Twice now I’ve pushed a tiny squalling person out of a hole that is allegedly designed for the purpose – but the maths doesn’t quite work…
On the first occasion, my experience was… let’s just say, I wouldn’t choose to repeat it. For so very many reasons, but for this one in particular: the horrifying moment when a doctor, fearing for my distressed baby’s wellbeing, turned to the midwife positioned at the foot of my bed and instructed ‘cut her’. Indeed.
How to have a positive birth experience
The arrival of my second baby couldn’t have been more different. I was terrified of a repeat performance, especially given the complications for my first daughter following her traumatic arrival; and yet, despite the excruciating feeling of being torn open (quite literally) – I feel sad that I may never experience that again. Sounds mental, but here’s the thing:
I felt in control and empowered; everything was exactly how I wished for it to be – and that makes alllllll the difference to a labouring woman and how she perceives the pain of giving birth.
(And let’s be frank, although there’s rumour of some women reportedly orgasming in the throes of labour, the truth is that having your foof ripped open from the inside out is not and never will be pleasant.)
So how is it that I can genuinely regret the fact I may never again go through that agony? Because I made peace with it.
Here are my top tips for ensuring you can do the same, regardless of how your baby enters the world:
Understanding what’s happening is the first step to tuning in, listening, and working with your body. It may be tempting to bury your head in the sand; but this is one instance where ignorance is not bliss. The pain is coming (sorry), so you may as well prepare yourself and make sure it’s on your own terms.
Having a clear idea of your preferences and how you feel regarding medical intervention and drugs is wise; having a strong expectation of how things will play out is, um, perhaps best avoided. It ’s also not a terrible thing to have your partner fully briefed in advance so they’re able to advocate for you if necessary. So go ahead and make a birth plan if you wish – but remember to be realistic and adaptable in order to avoid disappointments, because flexibility is your best insurance for a similarly positive experience.
When things don’t go perfectly, you may feel overwhelmed with feelings of sorrow/guilt/failure. I know because I’ve been there. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for me first time around. Birth Afterthoughts is a fabulous service offered by many hospitals; it provides a full debrief of your delivery, and was an invaluable resource for me. A perfect second labour also helped to heal the trauma, but that’s quite a drastic course of action to take (and a bit of a gamble!).
So, natural or section, pain relief free or all the drugs – when it comes to giving birth these are not the reasons labour can be traumatic; it’s the loss of control that’s frightening.
Any new experience can be a source of anxiety, but when pain and fear like you’ve never known are added into the mix, it’s no wonder that trauma is so prevalent. We’re literally putting our lives – and those of our unborn babies – into the hands of strangers. And that’s, you know, kind of daunting.
So with all this in mind, why on God’s green earth would I lament never going through labour again? Well, it’s because my second baby proved that an empowered delivery can make you feel like a freaking superhero. And nothing else in life (not even new shoes or a viral post) will ever come close to that.
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