They say that giving birth is the most natural thing in the world, that as women we are equipped to push a tiny, or in some cases not so tiny, human out of our bodies. That somehow natural endorphins will be released and we will be able to cope with the pain and that once that little bundle is in our arms, all the pain and distress will soon be forgotten. Well I say that’s a load of crap. Giving birth is traumatic. I don’t care if you had a natural birth, a C-section, or you had every drug on offer including an epidural. The process of giving birth is a traumatic event both mentally and physically. End of story.
Yes, I can just hear the hypo-birthers out there grumbling at me and look I’m certainly not trying to bash you ladies either. In fact, I admire your incredible resolve and wish I could have been that ‘zen’ when I gave birth. But I wasn’t. Despite thinking I was tough as nails, after breaking my ankle so badly the snap could be heard on the side-line of the rugby pitch and dislocating my shoulder and having it out of its socket for 3 hours, in labour I turned out to be a screamer.
Giving birth is incredible, I’ll give you that. In fact, I’ll agree that our bodies are pretty awesome in the way it can nourish, protect and grow a life inside us and how it even has an exit plan all ready to deploy. Although, let’s face it, whomever (come on it’s got to have been a man) thought that pushing a human out of a small opening in another human was a good idea, was clearly smoking something pretty trippy when he devised it.
Before I got pregnant or ever really seriously considered kids, I'd now ashamed to admit that I’d often laugh to myself ‘oh god I'd be too posh to push’ when the topic of labour ever came up and somehow I saw a section as the ‘easy way out’, but good God, once you realise a C-section involves major surgery with a humongous cut in your abdomen and you often can't even bend down to pick up your baby, it soon seems like the hard option. But here's the kicker – when it comes to giving birth there is no easy option and until they figure out how to beam the baby out of our bodies at the touch of a button, there won't be one!
The bottom line is, no matter what way you do it, giving birth is traumatic. Even if things go completely ‘to plan,’ or your labour is what would be referred to as ‘straight-forward’, it's still traumatic - to you. It’s traumatic because it’s so unknown. I can only speak as a first-time mum and perhaps second time around it’s easier, but for me the prospect was terrifying because I had no idea what labour was going to feel like. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve read all the books and listened to gore stories from your BFF’s; it still won’t prepare you for how labour is going to feel for you. In the same way that every baby is different, each labour is different. And everything from how each of us perceive pain, to how we deal with stress, to our support network, will colour the experience. And even if it all went smoothly with no complications, it can still be one hell of an ordeal and it is okay to admit that.
Despite my labour being pretty run-of-the mill, to me it was traumatic and you know what it is okay to say that out loud. It’s okay to need time to get over it. It’s okay to lie awake, especially in those early days and have flashbacks to it and get upset. I think there’s a lot of pressure on new mums to get over their labour too quickly. All of a sudden you go from being pregnant, to having a new-born thrust into your arms as you try to come to terms with your raw body and labour experience. It’s okay to take time to come to terms with it and you know what? Just because it’s a natural process, that doesn’t mean we’re all supposed to breeze through it as if it was nothing.