You know what phrase drives me around the bend 2 times? It’s “Why not take the epidural? You don’t HAVE to be a hero!” Women are already pretty awesome by sheer virtue of the fact they can produce babies out of small places, never mind all the other magic involved. But this whole thing of discouraging heroism is whack. For one, it’s demeaning. In a way, there’s the element of, “Why on earth do you think you have something to prove by ‘going natural’? Do you think you’re better than other women or something?…don’t want you to put on airs, after all.”

When a woman works long and hard to achieve an unmedicated birth because that’s what she wants to do, there’s sometimes an attitude that she’s engaging in an act of extreme feminism, equivalent to being “macho”. There’s no talk of how healthy it is for her and her baby in most cases to go through a natural, drug/artificial hormone free birthing process, or encouragement for making this wholesome choice for herself and her baby’s optimal physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing. No, instead she’s criticized and judged as “crazy”, “foolish”, and perhaps even “dangerous”, as if these healthy choices are doing potential harm. Who makes these judgements? Not most midwives, doulas, and natural birth advocates, obviously, but friends, doctors, nurses, partners, and parents who simply don’t understand that the pain is not some risky, unpleasant by-product of labour.

“You don’t have to be a hero” also belittles those women who most certainly ARE heroes…those ladies who really wanted to have an intervention-minimal birth, worked for days to achieve it, pulling out all stops and digging into all resources, only to end up with birth outcomes that were completely opposite of what they had hoped and dreamed for themselves and their babies. Do they not GET to be heroes because they had pain medication or surgery not because of personal preference but because of necessity? Do NOT tell me these are not heroic women, and don’t tell me (or them, please) that their grief over their birth experience is unwarranted because they have a healthy, live baby.

So if you ever have the urge to utter this little phrase “you don’t have to be a hero” to a woman in your presence who is powerfully expressing her labour pain, bite your tongue. Right off, if you have to. “Hero” does not mean “martyr”, which is actually what I think people are inferring when they tell her not to be one. A “hero(ine)” is a being of prowess and beneficence, This is fitting for a labouring woman. A “martyr” is a person who is willing to suffer death rather than renounce her cause. So far, I’ve never seen a woman take her desire for natural birth to that extreme, and doubt I ever will.

And what, by the way, is WRONG with being a hero? If you had the opportunity to be one for your child, wouldn’t you? If being a hero means trying to do the very best for me and my baby by refusing unnecessary medications and procedures and yelling the house down if I must in order to cope, then slap a cape on me and call me Wonder Woman.