There’s this phenomenon where the minute a woman’s baby bump appears - or before, if she’s really unlucky - people queue up to tell her terrifying birth stories. When pregnant with my first child I had colleagues, friends and the odd stranger telling me how horrific giving birth is, sharing every frightening detail, as if warning me against attempting it (a bit late, but thanks anyway).
It happens all the time. Which is strange, because surely the least appropriate time to tell your traumatic birth story is to a woman expecting her first baby?
The reason this matters is because the presence or absence of fear will affect the way a woman is able to birth her baby. The complex hormonal and physiological process of birth is negatively affected by adrenaline, which is generated when we feel afraid. Birth is a normal process, but the presence of fear stacks the odds against women, causing their bodies to work less effectively and increasing the likelihood of intervention. When we are pregnant, one of the best things we can do is surround ourselves with positive birth stories. Knowing that other women have done it and how they coped is an amazing confidence boost. We start to believe we could do it ourselves.
I have a wonderful friend who, for complex obstetric reasons, had two difficult births, but she is a flipping SUPERSTAR in my book because she supported and encouraged me when I was planning my first birth, and said not one negative word to me. Not one. It must have taken great strength for her to support me and listen to me witter on, but she did, and that is a true friend.
So if you feel really positive about your birth, then ask your co-worker/ friend/ family member if they want to hear your story. But if you find yourself about to launch into all the gory details of your birth experience, stop, take a deep breath and think instead about contacting someone to debrief your birth experience with. It doesn’t matter how long ago it happened. I still think about my 90 year old grandmother’s face when she recalled her experiences in childbirth, and it breaks my heart a little. Birth trauma is real, for both women and their birth partners, and you deserve to be heard. But please, step away from the pregnant woman.
Photo by Juan Antonio Capó Alonso CC BY
I'm Liz Dew, founder of SheffieldHypnobirthing.com and I love a good chat about birth. This blog is where I explore some of the things that I find amazing, frustrating, or fascinating about birth and birth culture. Grab a cuppa and dive in.