Pregnancy Questions, Thumper, and the Power of the Words "You Can't"

There are many things I don't miss about the first trimester of my pregnancy. I don't miss my sensitive gag reflex that glued me to the toilet for about ten weeks. I don't miss the fatigue that made it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning and nearly impossible to avoid my bed after 3:30pm. I don't miss my limited diet which blandly consisted of saltine crackers and popcicles.

But I do miss those 14 weeks before we shared the news, when Brett and I had this little sacred secret that was for only us to know. Now that my belly has grown, the secret is definitely out.

I'm happy to grow rounder and wider as the weeks pass. It is a visual reminder of the growth and actual presence of our baby. A reminder I need now that I'm no longer dealing with the daily symptoms of pregnancy I was so accustomed to.

It was hard at first to not share the news with the entire world, but now that it is fairly obvious there are moments I wish that my belly were still flat and the secret were not out.

When people find out women are pregnant they immediately start asking questions:

Most of them are innocent enough:
"When are you going to find out the gender?"
"When are you due?"
"Who's your doctor?"
"Have you had morning sickness?"

Some not so appropriate: 
"Are you coming back to work next year?"
"How much weight have you gained?"
"Have you been constipated?"
"Was your baby planned?" (No joke. I literally have been asked this one over fifteen times and I've realized there is no correct way to answer this question).
"Do you have any names picked out?" (Which is innocent enough, but it becomes inappropriate when they start bashing those names you love).
"Are you planning to get an epidural?"

Now I don't mind the questions. A pregnant belly is an instant conversation starter and I know that the majority of these people are just trying to show they are interested in the pregnancy. While all of the inappropriate questions do get annoying, the one that tops the charts of starting the most awkward conversations involves the last one on my list, "Are you planning to get an epidural?"

It's not the question that is so bad, it's the comments that I receive after I answer this question that is what makes it the most obnoxious. See, I am planning to have a natural childbirth (cue the laughing, scoffing, eye roll, and/or mumbled yeah right).  Which is why this question is my least favorite question.

Just today, I ended up having this discussion three times with three different women. After I said the dreaded words, "I'm planning to have a natural childbirth" these were the responses: 
One woman said, "That's a nice thought but it'll never happen." 
Another woman laughed out loud and bluntly responded, "No you won't." 
And the last said, "You can plan all you want but after one contraction you'll be begging for the drugs."

Now my favorite part about this is that I met two out of these three women for the first time today and this exchange occurred in our very first conversation. The other is an acquaintance from work who I've spoke to a handful of times. First, how do they know me well enough to make such a sudden determination of how I will handle the labor and delivery? Second, how do they have the nerve to so boldly shoot down my plans and desires when they barely know me? And last, what is so wrong with just saying, "That's great" or just nodding and changing the subject?

I find it very sad that some women feel they are entitled to tell women who are planning a natural childbirth that she can't do it, that it is not possible, or that she is out of her mind.

A little bunny once said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all." If you don't support a woman's decision to have a natural childbirth or if you think this woman isn't cut out for it then please don't share your opinion. There is nothing wrong with saying "Know that your plans may change. I had a hard time and ended up having an epidural." What is not okay is making a judgment of the pregnant woman by saying "You can't."

When it comes to natural childbirth, I wish women would help to empower other women. Whether or not you had an epidural or a natural childbirth you can help to empower and support a woman who has that as her goal. Why belittle a woman with good intentions going into her labor/delivery?  Just because one woman chose to have an epidural doesn't mean that another woman is completely incapable of doing it without. Instead of focusing on what a woman cannot do lets instead focus on what women can do. We are women. We are strong and capable. Our bodies are made for this. For some women giving birth naturally is the single most empowering moment of their lives. Why take that away from a woman by telling her she is incapable? That she is weak? That it is impossible?

I recognize that many women who plan to have a natural childbirth often change their plan and ask for the epidural. I know that this may even happen to me. However, I wonder if that number would change if women were more supportive of one another. One thing I learned in my life is the terrible strength of the words "you can't." Those negative words become negative thoughts and those thoughts lead to actions. I wonder how many more women would be successful in their natural childbirth plans if the other women in their lives would just say "you can." Those two words are a positive mantra that lead to success.

