Emily is a surfcoast mum who gave birth to baby James 8 weeks ago. She has shared her positive experiences of birth + motherhood.
When I was pregnant I was working as a teacher. I was often bailed up in a corner of the staffroom by well-meaning women who wanted to tell me their birth or motherhood story. That alone is pretty annoying when your ankles are twice their normal size and you just want to get to the plate of cakes and back to your desk as soon as possible. But even more disappointingly, I now realise, 8 weeks into my own motherhood journey, that almost all of the stories were negative. I heard tales of pre-eclampsia, emergency caesareans, babies that never slept, babies that never lived (seriously – to a pregnant mama to be!!) and baby weight that took years to shed, just to name a few. Without realising it, these horror stories worked away at me and had me focussing on what could go wrong and what would be unpleasant about birth and motherhood. To my genuine surprise there is so much more about these two life changing experiences that is positive, beautiful and awe inspiring. This has left me wanting to share my birth and motherhood story in an attempt to offer an alternative to the staffroom ladies’ version of events.
I can’t do justice to all of the positive elements of birth and motherhood in one post so I will just focus on the birth. Let’s use bullet points.
Labour hurts, but you do get to rest
Firstly, don’t get me wrong, it is called labour for reason. This is what my supportive and beautiful midwife told me as I was standing in the shower yelling at her and my husband alternately. All this talk of focussing on the positive does not mean that giving birth to a baby doesn’t hurt. It hurts. A lot. But what no one told me was that when you aren’t having a contraction, it doesn’t hurt. At all. So you can have a rest, and when you are in the middle of a contraction you know that very soon you will have a break. I spent the last 6 hours of my 24 labour in the bath, and I gave birth to my son in there. In between contractions I would rest my head back on the lip of the bath and nearly fall asleep. The pain of labour is intense, like everyone tells you, but it is manageable, even without drugs, because you get breaks.
Pushing the baby out is the least painful part
Before I got pregnant and gave birth all I thought about was pushing a baby out of your vagina and how outstandingly painful that must be. Everyone has heard the old watermelon analogy (how did that come about? Show me one newborn baby that is the shape of a watermelon), right? Contractions are more painful than the birth, ladies, and by the time you get to the pushing phase, which for me came after 23 hours of labour, you are so pumped to see your precious baby that you welcome the chance to push.
Your body does all the work for you
Our society is very clever at ignoring the fact that we are just like animals. When you give birth your animal nature is brought into sharp focus. Giving birth is what we do to ensure the survival of the species, and it has been happening for a while now. As a result, our bodies are pretty competent at the task. In fact, your body just does it. You don’t decide to go into labour, or how long you are in labour for, or what way you will give birth; your body is in the driver’s seat and you just have to cope with the journey. This is a very positive thing because you don’t have to motivate yourself to participate in what is an undoubtedly painful process – like you do with breastfeeding (but that is another post for another day) – it just happens and your only job is to get to the finish line.
The end result is worth it
Speaking of the finish line, the most positive part of giving birth is the end result. Feeling your baby arrive into the world, seeing him or her for the first time, feeling their perfect body on your chest and the umbilical cord still connecting the two of you physically for those last moments, are the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful and profoundly life changing experiences. For me, I can add to this list the moment my son heard his dad’s voice for the first time and turned his little head to seek out the face that voice he had been hearing for months belonged to, the awe my husband had for what I had done in giving birth, and the first time he latched on to breastfeed (the baby, not my husband) – such a primal and powerful moment. If the birth doesn’t leave you feeling like a superwoman, then your ability to feed another human being with your own body should. The female body’s ability to grow another human being and bring it into the world is truly astounding and to experience it is empowering and amazing. If none of my first three points have convinced you of the beauty and positivity of birth, then I hope this one has.
Perhaps it is human nature to dwell on the negative, but it doesn’t help anyone, least of all a pregnant lady or a new mama. Let’s focus on the positive. Let’s tell our pregnant friends about the beauty of birth and the empowerment it brings. And for god’s sake, if you work with a pregnant woman just let her get to the cake. Don’t slow her down with talk of episiotomies.
Thanks Emily for sharing your story! Parents, please get in touch if you’d like to share your stories or tips.