Don’t believe the horror stories: you can have a ‘good’ birthJuly 18, 2016
If you believe TV and films, birth happens like this:
- Waters break in embarrassing scenario eg on the floor of a restaurant
- Labour hurts, so you do some exaggerated breathing while partner oafs about
- Rush to hospital, hilarity ensues as you get lost/nearly have baby in a taxi
- Enter comedy doctor
- A few pushes and the baby pops out.
In reality… not so much. Maybe your waters were broken in hospital, you had to go into surgery, it was a 60-hour labour, hypnobirthing helped every step of the way or the drugs worked a treat. Needless to say, every birth is different.
What bothers me, however, is the expectation that it will be an experience you’ll want to forget. When I was pregnant with Phoebe, the ‘bad’ stories vastly outweighed the ‘good’, from colleagues sharing tales of general anaesthetics and emergency C-sections to well-meaning friends recounting stories of tearing and not being able to sit down for a week. Thanks guys. Sometimes knowledge isn’t power.
When it came to D-day, I was understandably nervous. On my due date I went in for a check-up and the baby’s heart-rate was on the low side, so I was ‘advised’ to go to hospital to be induced (and when your doctor advises something based on your unborn baby’s health, you get in the damn car).
I really, really, really didn’t want to be induced. I thought that the baby comes when it’s ready, and when your body is ready. Being injected with drugs to speed things up wasn’t part of the plan, especially when I’d heard of so many women being induced, only to result in a trip to theatre for a C-section. Again, thanks friends…
However, it was all a positive experience. My birth plan was literally this: Drugs. Music. Whatever Dr J says. Skin to skin.
I was pro-drugs from the outset (and was made to feel like a cheat when I attended a taster workshop for hypnobirthing and birth yoga, and the instructor asked every mum-to-be in the room to put their hand up if they wanted a drug-free birth, the implication being that we all should; I received a few raised eyebrows when my hand stayed firmly down). I don’t need to justify why I thought an epidural was for me, but my instincts were bang on.
To cut my own birth story short, I was induced overnight, had an epidural at 10am, my waters were broken then I was put on a drip. I read my book, my husband went out for lunch and to buy cupcakes for the midwives, we watched a film and at 3.30pm I was examined and told that I could ‘have a push’. Phoebe was facing the wrong way so the doctor got the ventouse out, and she was born at 4.30pm.
Before the doctor left, my husband tentatively (obviously aware that I was a few stitches worse off, and a rather sore) asked him “That didn’t seem so bad – is that quite normal?”.
The response has really stayed with me. He replied “Of course. There are lots of straightforward births like that – you just don’t hear about them”. How true.
Of course things can go wrong, and sadly they do all the time. Shit happens, literally in the case of childbirth, but working yourself into a lather (sorry for talking like a nana, but you know what I mean) and getting more stressed in the run up to the birth simply will not help. From tense muscles to anxiety attacks – I’m not including tokophobia in this – there are physical effects from your mental state, and thinking positively throughout your pregnancy can make a huge difference to the birth.
What’s interesting, is when you ask other mums about their own experiences, you’ll hear things like ‘It was painful, but it was a positive, productive pain’ and ‘It didn’t matter once the baby was in my arms’.
My advice? Arm yourself with good information, but also surround yourself with positive stories (you can find lots on Tell Me A Good Birth Story).
Whether you say yes to drugs, want to go drug-free, the labour takes two hours or 62 hours, it will be YOUR birth, and unique to you and your baby.
And if it’s a ‘good’ one, don’t forget to tell that anxious-looking mum-to-be.