If you've had a difficult experience of childbirth, what do you say to first time expectant mums if they ask you about it?
This came up earlier in the week when I attended a pregnancy pilates class. All the other members of the group were first timers and, after the lesson, the conversation inevitably turned to labour and birth. One lady was telling us about her NCT classes and hypnobirthing sessions and how using this technique gave x% of mothers shorter/drug free/tear free births. Then another women asked me about E's birth.
So what to say?
I got a healthy baby, that's the main thing. But the truth is that it was the most exhausting, humiliating, terrifying experience of my life. After 20 hours of unremitting contractions with only hypnobirthing to help me I'd have sold my soul for an epidural. After a further 14 hours of drugs, interventions, failed interventions and emergency surgery I thought I was going to die and I didn't even care. Frankly, it was all a bit grim.
Or is that a bit too much information?
You're not supposed to tell horror stories to pregnant women, and while I don't agree with the theory that fear is the main hinderance to easy, natural childbirth, I would certainly concede that being terrified can't possibly help. Also, if you leave aside the issue of "truth", then what is the point in giving all the gory details? Will it stop anyone from putting their faith (and large sums of money) into unproven techniques? Will it leave them more prepared for the realities of childbirth and therefore better able to cope? I doubt it.
Thinking back to first time me, if I'd have heard a similar story from a stranger I'd have assumed she was exaggerating. Just one of those people who love to tell you how awful it all is, how afterwards you'll never sleep again and life as you know it is about to thunder down around your ears. First time me would have suspected this stranger had been silly and scared, unhealthy, suffering from some other undisclosed risk factor. Basically first time me would have thought it wouldn't happen to me.
So what - or rather how much, to say?
The group already knew I'd had a C-section (I'd "confessed" in class in a slightly pathetic attempt to excuse my total lack of abdominal muscles) so I did my best to explain, without any drama, why it had happened. E was big and back to back, hypnobirthing etc, was fine while everything was normal, but in the end it was just bad luck, her head was stuck in my pelvis and a C-section was the only option.
So should I have said more? Less? I'm not really sure. I don't want to be that lady with the horror story. Most healthy, western, pilates-class-attending women will have more straight forward births than me whatever I say, so it's hardly sage advice. But I don't want to pretend it was all wonderful, self-affirming loveliness either. If you're a healthy, western, pilates-class-attending women then you probably get plenty of that already and (at least in my case) too little fear can be just as bad as too much.
What do you think? Is it only right to tell the truth? These things happen and people need to be prepared for them or is it all a bit TMI?
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