I wanted so badly to be an Earth Mother Goddess Woman. The embodiment of feminine power and strength. This woman is in tune with nature, in control of her body and empowered by labour and birth…she isn’t fearful, isn’t unhinged, she almost enjoys giving birth, bringing life in to the world like a divine creative force of nature.
Perhaps in a bid to suppress the all consuming, mind blowing terror of labour and giving birth I tried to become this woman. This woman who breathes effortlessly through the pain, smiles silently as her body contracts, inhales the essential oils drifting through the air, meditates on the candle flames that surround her, lets the soothing eastern music distract from the feeling that her body is being put through a blender, lets each contraction pass through her like a wave and send it on its way with a thank you…(some Earth Mothers have even reported to orgasm during labour – these women are not real. Or they are not human).
I have now given birth twice, the first time feeling a little like a failure for not having had that wonderful, magical experience that these Earth Mothers insist is achievable. The second time feeling annoyed that I fell for this crap all over again.
Labour is dreadful. Birth is appalling.
There it is. The naked, chaotic, bloody, gory truth.
My truth anyway – I went out of my way to have the meditative, peaceful, beautiful, hypno, sensual, fairytale birth – and what I discovered is that it’s a myth. I will never have that birth. After going through it all a second time I have come to terms with this. I have accepted that it’s just not ever going to be that way for me. I don’t know how I allowed these articles and books and blogs to convince me that pushing a human out of myself wouldn’t feel like exactly that – pushing a human out of myself. But I did. And I was deluded.
I think like a lot of women I had been petrified of the prospect of giving birth my entire life, and these idealistic ideas of perfect labours were a comforting antidote. It does however leave you open to shock and disappointment when it doesn’t quite work out like that. For the lucky women who manage to achieve these amazing births, congratulations – I’m so happy for you (although I still don’t believe you exist) but for the rest of us birth is scary and anything but peaceful, for me both times it has felt like an atomic bomb going off in my life, body and mind. And this time round I’m okay with that – there is a certain inner peace that comes with acceptance of the inevitable.
I’ve given up the quest for a perfect birth, my babies being born healthy and happy is a perfect birth for me regardless of everything else that happens along the way. Admitting to yourself that it is going to be dreadful but that you will somehow get through it is the best approach, and the one that I will be adopting from now on. My new criteria for a positive birth experience will be: am I alive and is baby alive? If I ever find myself pregnant and awaiting labour again, I will be packing up the candles and whale music and just going with the flow – knowing like all terrifying roller coasters – it will eventually end and all being well the real magical experiences will begin once baby is safely in the world.
If you’ve had a dreadful birth experience, if you came away from it feeling shaken and traumatised, if you feel like a survivor from some surreal horror movie – that’s okay. You’re normal. If you faired a little better than that then you’re actually an over achiever! Well done! Let’s stop beating ourselves up about not having the birth experiences of our delusions and congratulate ourselves on completing stage 1 of one of the most intense journeys of our lives. Now – let newborn baby stage begin!