Keep Your Horror Stories To Yourself
We have to stop telling pregnant women horror birth stories. It’s as simple as that. When you’re pregnant, you’re just a little vulnerable (to say the least). If this is your first baby, you have no idea what to expect, everything is new and incredibly overwhelming. Maybe this is a subsequent birth and your previous experience wasn’t what you had expected or particularly positive.
Why oh why, do women think that this is the right time to unload their (or their friend’s) traumatic birth baggage onto this poor woman?! Having some person lay their fears at your feet is incredibly unhelpful.
We don’t do it to people going in to get their wisdom teeth removed. We don’t tell someone this horrible story about your friend’s, sister’s daughter who went in to get her wisdom teeth out and ended up with a numb face, almost bled out on the table and spent 2 weeks recovering in ICU. Like what?!?! No! You say, “Oh I had my wisdom teeth out a few years ago. It was fine, I was pretty swollen and sore for a few days but I ate so much ice cream and tried out a million smoothie recipes! Was kinda awesome.” Why on earth do we think it is acceptable to scare pregnant women in this way?
Humans are the only mammals that can second guess their ability to give birth.
Birth, like a marathon, is 90% a mind game. Any long distance runner will tell you that fitness and strength are only a small part of completing the race. What actually gets you over the line is your will and determination. Your ability to visualise yourself finishing, to push that bit harder when all you want to do is stop. You need to have the right headspace to give birth. You need to believe in birth, believe in your body and your baby. Trust that you are not broken. Your body is not a lemon. It is, in fact, an incredible, perfectly designed machine for bringing life into this world. You just need to give it the right conditions to work.
I teach dad’s how to be the best support person for their partners during childbirth (Beer+Bubs) and we talk about their first role as a dad. It’s not something they do with baby or even during labour, it’s actually exactly this. Protecting the birth space while mum is still pregnant. Protecting her from the horrible birth stories people want to tell her. Giving her the belief in herself to do this.
The movies and TV do enough damage as it is.
The movies do a horrendous job of depicting birth. No contractions, just your waters breaking and rushing off to the hospital right away. Then cut to outrageous screaming, lying on their back with feet in stirrups, monitors pinging away, doctors whipping the baby out and away to be cleaned, measured and brought back pink and sleeping. Or worse, mother and baby’s life is on the line with emergency procedures happening left and right for the baby to be rescued and the day saved. “Lucky we were here, you never could have done this without medical intervention. Women aren’t made to give birth anymore. You and your baby are alive, that’s all that matters.” For the vast majority, this is not how labour starts. If you did rock up to your hospital right away they’d probably check you over then send you home until your contractions established.
It’s terrifying watching these kinds of births on TV. Women screaming in agony, their babies almost dying. Would you want to do it? Would you be watching that going “Yes! I am going to do that in a few months, bring it on, I can’t wait!”. Hell no! You’d likely be scared out of your whits wondering what you’d got yourself into.
Birth is actually amazing.
Birth can be an incredible experience. Both empowering and positive. The kind of birth that leaves you feeling on top of world, full of love and trusting in your instincts. And while having a newborn is daunting and you never really feel like you know what you’re doing, a positive birth will have you going into motherhood feeling strong and capable.
Believe in birth.
We are absolutely made to give birth. What we don’t do well, is provide the right conditions for birth to happen. I like to say, “What got baby in, is what will get baby out” or as one of the dads at my class quite frankly put it, “If you wouldn’t have sex there she won’t labour well there”. Basically. Labour is the fastest and easiest when a woman feels safe, unobserved, and uninterrupted.
Keeping the room dimly lit, quiet, not asking her questions or talking unnecessarily (especially during a contraction!), gentle words of love and encouragement. Being upright and active instead of lying still on your back will help gravity move your baby down as well as open your hips up nice and wide for baby’s head to move through. Lying on your back squishes your pelvis and you’ll be pushing uphill. Music, massage, beautiful essential oils wafting through the air, curtains drawn and doors closed.
That’s how you want to make love, and that’s how you will labour best. Is it really any wonder why labour stalls when you get to hospital? Bright lights, strange smells, it’s cold, you get asked lots of questions, you can hear other people in the next room. It’s distracting and you struggle to go within yourself and find that birth headspace.
You know what you can do with that horrible birth story about your cousin’s friend? Keep it to yourself. Even better?? Tell her about your amazing birth or your friend’s! Don’t have a good story? Tell her mine.
At the very least, just smile at that gorgeous pregnant woman, tell her she looks amazing (nothing about the size of her bump and whether you think it is too big or too small) and that you wish her all the best for a positive and empowering birth.
It doesn’t matter what that birth looks like. It could be a home birth or a planned c-section. It’s not your birth or your body. I want all women to be informed about their birth choices, empowered to have the kind of birth they want and in the end, look back on the experience as wonderfully positive.
Live Gently, Raise Gently,