Oh my goodness – water birth, immobile and confined to the bed birth; whale-music, swearing at your partner; candles and calm, bright lights and chaos; aromatherapy, “What the hell’s that awful smell?”; no pain relief, ‘every single drug going’ relief. The list is endless, and you don’t realise exactly how many decisions you have to make until a midwife asks you the dreaded question – with a smiling face full of excitement that belies the reality of the inevitable onset of your extreme confusion, “Have you done your birth plan yet?”
What? What birth plan? What the heck is that? I’m pregnant – I go to the hospital when the time comes and I give birth by whatever method necessary. I had absolutely no idea how much ‘fluff’ was involved with instructions as to giving birth. As if any pregnant woman needs all that stress – it shouldn’t be this difficult!
Now, if you’re the kind of woman who reads every book, article and magazine going, and has already known ‘how’ you are going to give birth since you were 10, that’s fantastic. I’m seriously impressed. Just make sure that you get your head around the fact that you are NOT in control of anything and that there is a high likelihood that it may well not fall in line with your best laid plans.
Deciding how to give birth can sometimes take an awful lot more thought than you ever realised. Women today are bombarded with advice from all kinds of sources about how perfect the birth experience should be. How wonderful it is to welcome that new life into the world whilst floating in a lovely warm pool with some New Age pipe music or choir ensemble in the background, ‘taking the pain’ and looking radiant and lovely all at the same time. For sure, there never seems to be any recommendation for listening to Metallica whilst simultaneously eyeballing the shapes on the ceiling reflecting off the disco ball (you know, the one you’ve insisted on installing especially for the occasion) and getting all hyped up with adrenaline! What starts off as a ‘nice to have’ can end up becoming an all encompassing obsession, with a never-ending flow-chart of scenario ‘ifs’ that anybody other than a mathematician will be unable to follow once they’re past the initial veering off course of the original plan!
I know, we’re supposed to be calm and fearless. Counting to whatever and breathing weirdly in what seems like a completely unnatural fashion. I’m sure that works for a lot of women, but dream-on for the rest of us. Sometimes, the pressure of perfection and its resulting stress can turn the unexpected into a frightening event, where five minutes feel like five hours and nothing ever changes. It feels as though no-one is listening to you, and all the midwives are secretly thinking that you’re a right old pain in the a**e!
That’s definitely how it wwas for me. I had everything worked out, finally, having agonised over epidural/no epidural, move around/stay on the bed, music/nor music etc. etc. In the end I had no choice in the matter. Having multiples changes everything, even though they don’t really tell you that at the time. Emergency C-section anyone? And I definitely DID feel as though I was being ‘difficult’, although I had good reason to be. No-one should ever feel that way. Truth is, no two women have the same experience. Differing pain thresholds mean what one woman can endure another finds excruciating. And it really doesn’t help when no-one notices that your epidural line has fallen out – midwives and doctors take note! They must have all been absent for that particular class at uni!
What annoys me the most though, is the level of vitriol that other women can dish out about someone else’s wishes, or concerns, or choices. What it has to do with anyone else is precisely nothing. Being able to give birth ‘naturally’ in this day and age of medical wonderment is not some kind of honorary badge, although it is often worn as such. Of course, it would be great to have minimum intervention, although that’s what happened hundreds of years ago and many women died in childbirth back then! No, it just doesn’t make sense not to have all the help you can get if that’s what you want to do, or if that’s what becomes necessary. It doesn’t make you any less of a woman, any more than accepting treatment for any other condition makes you less of a person.
A woman should feel supported to choose her own way, make her own decision. Natural is not always best, and it certainly does not a superior woman make. The ‘right thing to do’ is always the right thing for that woman and that baby, at that time.
Inspired by http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/family/nothing-normal-giving-birth, Bryony Gordon, The Telegraph, Saturday 19th August 2017