When I tell people I’m a midwife these are normally the responses I get (guaranteed every time) in no particular order.
- As in delivering babies?
- Wow what an amazing job
- Midwifery, that is one of my favourite words
- Do all women poo?
- I had a great midwife
- I had an awful midwife
- I had a great birth
- I had an awful birth
- Do you want to hear my birth story?
- Can you check my babies latch?
- Can you check my episiotomy?
- I’m pregnant can I eat mayonnaise/dye my hair/paint my living room/ride a bike/have sex?
Ok so the last few are slight exaggerations but the birth story one is a classic. Let me tell you about Monday.
Monday was wet, it rained all day so I went to the only place (other than soft play) guaranteed to be indoors and suitable for a 22 month old, Sainsburys. We wandered around; bought a load of stuff we didn’t really need but ended up in Starbucks. She ate a cheese and Marmite toastie whilst I drank a large Cappuccino. Heavs.
Then a noticed a Mum with a new born sitting close by who was smiling at my daughter. We struck up the usual conversation of ‘isn’t the weather awful, the jet streams are moving North according to the news.’ I congratulated her for getting out of the house with a baby and what a great job she is doing and it does get easier. She then started talking about her birth and before I knew it, my daughter and I were both being taken back 6 weeks to the night when she went into labour.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love a birth story and I think it’s a great way for women to de-brief after quite a big event in their lives. But one thing struck me about this birth story, a theme I notice when listening to a lot of birth stories. The guilt.
She had an epidural; ‘I really didn’t want one but I had been in labour for so long I was exhausted. My NCT teacher said it would lead to more interventions’.
She had a Ventouse delivery; ‘I pushed really hard but I could hardly feel where I was supposed to push’.
She had an episiotomy; ‘The doctor said it was necessary to make room for the baby’s head’.
She found breastfeeding difficult, developed Mastitis and is now mixed feeding ‘I’m only using formula for 2 feeds in the day mainly so my husband can feed the baby’.
And as I sat there listening intently whilst my daughter drank my cold coffee, I couldn’t help but wonder; isn’t the main thing that your baby is gorgeous and thriving and you’ve managed to make it to a coffee shop AND eat chocolate cake?
What is this culture about having a perfect birth? Aren’t women under enough pressure as it is with all the things we should/shouldn’t be doing? And that’s all before the baby is even born.
One of my best friends had a really difficult first birth that resulted in an emergency C-section. When she was pregnant with her second baby she said that she couldn’t go through with that again and chose to have an elective section. She would admit that it was a perfect for her. She bonded with her baby, breast fed with ease and healed much quicker physically and emotionally than she did with her first.
There is no bravery award at the end of it all but your baby is the best award you could ever have. So relish that, don’t beat yourself up because giving birth in reality a whole lot easier than being a Mum. Don’t you agree?