I like reading things that make me think, hard. That make me examine my assumptions and evaluate what I'm doing and why. Things like one day in a life by Sweet & Salty Kate. I have a lot of complex responses to her post.
I fall somewhere inbetween the "you can't plan or control anything; birth is just one day and mothering the baby afterwards is the most important thing" camp and the "your birth is the most important event in shaping your life as a mother" camp. I think it's because birth itself is so complex and multi-faceted. There's the unpredictable, wild, ferocious nature of birth--sometimes generous, sometimes harsh and unforgiving--that we can never adequately plan or prepare for. That's where Kate, and many of her fabulous commenters, are coming from.
But there's also the reality that certain choices generally--not always, but often--lead to certain consequences. If you choose an elective induction at 38 weeks with a closed cervix...chances are you'll end up with a highly interventive labor and a c-section because of the failed induction. If you seek care with a midwife or physician who has a low cesarean and intervention rate...chances are you'll have a smooth, uncomplicated, spontaneous labor and birth. If you seek care with a busy OB practice with an assembly-line approach to pregnancy and birth...chances are you'll be sent down that assembly line too.
But in all of those cases, there will always be exceptions and surprises. And there's where it can be so hard to make any kind of generalization about birth. Because there are women who have elective inductions at 38 weeks with a closed cervix and their baby pops out after a quick labor. Because some women will have highly complex, complicated births even when they're planning for it to be as natural as possible. Because some women are extremely satisfied with their assembly-line care and rave about how fantastic their OB was. So whenever you try to say anything definitive about birth, someone will always pop up with an exception.
In Jan Tritten's case, the sentence that prompted Sweet & Salty Kate's post was poorly worded. I understand, though, why she might have said something like this. After all, her life's work surrounds birth. She's a midwife and editor of Midwifery Today. In her world, birth is highly significant, often the pivotal event in a woman's life.
I was wondering: how would I say that my children's birth ranks in importance in my life? It's hard to quantify. My own journey wasn't just about "the birth," but the entire process of thinking and researching and planning--not just for the tangible, physical birth itself, but also for the spiritual process of becoming a mother. I deeply treasure the memories of my children's births. I love that my labors were experiences predominantly of love, peace, and calm. I love that I was able to meet and overcome the challenges of labor and birth and find strength in other areas of my life, knowing that if I could give birth to a baby I could certainly do ___ (run a half marathon, finish my dissertation, etc).
Making a woman's birth as positive and empowering and enriching as possible is important. Why not strive to make every birth as good as it can be? Why make anything unnecessarily difficult or painful or traumatic? But of course giving birth isn't the one definitive moment for all women, even though for some women it is. If you speak to the women at Solace for Mothers, you'll learn how a traumatic birth experience can haunt someone for years. If you were at the International Breech Conference, you heard women still deeply affected by their birth experiences, years after the fact.
So how do we reconcile the complex natures of birth--the parts that you can't plan for, and the parts that you can?