Reclaiming My Body: Why I So Desperately Want a Natural Birth

Foreign Service LifeHealth/BeautyWashington, DC
October 3, 2011

A Brief History of My Relationship with My Body

I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about when I say “my relationship with my body’.  Surprisingly, we all have one.  Think of it as a lens that we view our body through.  Much like any relationship in our lives, we choose both the perspective that we view it from and the time and energy we invest into it.

Once I started noticing that I had a perspective on my body, I became aware of the wide variety of ways in which people view (and consequently treat) their bodies.  Perspectives I have seen include:

  • “My Body is a Temple” – This person meditated, practiced yoga, ate organic foods and got regular massages.
  • My Body is merely a Physical Container” (one of my old body perspectives) – I took my body for granted, didn’t think about what I put into it and expected it to perform under any condition (stress, sickness, etc).  I did no caretaking of it whatsoever.
  • “My Body is Miraculous” – This cancer survivor became awed by the healing capability of his body and upon entering remission, started to put his body through incredible physical trials to honor the powerful thing that it was.

Those are just a few examples, but I’m sure you have others to contribute.  Anyhow, upon more reflection I realized that I’ve always viewed my body in a negative light.  Without ever putting it in words until this year, I realized I firmly believed:


This limiting belief goes back as far as grade school when I failed miserably at sports (and was often picked last for teams) and was strengthened during my Senior year of high school when I got diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in my entire body (a chronic, life-long disease).  Those two in themselves would have been enough to cement this belief, but my body perspective took another hit when I went into a depression period around age 25.  During that dark time I began to have body-related anxiety (mostly around injury) and totally and completely saw my body as weak, frail and incapable of healing.  Not only did this take a major toll on me physically, but it also had a huge impact on my confidence (ie: if I couldn’t count on my body anymore, what makes me think my mind can cut it…).

Time passed and I did my best to resolve these thoughts with my coaches and therapists.  The thing is, limiting beliefs are tricky little buggers.  They lie in your subconscious mind and get accepted as truth over time.  That’s why they’re so hard to dismantle!  First we have to become aware of the belief, decide it’s not serving us anymore and then go about creating a new, more healthy belief to replace it.

I guess you could say that’s where I am right now with my body relationship.  I recognize that this old “MY BODY IS CRAP” belief is outdated and limiting.  It doesn’t fit me anymore and I desperately want to view my body in a new light.  And even as a coach with all my fancy tools and self-awareness, I still know this is going to be a hard one for me to change.

Could Natural Birth Be the Answer?

When I initially found out I was pregnant, I did what I believe many women do, which is to assume that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain and therefore planned to get an epidural.  This fit perfectly with the lens I viewed my body through at that time and I knew it would have been a perfectly acceptable path.

However….somewhere in the midst of reading hundreds of birth stories, it dawned on me that a natural, unmedicated birth could be the PERFECT way for me to see my body in a whole new way.  To RECLAIM my body for the MIRACULOUS thing that it is and see it as POWERFUL, CAPABLE, WHOLE and RESILIENT for once.  In order to do that though, I’d have to not only be focused on the end goal (a healthy baby) but the experience of labor as well (seeing it as equally transformative and empowering).  For me, that was the ultimate challenge and one that I desperately wanted to say yes to.

But Can I Really Do It?

Honestly, I don’t know.  Does any woman really know until she’s in the middle of it?

What I do know is that I’ve put my intention of having an unmedicated birth out into the Universe.  I’ve selected a care team that knows my wishes and will encourage and motivate me when I want to quit.  I’ve done the mindset work to deal with fear issues that will surely arise during the experience.  And now I must simply let go and recognize that it is not my birth to control, it’s Nia’s.

At times I feel the desire to control this process rise up in me so strongly that I just want to scream, “I WILL NOT FAIL.”  Because that’s how I saw it at first.  If I didn’t fulfill my desire of having a natural birth, then somehow I had failed my child, myself and my body (losing what I perceived as my ONE CHANCE to reclaim my body and forever change my relationship with it).  Yes, extreme I know.  That’s how my thoughts often tumble out when tinged with anxiety.  Thankfully, both my husband and my coach called me on it and I did some powerful work to let go of the need for control.

Which brings me to where I am now.  I sincerely hope that I get my dream of having an unmedicated vaginal birth, but if it is not to be, then I intend to be gentle with myself; gracefully accepting where my personal limits lie.  In closing, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes that reinforces my current mindset,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

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  1. Jill says:

    After having 3 vaginal childbirths, you never know what you can truly handle until you’re in the middle of it …

    My 2nd child was born unmedicated. And while I didn’t chose that for my 3rd (nor did I really plan on having it for my 2nd …), it was the shortest labor. The easiest recovery. AND the biggest child.

    It hurts. It hurts like HELL. But we all survived … and I have a great story about it!

    Whatever happens, listen to your body. Listen to your medical team. And never fear about sticking to your guns about your wishes. It’s YOUR birth. And your memories.

    Can’t wait to hear the news …

  2. Just remember that when the time comes, if you need an epidural, c-section, or whatever, it DOES NOT EQUAL failing. As long as you have a healthy baby at the end, it was a success. And heck, the baby is already a pretty miraculous and strong thing your body produced, so don’t let that be forgotten.

  3. Emily says:

    I am another FS blogger. I have have not commented before, but I love the topic of natural child birth. I have a great appreciation for the capabilities of our bodies.
    I have two boys. The first was born with an epidural and was a normal experience. My second baby was a water birth, 100% natural. I LOVED it. Honestly, it was the best, most empowering experiences of my life. He was a 10 pound 3 ounce baby, and I was able to do it.
    Here is the link.
    Also, I would recommend the documentary “The Business of Being Born”. It is online and on Netflix. It changed how I looked at birth.
    Good luck. You can do it.

  4. Sarah Novak says:

    I appreciate your wisdom Jill, thanks for taking the time to comment. SLN

  5. Sarah Novak says:

    You are very right, my dear. I’m definitely working on keeping that top of mind…

  6. Sarah Novak says:

    Hi Emily- Nice to ‘meet’ you! Thanks for sharing the link – I can’t wait to read your birth story! Hard to believe you vaginally birthed a 10 pounder! AMAZING!! Hope to hear from you again on this forum. Sarah

  7. Jen O says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Remember that during the birth there is a difference between being ABLE to have a natural child birth and deciding that’s what you SHOULD do…Trust your medical team, if they advise medical interventions know that they are doing so with the understanding that it is not your ideal, and therefore it is probably what’s medically best for you and the baby. From reading your post it sounds like you are placing a lot of weight on the birth experience. I’d encourage you to envision other ways that you can see your body as “whole” besides a natural child birth, this might help you be more at peace with whatever happens during the birth. Sending lots of love and hoping that everything turns out well!

  8. Sarah Novak says:

    Thank you dear – your wisdom is so appreciated, especially given that your experience is so fresh! This ability to process my thoughts out loud (or via blog, etc) is really helping me sort out where I feel stuck and what other options I might have. Thanks for taking the time to make suggestions…

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