'I wish I'd met you before I had my children...'
It's both a great compliment and a great sadness to me that I hear this statement several times a week. It's not just new mothers of tiny babies, with the agonies of birth fresh in their minds. I'm equally likely to hear it from women who are well past pregnancy - some have children in their teens and well beyond.
The compliment bit is completely ego-centric and superficial, and not at all a surprise, given I'll talk the hind legs off the proverbial donkey about the why's & wherefore's of pregnancy, birth & motherhood.
The sadness? Well that rolls in on more than one tide.
Firstly, I feel sad for each individual woman. What they are expressing is regret - regret about the day they did the most incredible, important, powerful thing it's possible for a human to do. I find it terribly sad that so many women have begun a new chapter of their own lives feeling sad, out of control, damaged and confused. Motherhood is hard enough without a whole burden of disappointment, grief & disempowerment added to the mix. That's a lot of ground to make up in the face of sleep deprivation, feeding, weaning and a whole new dynamic in life.
Not long after that, I feel the weight of it. The sheer volume of women who share this! If it were just clients, I would get it. Of course if you've had a bad experience already, you want to work with someone to help improve your chances this time around. There are vastly more women than that, though. From shop assistants, to saleswomen on the phone, to bank clerks, to teachers, to dentists, to strangers in parks. Almost every day I meet a women who had a difficult birth experience. It's starting to feel like an epidemic, and I just think it's unacceptable.
Consider this; according to the ONS 87% of women will have a child by the time they're 45. That's a high percentage. It means that pregnancy, birth & motherhood are not niche issues. The Birth Trauma Association estimates that 30,000 women a year experience birth trauma. I make that about 4.5%, given that 657,000 babies were born in the UK in 2018. I've got to tell you, though, I think that's a massive underestimation. The women I meet do not reflect positively on their birth experiences. They felt scared. They were not listened to. They felt out of control and coerced - but overwhelmingly they did not report birth trauma. They simply accepted that this is how birth is, and they got on with it.
Finally, once I'm past marvelling at these women who gathered themselves up and managed to mother, I feel frustrated. These shitty experiences are real. They were real when I was born 43 years ago, and they continue to be real today. They are one truth in the whole story of birth. My frustration is that these stories don't just burn, they've become fuel themselves. The more common the experience of shitty birth is, the more we are conditioned to accept its an inherent part of it, and the less likely we are to seek a meaningful resolution to it. And that's bonkers. Go back up a couple of paragraphs and remember that 87% of women will become mothers by the time they're 45. That's nearly half the population accepting pain, suffering, indignity, lack of control & physical damage as a normal part of their lives.
Worse still is that as a doula I see what makes birth Good or Bad, and I can tell you it's rarely related to how your baby comes out of your body. Good birth experiences are far more directly correlated with support, compassion and care than they are with induction, epidural or ventouse. So not only have we allowed ourselves to accept poor that bad = normal in birth, we haven't even got a firm handle on what we can do to make it better.
The solution? It's complicated. We're in strange times right now, and too often we seek simple answers to really complicated issues. Birth is complicated - in part because it's unique and individual to every woman. But as a starter for 10 my advice to you, if you're pregnant and wondering how on earth you get from here to baby without trauma, is to prepare. Read widely. Gain in confidence that you have a right to birth without suffering - whatever that means to you.
About The Good Birth Practice
We work together because although we're quite different, we have the same mission;
To provide women with the information, inspiration, insight & support they need to access a Good Birth experience
We don't think the idea of 'not suffering' when you have your baby is a radical idea, really. Actually, we thing every woman deserves to reflect on her birth with pride & positivity. Birth is hard work (however you do it), that doesn't mean you need to suffer indignity, powerlessness or lack of control, though.
We work together because it means we can support women & families through every stage of their transition to Motherhood (whether you're becoming a mum again or for the first time). From antenatal education, to group & 121 hypnobirthing classes, to doula support, we're here for you.
Also, we're collaborators! Together we can share our personal & professional development, we can review & reflect on our experiences and we can share access to an absolute GOLD MINE of information about pregnancy, birth, the fourth trimester, motherhood, parenting & generally settling into this family-life lark.
Would you like to work with us? Find out more about our various packages here, or simply email us to arrange a chat....