This is something that I never thought about before I had my daughter. I know that when I first started going to my pregnancy check ups I felt pretty embarrassed talking about/showing my body, handing over pee samples all the time to various doctors (things that by the end of the 9 months mostly didn’t phase me at all, because I did so much of it).
I personally had a pretty traumatic birthing experience. I handled most of labour well, I was incredibly grateful that I knew yogic breathing like the back of my hand, and thankful for all the years of meditation. I still opted for an epidural half way through because the pain got too intense (the first attempt at an epidural was awful). The second worked, thankfully. I ended up having a forceps delivery, which I didn’t want but it meant I narrowly escaped a C Section. I had to have an episiotomy – for those who don’t know what that is, it’s a medical cut to prevent you from tearing instead. And it is one of the most horrible things ever to deal with whilst healing. Seriously, I had to buy a donut pillow so I could carefully sit over the hole in the middle. It was so painful and took weeks to heal.
The thing that I’ve realised since having my daughter is that a very large majority of women don’t feel like it’s alright to talk about childbirth. I’ve noticed that many women feel embarrassed talking about having their babies. I’ve heard from friends about going to mother and baby groups where every single woman there have said their birth stories were all pretty easy. I find it tough to believe a whole room full of women had easy birth experiences. It’s way more believable they felt like they shouldn’t talk about it.
I think childbirth as a whole is hugely downplayed. I think culturally we’ve been conditioned to think of talking about childbirth as ‘gross’ or ‘oversharing’. I mean, sure, don’t turn up to a family dinner and start telling everyone how much blood their was, or how you shat yourself during. But we should be able to to discuss these things with others who have been through childbirth, at the very least. Honestly, childbirth should be up there with the other taboo but totally normal bodily things that happen to at least half of the population, just like periods.
I feel like if we got to the root of the issue, it’s probably a very old fashioned way of thinking that’s got a little too ingrained, and we’ve not got past it yet. I personally think it’s high time we do.
So this downplaying it thing. People have babies all the time, right? It’s just a normal part of life, so many people do it, that it just isn’t a big deal? Wrong. Childbirth is one of the most physically stressful and traumatic things a person can do. It’s painful, it’s exhausting, it’s scary, it changes our bodies permanently, and there are so many things that can go wrong.
After all of this, parents’ worlds are turned upside down by the arrival of their new bundle of er… joy (and copious amounts of crying, poop and sleep deprivation). They’re realising that no matter how much reading and prep work they did they just couldn’t really prepare themselves for this. Many people have a difficult time thinking back on the birth of their babies, struggle with trauma, and experience feelings of sadness, overwhelm, even guilt and shame. Some are also dealing with difficulties connecting with their babies, postnatal depression and all sorts of other really tough things.
I understand that some people genuinely just don’t want, or feel the need to talk about it, which of course is totally ok. Nobody should be forced to talk about it. The problem is so many women feel like they can’t talk about it. They feel hushed by society, and shamed at the thought of speaking up.
Childbirth is fucking intense. The experience of squeezing a fairly large, awkward shaped thing from your body, pushing it out of a space that, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly ideal for squeezing a baby out of, is a gigantic thing in itself. It is no small feat having a baby. Yes hundreds of people are having babies per minute (250 per minute throughout the world, apparently!) but that doesn’t mean it’s a small thing they’re doing, it’s a fucking colossal thing that every single one of them is doing.
The thing that is more shocking is that 250 people are having babies per minute, and we still can’t talk about the difficulties that occur in childbirth?
Some women don’t have a natural childbirth and instead require C Sections, some are not even conscious. It’s so sad that we are invalidating one of the hardest things a person can go through because society has told us it’s gross, or shameful.
It’s so common when people have a gnarly, bloody injury, to hear them telling everyone they know all the ‘gory details’. The only difference between their gnarly injury and someone having a baby seems to be… the birth of a baby? Huh? If you are someone who would listen to someone telling you about their injury, but not a traumatic birth story, go ahead and ask yourself what is it that is so disgusting about the birth of a child that you would make someone feel ashamed for it? If you come up with any reason other than realising that’s a shitty way of thinking, you seriously need to reevaluate your morals.
I want all of my friends to feel like they can come up to me and tell me every single detail of their birth story, if they want to. They can tell me absolutely any detail, good and ‘bad’, any and all of the emotions they felt at the time and since. I will always, always have time to listen to your birth stories, because every single person deserves to have theirs heard. In fact, I plan to make a thing of checking in with people I know after having a baby, and letting them know it’s ok if it wasn’t smooth sailing, it’s ok to talk about it.
Love to all of you. Today especially to anyone who is dealing with a difficult birth experience and feels scared to speak up. You have nothing to be ashamed of.