Whatever your views on pregnancy, birth and parenting, I don’t think anyone could disagree women these days know far more than they used to about the whole process. When I talk to my nan, who had five children, she just didn’t have the knowledge about how everything worked. She didn’t have access to the internet, to the NCT, to the kinds of books we can pick up from any high street store these days. When I was talking to her about various aspects of my pregnancy with Alexandra, I was telling her things not the other way round which is crazy when you consider Alex was my first. Things she’s told me about people she knew losing their sight during birth, she puts down to the baby being so big but actually the more I’ve read the more I’d bet it was a condition like eclampsia (although maybe that’s just because I feel a bit weird thinking about pushing out such a large baby you actually go temporarily blind!).
Whatever you think about women having much more access to information (and in most cases it’s extremely empowering and beneficial to all involved), it does create something else – more pressure on women to have the ‘perfect’ birth regardless of what the medical professionals are telling them.
I think women these days (and I talk about women because I am one and I know a lot of fellow moms, not because I think there’s no pressure on men) are under more strain than they’ve ever been to do things the ‘right’ way. Whether it’s breastfeeding/formula feeding, staying at home/working full time, vaccinating, weaning, we are judged on every single aspect of our motherhood journey even from before conception because everyone thinks they’re an expert.
And one area where I feel there’s increasing pressure (and there really shouldn’t be) is in the labour room. I’m constantly seeing a barrage of posts in various places online about the ‘perfect birth’, this pressure to have an all-natural birth, to have relaxing music, candles, no intervention, someone playing a harp in the corner of the room. Not being induced, not taking all the drugs on offer, breathing through contractions rather than screaming at your husband and breaking his hand holding on so tight.
Whilst it’s great to promote the labour that women want, and to empower (there’s that word again!) them into being able to speak up about how many people they want poking around their nether regions while they pop the baby out, or about giving birth at home, or whatever’s consider the ‘best’ way – we also need to accept that this ideal is just not what’s going to happen in some cases.
Some of us need a room full of people staring up at them while they’re in stirrups, some of us need doctors who know far more than us, some of us need scissors and vacuums and all sorts of exciting contraptions to get the baby out. For some of us, a low risk birth in a dimly lit room with just a whale sounds CD for company is simply not going to happen.
So let’s not give first timers the idea that they can have exactly the birth they want, because it’s not a restaurant order (yeah I’ll have a water birth with a side of delayed cord clamping please). Yes, it’s good to read up, to know what you’d prefer ahead of time. But it’s also important to understand the risks if we start ignoring medical professionals – sometimes they still know best no matter how much your friend Dr Google might try and convince you otherwise!
And let’s also not keep pressuring women that there’s a ‘right’ way to give birth. The best way to give birth is for there to be a baby in your arms at the end of the day, whatever way it came out. You don’t get any medals in this game – your reward is your child!
Harriet, Alexandra and bump x