There is no doubt about it. Motherhood is a club and your membership begins the moment you have pushed your baby out.
The Motherhood Club comes with a defined set of rules and in pole position is one that goes something like this:
Thou shalt not talk about the realities of birth with non-members and will go out of your way to lie in their faces and say that it doesn’t hurt/isn’t scary is absolutely fine etc etc.
Well do you know what? I have stuck to this rule religiously ever since becoming a Mum, but today I’m going to break the rules and say something that I’ve been wanting to say for ages:
Giving birth is horrible. It hurts, it’s scary and I’m dreading doing it again.
There….I said it.
Now I know that I’m going to get in trouble for doing this. Especially with one of my best friends who is due to give birth any day. But I’m not doing it for effect or to annoy people (I’ll leave that kind of thing to Katy Hopkins). No I’m writing this piece because I wish that people had been a bit more honest with me when I was pregnant. Perhaps if they had, my birthing experience wouldn’t have been so shocking and have affected me so badly.
There are so many people who sell you this perfect vision of giving birth.
“It’s just like bad period pains”, they tell you.
“It was the most beautiful experience of my life. I can’t wait to do it again”.
“Water births are incredible. I hardly felt it”
Well if you ask me, when they told you these blatant untruths, these women had either forgotten the reality of their births (Mother nature has this amazing knack of making you forget so that you do it all over again), were in an oxytocin induced love haze or were lying to you.
I get why we lie to expectant Mums. We don’t want to scare them or stress them out at what can be a very uncomfortable and anxious time. But, by hiding the truth about giving birth and those first quite hideous days/weeks of being a Mum, aren’t we setting them up for a fall? Out of the eight women in my NCT group not one of them had a “straightforward” birth (whatever that is). Every one of us experienced some sort of complication however big or small and the more mothers I speak to, the more I realise that what we fear as being a complicated birth, is actually the norm.
As I personally neared my due date, I had a vision of how my birth would go, a vision that had been created by members of the Motherhood Club, the woman who took my NCT class and my hypnobirthing teacher (don’t even get me started on hypnobirthing…what a load of codswallop!)
It went something like this:
1. I’d get the odd almost painless cramp which would mark the start of my labour.
2. I would spend a good few hours at home bathing, being massaged by Mr UFM, watching box-sets and relaxing.
3. Eventually we would make our way to the hospital where I would be met by my smiling midwife who would hopefully stick with me throughout the birth.
4. I’d lower myself into my relaxing birthing pool and breathe my way through the experience. It would hurt but I’d be able to manage it.
5. My baby would arrive and I’d soon be at home.
The reality couldn’t have been more different and involved instant, mind-blowingly painful contractions, a mad rush to the hospital, an almost instant epidural, loads of different midwives, baby’s heartbeat dropping, a 19 hour labour and finally an emergency C-Section when they discovered that Pops had been sideways all along. This was all topped by Poppy being taking to the neo-natal ward, a 4 night stay on the quite frankly disgusting and claustraphobic post-labour ward and an inability to breast-feed. It was stressful it was scary and it haunted me for weeks after.
I truly believe that if I had been mentally prepared for my birth, rather than being fooled into believing that it would be stress free and perfectly manageable then I might have been slightly less shell-shocked both during and after the event. Rather than selling this image of the perfect birth, why can’t we prepare women better for what the birth will REALLY be like and give them better tools for dealing with it. We also need to help them to realise that after the birth they won’t necessarily feel that instant bond that so many people go on about, they may struggle to breast feed and they will feel exhausted and most probably just want to be on their own and sleep/recover.