I was shocked to discover the other day just how many of my friends have been birth shamed. To be honest I didn’t really know it was a thing. But snide little comments about epidurals, C-sections and inductions. Society pushes natural birth on us so much that women feel like they have somehow failed if they need medical intervention.
Recently I published a post about the things that people don’t tell you about childbirth. It was a humorous post but had elements of truth to it. I stand by my advice of never looking at your stitches and the war zone surrounding them. I get that humour is subjective. Not everyone will find me funny. But I didn’t expect the comments that enforce this idea that childbirth should only go one way.
According to some readers I was,”Unprepared for child birth”, or I should, “Stop complaining because it’s just giving birth. Women have been doing it for hundreds of years”.
Well I have a message to all those birth shamers out there
Yes, women have been giving birth for hundreds of years, but me personally, I’ve only ever done it twice, and I can tell you that quite honestly in the midst of those contractions and inhaling gas and air like my life depended on it, I didn’t give a flying crap about the hundreds of other women who had given birth before me. This was my experience. I will never understand how that statement is helpful in any way other than to make women who have had to have medical intervention to save themselves, their baby, or both, feel like a failure.
Women died in childbirth hundreds of years ago because there was no medical intervention. Women have been ballet dancing for hundreds of years. It doesn’t mean I can don a tutu and instantly pirouette my way around the room. Guys & St Thomas know this too, and their maternal care is second to none as a result.
As for being unprepared, I read the books, I attended the antenatal classes, I did the tour of the hospital. I was even my best friend’s birthing partner. Admittedly that was a few years before I became pregnant myself, but it is none the less an experience I will never forget. Especially the bit where she asked me to remove a piercing from a place that went well and truly beyond the realms of friendship.
I was as prepared for childbirth as I could have been.
But do you know what? Nothing can prepare you for child birth. Nothing at all. You don’t know if you are going to be a woman who is serene and calm and breathes through her contractions steadily, or a woman who turns the air blue with every contraction and calls her husband a cockwomble.
The gas and air may take you to a happy place or it might make you throw up, which in turn makes you pee your pants a little. Your baby is going to make a swift entrance into the word leaving you wondering what the hell just happened, or they may hang out in your uterus for another 48 hours and give you something to hold over them for the rest of your life.
Birth experiences vary from woman to woman. Hell, I’ve had two and they were completely different. It doesn’t matter if you chanted your way through labour or demanded every drug available. Whether you stuck to your birth plan or it all went a bit tits up. It doesn’t matter if you pooed or puked or both. Whether your baby was pushed out, pulled out, or came out through the sunroof. All that matters is that you did it. You made a tiny human and you gave birth to them.
All any of us hope for is a healthy baby, a straightforward birth. We don’t always get either of those things.
Every woman deserves some kind of ticker tape parade and a statue made in their honour for going through childbirth. It is the most glorious, terrifying, amazing, painful, wonderful and messy experience of their life. One that they will never forget. An experience, that whether good or bad, will stay with them forever. It becomes part of them. I personally have never gotten through any of my children’s birthdays without a little reminisce with the husband about their arrival into the world. There are still days when I look at them and how big they are and I can be instantly transported back to the time when they were first placed in my arms.
No one deserves to be shamed for their birth experience.
Motherhood comes with so much pressure and so much guilt and so much opinion from everyone else. Surely the sisterhood should stick together on this one? Congratulate each other. Cheer each other on. Recognise the emotions that come with childbirth and understand that there isn’t one right way for our precious bundles to enter the world.
If you are ever birth shamed, please tell the perpetrator to shove a watermelon up their arse. Or call them a cockwomble.
Read more from Claire in the newly released book We Need to Talk About the Terms of my Imprisonment. Compiled by Michelle Tan.