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What kind of a person would mention childbirth and lovemaking in the same sentence?

After reading an excerpt of Birthing the Easy Way, Linda wrote the following:

"... you mention women who had orgasms or thought birth was sexually stimulating... How can this be? I really question it."

Sheila's response:

I am not saying that I think every woman can expect to happily ejaculate something the size of a watermelon, but it seems to me that if indeed there IS the potential for pleasure, women ought to be aware of it.

For example, I was not aware that breastfeeding could be pleasurable.

Like most people, I assumed (or was wrongly influenced to believe) that breastfeeding was a nuisance, but one which women tolerate for the benefit of the baby. Nobody would want to continue breastfeeding any longer than medically necessary. But pleasureable? Tsk, tsk. That would make it seem rather naughty, wouldn't it? Nice girls don't think about such things.

But at a La Leche League meeting, I heard women openly admitting the pleasures of breastfeeding. Their talk helped open my eyes and my heart and I realized it was indeed true: there is a sensuous joy in nursing a baby. Not "sexual" like intercourse, but "sensual" - like a massage can be.

What a delight! Why didn't anyone ever tell me this before? Without this being discussed openly, I might have never discovered it because I didn't look for it. Or perhaps more likely and even worse, I could have experienced pleasure and thought my feelings were abnormal and vulgar. Occassionaly when women do recognize this sensual pleasure, they are ashamed and worry that their feelings are a perversion of motherhood. They may even begin to treat the baby differently to overcompensate for their secret worry. How very sad for both.

Nursing is supposed to be pleasurable! When breastfeeding is pleasurable it helps make the demanding job of motherhood easier and more enjoyable. Getting some sensuous pleasure from nursing your baby is not a perversion, it is a reward; a bonus that will ensure you will continue to do what is best for the baby. Though rare, some women have admitted to actually experiencing an orgasm while breastfeeding.

What had made the difference between my new-found joy in breastfeeding and my former attitude of resigned determination was nothing to do with nursing the baby. It was simply my own perception that had changed.

Likewise, the nursing mother who is supported and encouraged and reassured of her worth while breastfeeding will find it a much more enjoyable experience than the woman who is:

~ harassed by her neighbour who says her poor milk quality is making the baby fussy,
~ nagged at by her mother-in-law that she is nursing too often,
~ humiliated by a doctor who tells her she does it for her own fulfillment
~ ridiculed by her sister that she is nothing more than a dairy cow
~ criticized by her co-workers that she could be doing something more important with her time.

The perception and the circumstances of the act affect the potential for pleasure.

Similarly, I believe that a person's beliefs, attitude, support and circumstances during childbirth affect the differences between those who enjoy it, those who tolerate it, and those who dread it.

Rape is terrifying and painful, but lovemaking is pleasureable - same basic act, different set of circumstances.

It occurred to me that the most painful parts of labour were not the contractions from within, they were the rape-like intrusions from without: repeatedvaginal exams; being made to lie down in a bed when walking was more comfortable; or pulling on the baby to "help" it come out. Even "supporting" the baby's head hurt me.

Since the clitoris is stimulated from the inside as the baby's head is being born, theoretically, there is the potential for pleasure during birth. When a doctor or midwife puts a hand on that area on the outside to guide the head out - YEOW! - this extremely sensitive and swollen organ can be compressed against the pubic bone. Don't forget there is the elusive and mysterious G-spot, which is known to cause a "bearing-down" sensation with stimulation. Why do you suppose it's there?

In the private birth that my husband and I did alone, I did experience some pain but it was no more painful than having sex the first time was. (Ouch! Is it over yet?) But overall, the experience was overall sensuously pleasurable - like breastfeeding - and like Linda said in her letter to me: "an exquisite connection with my husband whom I loved dearly and he came into that place of joy and love with me... I felt like the whole world stopped while I celebrated." Same basic act of giving birth as I had experienced in the hospital - different set of circumstances and attitudes at home.

I realize that very few women can or will experience orgasm during childbirth, but some do, and I think women ought to know. If we aren't aware of a hidden treasure, we'd never know to look for it.

Sheila Stubbs

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