This time last year, I was in labour. Not the screaming kind (that came later!) but the slow, calm build throughout the day.
Not to sound big headed, but everyone loves the start of my birth story – at 8am I was icing a chocolate cake I’d made the night before. “I don’t want it to go to waste!” I was ultra cool, calm & collected, laughing even at how easy contractions were.
Oh Amie… so niaive…
During my pregnancy I didn’t want to hear other people’s birth stories. Especially the traumatic, hadn’t-gone-to-plan ones. I was planning a hypnobirth, which required calm thoughts, no horror stories to cloud my mind, etc, etc.
And yet, on our first night home from hospital, 36 hours after Baby Girl was born, there I was lying in bed, the Other Half sleeping on my left, Baby Girl on my right sleeping peacefully in her moses basket for a whole four hours (!!!). When I also should have been grabbing a few sweet hours of sleep, there I was, typing out my birth story on my phone, wide awake, unable to switch off, preparing to share my birth story with the world. Even though I hadn’t wanted to hear anyone else’s.
Talk about double standards.
My mom was the worst culprit. She tried to tell me about her own traumatic 36 hour labour I don’t know how many times during my pregnancy. So by about week 30, I was less than patient when she tried to, yet again, tell me how awful child birth was.
(She’s going to love this next bit. No doubt I’ll receive a text saying something like, ‘I told you so!’… enjoy it Mama, cuz I don’t admit it often.)
I realise now she was just trying to prepare me. She knew that no amount of positive thinking would have helped her & despite my months of positive visualisation, meditation & mentally filling my body with light & clean air, we honestly had no idea how my birth story would pan out or if this would be enough.
Having now been through it myself, I can understand why she had those concerns. But I stand by that decision to not listen to anyone’s story. I was positive, even calm about the idea of giving birth & I’m glad I managed to maintain that mind set in the lead up to & early stages of my labour, even if my birth didn’t go to plan either & wasn’t particularly calm in the end (who’s is?!).
But I do also understand why she, my work colleagues, people I met for the first time were all compelled to share their stories with me. It’s like a club; birth is a common ground between mums, we understand, we empathise, we laugh, cry, console & congratulate at all the right moments. It’s therapeutic to share your story, it helps you process this huge event in your life.
Only, I wasn’t a mum yet, only a mum-to-be. I hadn’t had my initiation or got my lifetime membership card. So I didn’t yet understand or appreciate their want or need to share.
A year later, I’ve discussed my birth story with my mum friends countless times. When you make a new mum friend, it’s almost like an obligatory conversation topic to seal your friendship; ‘how was it for you?’.
Even the Other Half has found himself discussing his side of our birth story with other dads – “it was hours later, when I was queueing at McDonald’s, I looked down & realised my t-shirt was still splattered with blood…”
We’re the the first of our friends to have a baby. But you can see they’re all quietly, timidly intrigued. They ask questions like, “does it really hurt as much as they say?” or “how long until you were ‘back to normal’ down there?”
If I’m honest, I was never quietly or timidly intrigued. I didn’t really think about having kids before I fell pregnant. (Ironic, then that I ended up the first!) So I don’t really understand why they would want to ask these questions. Maybe having it happen to one of your friends suddenly brings all these questions to mind, I guess I’ll never know. But I answer honestly, albeit briefly. Because my experience is my experience; every woman is different, every birth is different.
In truth, I don’t think anything could prepare you for it. Not really. You can breath deeply, you can visualise a thousand tributaries opening up & water flowing through you, you can read every book in the library on child birth or write a birth plan five pages long (though, personally, I wouldn’t waste your time)…
But really, as a first time mum, there is absolutely nothing you’ve ever experienced that is remotely like child birth. And no one can truly explain to you what is coming because it’s so personal to you. It’s different for all of us. And yet the same. In a way you won’t understand until you yourself have been through it.
It is traumatic. It’s overwhelming. It’s the most overwhelming, all encompassing, huge experience of your entire life. And two days later, you won’t be able to remember half of it. Because evolution is also an amazing thing & it’s true what they say; women forget child birth.
A year on, some mum friends & I were reminiscing – bonding – the other day & spent more of the conversation going, ‘wait, no…’ ‘I don’t quite remember this bit but…’ than actually telling a cohesive anecdote. Our brains are mush. Baby brain is not just for pregnancy, people! Mixed with the post-birth endorphins rush, months of sleep deprivation & a wealth of knowledge amassed over the last year quickly pushes what is only a few hours of your life into the corners of your mind.
Because really, we’d all rather remember our baby’s first smile, or first steps or that time they did that really funny thing I must tell you about three times in one lunch than those few hours we spent in total agony.
Nevertheless, whether you have a planned c-section or are 6 weeks premature; whether you’re in a birthing pool or feeling the head between your legs on your bathroom floor, there’s one thing we all agree on; one thing that truly bonds every mum & that should be written on your lifetime membership card:
It’s worth it. It is so worth it.