing to see the forest for the trees I suppose, but it drives me bonkers. 🙂


  1. […] is referring to the principle of non-attachment.  Many women find themselves attached to the idea of birth – rather than being present in what they … Or worse, we we find ourselves attached to an ideal version of birth… we can create […]

  2. […] is referring to the principle of non-attachment.  Many women find themselves attached to the idea of birth – rather than being present in what they … Or worse, we we find ourselves attached to an ideal version of birth… we can create […]