I used to think all women should have a natural birth, because it's the only thing that made sense to me, and I judged them for wanting anything else. Then one day my husband looked at me and said: "Janelle, some women WANT to be managed. Why can't you respect that?"

I was raised a “natural birth advocate.” I remember sitting in my mom's minivan, riding shotgun, listening with oddly rapt attention as she told me about birth — how it's not an illness, how Western culture has medicalized a natural process, how episiotomies are dangerous, how women are disempowered and bullied.

I thought she was simply amazing.

She told me about her own natural births in the '70s, how she fought for them. I thought she was simply amazing. I knew right then it was the only "right" way to have a baby.

So it shouldn't surprise you that when I found out I was having my first child, even though I was only 22 years old, I knew I wanted a drug-free birth. I switched from a research hospital to a birthing center when I asked my doctor how she felt about letting women progress in labor naturally, even if they don't fit her bell curve. She responded, snapping her fingers, “Well, if I don't see you progressing as I think you should, I'll give you Pitocin.”

And so my suspicion was confirmed that the entire OB/GYN medical world was evil.

And so my suspicion was confirmed that the entire OB/GYN medical world was evil. I was sure any woman who wanted an epidural, or (gasp) a planned Cesarean, was a crusader against mankind and was, quite frankly, uneducated and simply wrong.

(Oh yeah, I was awesome. You would have loved me.)

I fueled my self-righteous position by reading book after book after book on the topic of natural childbirth. I think I saw myself as some sort of brave fighter for the good of birthing women across the world. I was awful.

And then I saw things differently...

Janelle, has it ever occurred to you that some women want to be managed?

One day, as I was telling my husband how I just couldn't understand how these women deprive themselves of the empowering capacity of birth, how they could just walk into a hospital and submit to whatever inane processes the doctor declares necessary, he looked at me and said something I'll never forget: “Janelle, has it ever occurred to you that some women want to be managed? Has it ever occurred to you that maybe not every woman wants to be in control and do it themselves? Maybe some women want somebody to just do it for them, and that is their idea of a perfect birth.”

Uh oh.

You know those moments when you realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that you've been totally and completely wrong?

Yeah. I had one of those.

Suddenly I saw that I had decided what was appropriate for all women, while ironically touting the “empowerment of women.”

Uh oh.

A real empowered birth

I realized an "empowered birth" is a woman getting the birth she wants.

So with a hung head, I redefined my understanding of “empowered birth.” I realized an “empowered birth” is a woman getting the birth she wants. Not the one I want. Not the one the doctor wants, or the nurse or her husband or mother or brother's sister's friend, the doula.

Her birth should come from herself, at that time in her life, no matter what that looks like.

Beyond that, it's nobody's business.

So I jumped off my pedestal and set down my flaming sword of truth.

Good thing, since if I hadn't, I'm 90 percent sure I'd have not a single friend left. I mean geez, I can hardly handle myself, even looking 12 years in the past.

On a side note, who knew husbands could give constructive, life-changing insight? Miracles never cease.

I jest. Sort of.

More on birth options

Homebirth: I had my third baby at home
Why I'd only give birth in a hospital
What if my birth plan didn't pan out?

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