The “horror” of childbirth?

I have a friend who’s due to give birth in a couple of weeks and she’s terrified, which reminded me that I’d been terrified too. I think most women coming up to their due date would admit the same.

But do we really need to be that scared? Now that I’ve done it I’m in a position to say no, but is that much comfort to those who are still scared? I don’t think my friend feels particularly comforted by it but I do remember a colleague saying to me, “it won’t be as bad as you expect” and clinging to that. She was right. In my mind I’d built childbirth up to be a horror I might never recover from, but I was wrong.

My experience of childbirth was a positive one. When people ask me how it was I answer “good” with a smile and I genuinely mean it. But don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t easy. It was painful and when my contractions started I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to cope. Ted was a big boy and did me a lot of damage, They couldn’t stop me bleeding at first, my placenta wasn’t in a hurry to come out and I spent an hour in theatre because of a third degree tear. But as soon as Ted was born I felt that I could have more children (which is lucky because I’ve always wanted a few!)

I’m not even just perpetuating the old cliche of “you forget it as soon as it’s over” because I didn’t forget it, and nor did I want to. When I got home I wrote down everything I could remember about the experience because I never wanted to forget a moment of it. The bits I wasn’t sure of I asked BabyDaddy and BabyNanny to fill me in on. And maybe now, four months on, I can’t really remember what the pain felt like, but it wasn’t as instant as I was led to believe.

The thing is, it does hurt. But it’s not unbearable. The first time I felt that I was getting to the point where I couldn’t take much more was when I realised his head was about to emerge, and I guess that’s why I thought I couldn’t take much more – it doesn’t get any stronger than the delivery, after all. The problem for me was that although I’d noticed his head coming no one else had. I was delivering on my side and so I lifted my leg up in the hope that someone would see what was happening. I didn’t realise there was no midwife present and it was my Mum and husband who went in to panic mode.

So things did go wrong but I always felt in control. When I got to the delivery suite they asked me if I had a birth plan and although I had written one I had decided to leave it at home so that I wasn’t tied to it. I told them I was willing to be led by what they thought was best for the baby and that I was flexible when it came to pain relief. In my head I was secretly hoping for a caesarean or an epidural but I wanted to see what I could do first.

And what I did was to retreat into my own head. I closed my eyes, I used gas & air, and I went quiet. I didn’t make any noise and I hardly spoke to anyone. I had intended to be active during labour but it turned out that Ted was coming much more quickly than anyone expected and too soon it felt like he would fall out like a bowling ball if I stayed upright. My body did the pushing for me and although I was aware that it was happening I didn’t have any control over it – but I didn’t feel out of control at all. It was my body doing what it was supposed to do, after all. It was painful but I concentrated on breathing through the contractions and in my head I was shouting “I’ve been through worse than this” and “f*** off!” at the contractions. I know some women say they tried to laugh through contractions or view them as one step closer to meeting their baby, but I really did find that if I was angry at each one it passed more easily. I don’t know what that says about me.

When the midwife came back and found that Ted was emerging she told me not to push and at that point I had to really concentrate on what my body felt like so I could work out how not to push. Maybe half a minute later she told me to give one big push and I found that I did know how to do it after all. It really was one big push – and that did hurt – and my boy’s shoulders came out, swiftly followed by a slithering wooshing feeling, and there he was.
Now, I know women who have had much more traumatic experiences than that but those women have all gone on to have more children and have had varying experiences since then, but all of them more positive than their first. I know I’m lucky to have had a birth that I feel happy about. It did hurt, it wasn’t perfect and it took a lot of recovering from, but it was good.
But it does worry me that women are so terrified of doing it. From being little girls we’re told how painful and scary it is. When we’re teenagers the idea of pain and trauma is instilled in us to try to stop us getting pregnant. But then as soon as we’re pregnant we’re met with horror stories from other women. By the time we’re pregnant what we really need is to be told the truth about how we can make the most of the experience, and yes about the pain, and not scared even more by women who should know better.
Every woman’s experience of childbirth is different and I know the next baby I have might leave me wishing I’d never written this entry, but I think it’s important for women to know that it’s not something to be terrified of. It’s something to be proud of and to look forward to, because it’s when you become a Mum and there’s nothing better.
The news that women are to be allowed to choose to have a C-section because they’re scared of birth worries me. I’m not talking about tokophobia, but about the general common fear we all have when we think about the size of a baby and the size of the place it comes out of. Who hasn’t thought about having the baby calmly removed under anaesthetic? But although childbirth is painful maybe it isn’t as painful as you’ve built it up to be in your mind, and although you can tear or have an episiotomy the healing might not be as bad as you think, and although there are other complications the experience of them might not be as frightening as you’re expecting.

I’m not judging anyone who really can’t face the thought of childbirth because I remember the fear only too well, but what I will say to anyone who’s pregnant and scared is that I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t not have that experience for anything in the world. And from seeing the women on my ward who had been unfortunate enough to have emergency caesareans really struggling with pain and not being able to pick up their babies I would urge any woman thinking of electing to give birth by C-section to really consider their options.

I’m not going to tell you that women have been giving birth for millennia because it certainly didn’t make me feel any better, but because it did make me feel better to know that “it’s not as bad as you think” I will leave you with the words I said to my husband a few minutes after Ted was born:

“Yeah, I can do that again. We can have more babies.”

I promise I meant it.

Becoming Mum


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About Stitches and Stretchmarks

Honest and frank Mum of one.
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13 Responses to The “horror” of childbirth?

