Birth and labour are intense; by far the most pain I have ever gone through, the most challenging and physically exhausting, as well as emotionally turbulent.
The usual birth story we are exposed to is pain, blood, epidurals, women incoherently screaming for drugs, more pain, more drugs.
But, contrary to popular belief, there is beauty in pregnancy and birth; the gently swelling of a woman’s stomach, her skin stretching and growing deep purple lines, showing how her body has moulded around this little life inside of her. There is beauty in the low raw grumbles of a woman in labour, as her body and it’s natural instincts take over.
We, as a society, belittle women and their experiences so often it has become difficult to spot. The usual narrative of painful and awful childbirth is so commonplace that when asking about my birth plans during my first visit, my dentist scoffed and sarcastically wished me luck when I shared I was planning a drug-free birth.
Rarely are we shown birth as empowering, normal, or completely natural.
We are taught it is to be feared. Women are portrayed as lunatics in labour and birth, instead of powerful, incredible souls who are literally creating and birthing life.
This negative portrayal of birth is deeply flawed. Yes, it can be dangerous. Yes, it’s painful. But it has always been this way, and it always will be. The vast majority of women give birth without drugs, without hospitals, and a lot of less medically acquipped communities don’t have the same attitude towards birth as we do in Western countries.
Instead of shying away from the pain, and engraining in women and young girls that birth is terrifying, why don’t we talk about how empowering birth is? Why don’t we talk about how beautiful it is to grow a life? When it’s time for your baby to come, you follow in the steps of every women who has ever birthed before you.
It connects you to every generation who has ever been. It connects you to women in every part of the world. It is a shared experience that has lasted forever, and will last as long as we walk the earth.
There is serious beauty in that.
Of course, birth doesn’t always go to plan, and indeed, it’s impossible to plan your birth. Things do go wrong, emergencies happen, loss happens.
While these outcomes are always possibilities, the most likely outcome in the West is a healthy mother, and a healthy baby. So instead of teaching our women and girls to fear birth, we should teach them to embrace birth.
We should teach them they are powerful, and capable. Women have been birthing for thousands of years and our bodies are designed to birth; we already know what to do.
One thing which can help women enjoy birth more, is to let go of any plan or perceived idea of how it will go; just let it unfold. Your birth is no less valid if you choose c-section, your hand is forced, or you take the epidural. There is a difference between pain, and suffering. Birth is painful, but you shouldn’t let yourself truly suffer. Medication can help you rest when you are beyond exhausted, and help you gather the energy and strength you need to birth.
Birth has become so much safer in developed countries, due to the introduction of c-section and various procedures for emergency situations when vaginal birth isn’t feasible, or safe. Your birth is still birth, whether you push, or you lie back and your baby is pulled from you. You are still amazing, and beautiful, and powerful beyond imagination.
Regardless of how you do it, you are birthing life, and that is pretty damn impressive. I wish this was the message women and girls were given, because birth is incredible, and it is beautiful, and no-one should go into it filled with fear and doubt.