For every woman who’s ever experienced childbirth, there’s a birth story which she holds dear to her heart. No matter the years that have passed or the subsequent children that have followed, those memories remain steadfast in the minds of those who bear witness to them. Ask a mother how she felt the day she gave birth & she’ll recall the anticipation, fear, exhilaration & raw emotion of her story in vivid detail, as though it happened yesterday. Some will smile when they recount the little moments, or detail how they cried along with their partner the first time they laid eyes on their eagerly awaited baby & some will wear their story like a badge of honour. Every woman is different, every baby is different & every birth story should be celebrated.
But if I had a dollar for every time I heard a woman say ‘this is not the way I was supposed to give birth’ I’d be rich. Like, Oprah rich. I’d be driving around in my diamond-encrusted convertible Audi, perfectly coiffed hair blowing about in the wind, smiling, waving & blowing kisses to all the plebs as I pass by. Just kidding, I’ll have so much Botox & fillers in that face I wouldn’t be able to raise an eyebrow. But before I get carried away with my wind-swept pipe-dreams, the point I want to make is that there are women out there who believe there’s a right & wrong way to give birth. That anything less than a drug-free, pain-free, meditative, ‘natural’ birth amongst a field full of dandelions and posies is too medical, interventional, cold & wrong. Find me a mother’s group anywhere that doesn’t claim to have a dangerous undercurrent of hierarchy & superiority based on birthing interventions & I’ll find you a liar. From conception to birth & beyond, motherhood at the best of times can seem competitive & acrimonious. And motherhood is a tough enough gig without feeling like you’re on the wrong foot from the very beginning.
In my life I’ve seen the best of both worlds. I’ve given birth to my two children vaginally (I hate the word ‘naturally’ as it assumes the other alternatives to giving birth are ‘unnatural.’) But let’s all be honest here, what’s natural about pushing a 4.5kg watermelon out through a straw?? Not much but thanks again, Mother Nature. I’m also in a profession where I am absolutely privileged to witness & work with women who give birth via c-section. In most cases the c-sections are elective whilst others are emergency cases. Irrespective of how they come about, it breaks my heart to hear a woman about to experience one of the most monumental moments of her life to feel as though she’s failed. I’m not sure where this sense of failure stems from- is it the media? Society? Other mothers? Friends and family? I think anyone who does have an opinion or superiority complex over the way another woman gives birth is either 1) cray-cray 2) lying 3) male. I’m yet to meet another person who has an opinion on my birthing & child-rearing choices but I welcome them to come take on a chronically tired & emotionally unstable fire-breathing dragon at their own peril & in return I’ll hand them back a set of crushed nuts. Regardless, shaming of women for their choices & at times, the medical interventions that are outside of their control needs to stop.
I’m the first to admit my birth plan consisted only of two things: 1) adequate pain relief & 2) let’s all get out of here alive. Yep, I was ‘that woman’- the one you could hear down the corridor screaming ‘GIVE ME ALL THE DRUGS,’ the one kicking back on a bit of nitrous & the one eagerly welcoming the biggest needle you’ve ever laid eyes on, into my spinal cord with the sweet relief that only an epidural can bring. The second part of my birthing plan consisted of ‘get this kid OUT OF ME’ by any means or intervention necessary. Do I think I’m a failure for accepting help? Absolutely not. I created this beautiful life inside of me; nurtured it and nourished it for 9 long months & then gave birth to it with all the medical resources made available to me. If that strength, courage & power doesn’t make me an absolute goddess then I don’t know what does. Ladies, it doesn’t matter whether you’re ‘taking a match & burning down your hubby’s favourite pub’ (vaginal birth) or swinging that kid up through the sunroof (c-section), ain’t no-one getting out of birth easily. One is not easier than the other. There is no right or wrong way to do things. In birth there are no winners or losers. Only mothers doing what is right for them & their circumstances with the cards they’ve been dealt.
I wonder what a journey through motherhood without judgement or criticism would look like. If decisions & actions were celebrated rather than vilified or condemned. If the bigger picture were acknowledged (a happy baby & healthy mother) rather than the means of getting there (delivery method). How much stronger would we be if we didn’t concentrate on the small details but instead celebrated & empowered each other for the real reason we find ourselves in the delivery suite…. That very moment where your pregnancy ends and a baby enters the world. Where your old life ends & another life begins. When the midwife hands you the most precious gift you’ve waited 9 months & an entire lifetime for. Ten tiny fingers & ten tiny toes. That moment where you nuzzle each other & breathe in that intoxicating newborn smell for the very first time. The instant calm of placing baby on your chest where your heartbeat slows & you relax into one another. The final piece of the puzzle you’ve waited all your life for & now here she is, in your arms & in your heart. You lock eyes with that perfect little being & wonder how you would ever love another person like the one you fell in love with today. You kiss her little forehead as you wipe away your tears. And those new, precious little eyes stare back at you in awe & wonder… These moments are truly what motherhood is about.
The day a warrior was born…
The day a mother was born.
Helenka – The Unlikely Mummy.