Words: Leah McClelland
I was at a party recently and was pulled over to a group of women,” just dying to know my birth story!” All I could manage, nearly twelve months on from the experience, was, “Pretty full on …but what an amazing outcome at the end!” Cue the gushing and affirming statements from my audience.
That seems to be the mandatory disclaimer, right? Yeah, it was awful but what kind of selfish person WOULDN’T go through it all again to have their beautiful baby? I mean, do you know how many women wish that they could have a baby of their own?
I like to think my husband and I approached labour and giving birth as realistically as we could. Our “Birth Plan” wasn’t full of outlandish ideals requesting the midwives wear costumes and chant over us. Our “Birth Plan” basically said, “We’d like a calm, natural birth, but should we need intervention, here is the order we want it in.” Unfortunately, despite being relaxed and open to anything, it didn’t lessen the post-birth disappointment.
To be honest, it’s all a bit vague. I remember some talk about the baby’s head being stuck, I heard the decision being made to give me an episiotomy, there was some talk of blood loss, and someone said that I’d torn. I’d torn a lot. I remember holding my 4.05kg baby (no wonder he tore me from here to Mexico) covered in goop. Going to surgery shaking due to shock while my husband, pale faced, stood holding our newborn.
Of course, in the end everything was fine. I saw doctors and physios and worked out what having a fourth degree tear meant for me. And, having graduated six months ago from Continence Club, I can control myself pretty well. Hooray! I could almost pee with excitement.
I don’t know whether it was the surgery, all of the aftercare needed or just a lack of processing on my part but, there’s something about this life-changing event which has meant that I can’t just flippantly tell my story to a group of eager faces. I can’t comfortably listen to people talking about how birth is going to be amazing for them because they know the affirming chants and they’ve bought the right incense (well, I can, but not without wanting to throw my breast pump at them.) Yes, I’m a bit jaded. I’m one of those wounded soldiers living with the memories of war. I’m one of those angry divorced people who scoff at bright-eyed newlyweds.
I’m hoping there’ll be someone who reads this that also went through a tough time who can feel like it’s okay to say, “Giving birth sucked!” It’s okay to admit that it was traumatising. Not everyone can be a water birthing earth mother (not meaning any disrespect to those who are/have been.) Sometimes your preparation and your mindset can mean that your birth IS empowering…and sometimes, despite this (and all of the perineal massaging you do) you get ripped completely open all the way to your butt! That’s okay. Your experience doesn’t have to be sandwiched with clichéd disclaimers in the hopes of conveying that you’re still a good mum or capable person. It doesn’t make you weak or ungrateful. It doesn’t mean that your next birth WON’T be the positive, uplifting experience you hope for. It just makes you honest. And in a world full of glossy, glamourous, stretch-mark free mothers who effortlessly snap back to their model-esque figures five minutes post birth…the ugly, honest truth is refreshing.
That’s all from me, I’ve got to run to the loo! (But seriously)