I'm sure that I will have this conversation another hundred or so times over the course of my pregnancy but I luckily do recognize that although these women are choosing to put me down instead of lifting me up, it will not affect my plan to have a natural delivery. I did not make this decision lightly. My decision will not change because of a stranger's opinion of what is possible or what I am capable of. 

"Attitudes are contagious.  Are yours worth catching?"  ~Dennis and Wendy Mannering

*** Edited to specify: This post is not meant to be pro natural childbirth or anti-epidural. What I wanted to focus on is the need for women to support other women in the choices they make. 


Anonymous said...

Good for you girl!! You can totally do it! I personally think it is wonderful! You rock!

Heather said...

I commend your decision. I haven't ever done it but I certainly don't look down on those that do. Good luck! :) Most of those other women probably haven't even tried a natural childbirth before.

Angie said...

You can do it. I suggest taking classes so you can get an idea what to expect. I wanted to do it with Emmi but never got the chance to take classes due to the circumstances. I just went into it saying I could do it, but with no plan. That was why I failed. I did my thesis in nursing on natural childbirth and the women that were successful were the ones with a plan and then were ok if that plan changed. Make a plan and prepare. I wish I did it. Screw all the women that say you can't.

Haley Jaye said...

Thanks ladies! :) I will definitley go in there with a plan Angie. I think that if I were to go in there thinking "I'll see how it goes" that there is no way I'd be successful. I am planning on going to hypnobirthing classes here in Mapleton. I really like everything I've read about hypnobirthing and I think it's a concept I can really get behind and will work well for me.

Jon and Meghan + boys said...


I know Brett well from our mission days when we would write letters to our loved ones while everyone else played soccer on p-day. And I'm so excited for you both.

I used a home-study hypnobirthing program and I loved it... I loved the relaxation that came with practice. Our little boy was born a month early, and though I hadn't finished my class, the techniques I learned helped me immensely through the first part of labor up until I transitioned. At that point, I did consider an epidural, just to get sleep, but declined when I found out I wouldn't be able to sleep long before delivery.

Perhaps this is too much information, but since you referred to being encouraged by other examples, I'll just mention that pushing and birthing my son naturally was one of the most amazing, empowering experiences of my life. I think it was made even better by the fact that the nurses all didn't believe I could do it (I am surprised at how common epidurals are) and seriously praised me for doing so especially early and with a face-up birth. Not to mention, after 16-17 hours of working hard, it was so nice to feel my legs and be able to shower as soon as possible.

Good luck to you! She will surely be adorable.

Meghan Beutler

Haley Jaye said...

Meghan, thanks for your story! Could you let me know which specific program you used? I've been debating between hypnobabies and hypnobirthing. I'd love more insight!

Jon and Meghan + boys said...

I think the program was Hypnobabies... I honestly didn't know much about different ones, and used that one because my friend in my ward had used it and loved it, and she lent me her course. There are some things about the training that really seem silly at times, but the techniques work so well, and like I said, practice is so enjoyably relaxing. Good luck again!

Addie said...

Haley! I am so proud of you. You are one of the strongest and most beautiful women I know. The way you write so eloquently makes this story even more powerful. I have no plans yet to have a child, but love to hear others like you share thoughts like this. You totally can do it!

My "little sister" (Matt's sister) is training to be doula and we talk about this stuff all the time. You may want to check out what doulas are all about. They are trained women who can come to the hospital with you and the dad and act as advocates for you during labor. They can be an great assets in the hospital when doctors try to push the drugs because it's the easy thing to do. http://www.utahdoulas.org/
Some of the info can be a little hippy-like, but what else do expect from the crazy Ryder girls?

I am so happy for you and Brett!


Haley Jaye said...

Thanks Meghan! I really appreciate the info.

Addie! Thanks for the compliment. That means a lot coming from you. I have looked into getting a doula. A friend of mine had one at her natural childbirth and she said it was so helpful. I'll definitely look into it. Oh and the more hippy-ish the better. I'm surprisingly granola.