  1. thebirthmuse says:

    Like this post? I LOVE this post! This is it. This is the real dialogue, the real truth about childbirth that we so rarely hear. And I mean from all sides! Sometimes in their zeal to promote natural birth, advocates forget to tell the full truth of how deeply, deeply challenging birth can be. Though I understand that the pain of childbirth is purposeful, for me it remained “pain” — not “surges.” But as soon as my first baby was born, I turned to my birth team and said, “That wasn’t so bad!” My husband said he wanted to say to me, “Were you just here? Did you just see what I saw?” But it wasn’t that I “forgot” the pain; it’s just that it was the perfect way to become a mother. And I loved that: becoming a mother. I have three children now and I think I am not going to have any more. And I am sad to know I will never give birth again. It is such an awesome (in the true sense of that word) experience. Thanks for your beautiful, honest post.

  2. Henry's mum says:

    I loved giving birth because that’s when I became a mummy! The best feeling in the world! My labour was good for a first time mum. My waters broke at 1am & I had Henry at 5:05am. So not too bad. I was however left with a 3rd degree perenium tear, which was not pleasant (but all has healed well). I will be more nervous next time around though (yes, there will be a next time at some point but not too soon). After a tear first time they can not guarantee if it happens again that you will heal so well but I feel I didn’t have time to stretch down below. I arrived at hospital 10cm dilated and began pushing, hard, as they said H’s heartbeat dipped. Next time I will just tell the midwives my first labour tale and stress I want more pushes to stretch and hopefully reduce the risk of a tear. Can’t wait for another child eventually though, so it can’t be that bad.

    • I’m so sorry I haven’t replied to this sooner; I genuinely thought I had!
      I didn’t know they couldn’t guarantee the healing wouldn’t be so good if it happens again. My consultant said that in a first pregnancy you have a 1% chance of a 3rd degree tear and after you’ve had one it goes up to 5%, so that’s still not too bad. I was told it would be wise for me to have an elective episiotomy next time but the thought freaks me out a little!

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  5. Lucy says:

    I just started reading your blog. It’s fantastic! I’m a new mom to baby Oliver, age 11 weeks and 6 days. Like your beautiful son, Oliver weighed 9lb 7oz at birth. I thought I’d miss-heard the nurse who weighed him from across the room!
    I had a great pregnancy apart from one sprained nerve issue which had me signed off work for 2 weeks. I craved milk a lot during the start. Maybe my body needed the calcium, I don’t know.
    Anyway, I was not worried about the actual birth part. Towards the end I got nervous but that was all. I’d heard from both of my sister-in-laws about their very different, but very traumatic births. Id also heard from my sister of her very quick births. I had convinced myself that mine would be like my sisters experiences, push for 2-3 hours and he’s out.
    I never wrote a birth plan. I didn’t understand how you can plan it out. It would go how it wanted right? I told the midwives at the appointments previously that I just planned to try and go with the flow, see what happens. The only thing I wrote down was a potential epidural.
    Labour started 3 days after due date. Hard and fast. The contractions started close together and stayed that way. We went to the hospital half an hour after they started. When we’d been at the hospital half an hour and the contractions were still very close and sometimes doubled up I remember thinking, this isn’t right, surely. Shortly after this was the first time I asked for an epidural. The midwife said she’d ask. I remember asking again soon after. And again and again. It never happened. I felt no-one was listening to me. I had a feeling I was being made to wait until it was too late (10cm) and sure enough I was right. I begged at one point and broke down in tears. I was thinking of telling them I was going home as they weren’t helping me. In the midst of increasing pain it was me who asked for gas and air. It didn’t appear to have occurred to them to offer it. Lucky I remembered it eh! I also had 2 pethadine injections to help whilst waiting to hear about the epidural that never happened. The pain was at its worst and I was dozing thanks to the pethadine. I remember hearing a midwife say; she’ll have to start pushing soon. I thought, but I have no urge too! They (the midwife, my boyfriend and my mom) got me back on the bed and they told me that when a contraction hit I was to push through it. I told them I wasn’t feeling the urge to push (another thing that didn’t feel right!). When I pushed, the pain got worse. The midwife told me to push the pain away. I told her it was more painful when I pushed and I just stopped. She checked me a final time and realised (after 14 hours of intense labour) that the baby was stuck at an angle. I had to have an emergency c-section- something they managed to get sorted almost immediately! I was continuously chugging on the gas & air. I took it from room to room with me. Finally, I had a spinal block. It. Was. Bliss. The doctors were fantastic and I had total faith in them. My son was delivered in 10 minutes and it took a further few to stitch me up. Recovery didn’t take long and was fine with pain management.
    I can tell you now the same thing I said after he was born, that I stand by today. I’m never doing that again, unless I’m guaranteed a c-section straight away.

    • God, I can’t imagine how stressful it was for your midwife not to listen to you. I was really lucky, but I did have one named midwife as I was high-risk so I don’t know if that makes a difference?
      Thank you so much for adding your experience here. I look forward to getting to know another 9lb7oz mummy 🙂

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  9. Shereen Lister says:

    just found this blog through the nuby website. i’m a fairly new mummy, my baby girl is 8 weeks old on friday. She was born at 33+6 weeks so was 6 weeks prem and even though i was so scared at first, the midwives team at my local hospital was amazing. i had one midwife all day with me popping in and out and kept checking on me to see how i was doing, she put me at ease about it all. when they changed over i can’t remember the next midwife as i was in full on labour, i got taken up to labour ward and had the most loveliest lady deliver my baby, she was very calm and relaxed which helped me and she was so supportive. other than having my baby early my labour and birth was very positive. i can’t imagine what it must be like to feel scared and abandoned by your midwives during the most nerve racking thing a woman has to go through, your all amazing for that.

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