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Facebook loves a good birth announcement.
“So-and-so is proud to announce the arrival of little Baby Fontleroy, weighing 10lbs 6oz, delivered naturally with only gas an air!! What a warrior Woman Wife is! Mum and baby doing well“
I see it all the time. All. The. Time.
And it’s lovely, it really is, because babies are lovely. I love babies. I’d have sixty babies if my boobs were still pointing upwards by number sixty (as it is, they wouldn’t, so we’ll see).
It does irk me sometimes, though, that women who give birth in a certain way seem to be hailed above others.
Let me break it down.
There always comes a time in a pregnancy when you suddenly start to think about birth in very real terms. It’s like, holy moly, I’ve done the part where I create the life and grow it and feel it kicking and ooh isn’t this lovely. But now this life has to somehow be pushed out of my body, and that’s an effing terrifying thought.
The scary thoughts begin with scientific fact: the exit route for this baby is very very small, and it’s common knowledge how newborn’s head is. We’ve all seen the crowning scene in Knocked Up, exit routes have to stretch, stretching can be painful. Sometimes a super sized tampon looks big to me, so comparing that to a human-sized head is quite frightening.
I can’t tell you how many times I crossed my legs in my last trimester at the thought of the size of what was about to be forcibly ejected from my body.
But if, for some reason, baby can’t come out of their normal escape route, another one must be created. And this isn’t the easy option, either: it involves a really sharp knife cutting through your belly, fat, muscle tissue and uterus until the child is freed.
That also sounds pretty ouchy, right boys?
I have so much respect for women who give birth vaginally without painkillers, I really do.
When I was pregnant with Elfie back in 2010 the vaginal birth was my dream; I read everything I could about hypnobirthing, I bought a TENS machine, I practiced breathing, I changed my pain thought process.
And I was absolutely gutted when I had to give birth via a c-section: she was a dangerous kind of breech so I was to have her a week earlier than her due date, to make sure I didn’t go into labour myself.
I readily agreed with terrifying premonitions of feet falling out of my vagina in the most awkward of places – Tesco, the train station, queuing at the post office. But not before having a failed attempt at turning her (acupuncture: I fainted).
Her caesarian was lovely but yeah, I was sad I didn’t get to be the woman warrior on Facebook, the model of bravery in birth. I had a chip on my shoulder that her arrival into the world was not ‘natural’ enough.
I thought about the Facebook announcement that was a bit too gruesome:
“Elfreda has arrived, weighing 6lbs 8oz, delivered via mum being cut open hip-to-hip and belly to back following a massive needle to the spine! What a warrior! Now begins 6 weeks of tough recuperation! Let’s hope her stomach muscles aren’t permanently damaged! Wooh! Never seen strength like it!”
Yes, I wasn’t the woman warrior in the most traditional sense of the word, but hadn’t I proved my pain threshold credentials in other ways?
I felt like I’d let myself and my baby down. Like I wasn’t as good as the women who got to have so-called “natural” births.
I tried again for a vaginal birth with Hux. But after four days in early labour – FOUR – I conceded and had another section.
Bollocks to that, I thought. No ‘warrior woman’ Facebook update is worth that much pain.
But after years of reflection I’ve come to the happy conclusion that all of us, each and every woman who pushes a baby out of her body, whether it’s through the sunroof or out of the vagina, we’re all warriors. Don’t believe me? I’m telling you: I saw the reflection of my caesarian in my ex-husbands glasses, and it was not a pretty sight.
Birth is a huge big trauma to your body, no matter how we do it. Whether the baby is born in water, needs a bit of help with suction, is gently (ahem) assisted by a pair of massive forceps, is peacefully born in a planned c-section or not-so peacefully in an emergency. WE REMOVE A WHOLE CHILD FROM OUR BODY. Sometimes two children. Or three, or four.
It’s an incredibly humbling and beautiful experience, however we do it.
And you know what? The first caesarian sections were thought to have been performed back in 1500s, which makes it seem pretty natural to me.
All hail the birthing mother, whether you’re left with an abdominal scar or episiotomy. We’re warriors, the lot of us. And don’t let Facebook tell you any different.