Traditionally mystery has shrouded this rite of passage, so to speak, but in a time when we are exposed to the sex videos of try-hard celebrities, gruesome crime photos or graphic footage of surgeries, surely the details surrounding childbirth are mild in comparison?
I have given birth twice and I went to the antenatal classes the first time, I watched the video of the screaming woman, but I still had no idea of what I was in store for. I knew there would be pain, I knew my options for drugs or not and I had been told by lots of well-meaning mothers “make sure you get lots of sleep before the baby comes.” That was about it.
Now is when I could choose to fill the gap with some gory details to help prepare any blissfully, waddling first-timers, but a couple of things have given me pause.
Firstly when I asked newly pregnant twitter friend Emily Jade O'Keefe what advice she’d like, she said ‘Only share the good please, I’ll find out the bad’. Secondly pre-baby I vaguely recall hearing some advice but it seemed to go in one ear and out the other. It made me wonder is childbirth and being a new Mum inexplicable to footloose, childfree women?
But what finally sealed the sealed section on childbirth for me was the fact that women are classic worriers, pregnant women are on the anxiety-ridden, hormone roller coaster and new mothers are often near to being committed. So if we were to share the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me drugs, would it help or just send them over the edge?
So I’m not going to explain to you what an ice-filled condom is for, or what happens to your empty belly soon after giving birth, my friend is right – you’ll find that out soon enough.
But there is one thing I wish I’d known: that my life would be turned inside out and upside down and that during the tumultuous and emotional change you have to be kind to yourself. Becoming a mother is one of life’s biggest changes. You’ve probably heard this one by Raphael-Leff (1994) from me before but I love it, they say new Mums are “plunged into a state of inner disequilibrium and external upheaval quite unlike any other encountered in adult life”.
I made the mistake of expecting that I would be an automatic natural earth mother, because understanding and knowing how to rear a child was in both my X chromosomes, wasn’t it? The previous generation didn’t really help as even more was expected in their day, difference being they were often already managing the home so adding children to the mix was tough but not as life-changing. Going from corporate meetings and making decisions on million dollar campaigns up to 60 hours a week to being housebound, while providing food from the stove and my body, and all within a clean environment was like expecting my husband to converse with me during a football match.
The remarkable thing is how remarkable humans are. You adapt and you change and you see the world in a whole new light, one that is broader, deeper and very rewarding. So if nobody has really explained the details of childbirth or been able to articulate what you’ll feel when you first arrive home with a gurgling, wholly dependent, little poo-and-spew ball, then don’t worry – just remember as you get shoved into the deep end of this particularly choppy sea, be kind, be understanding and give yourself a lot of leeway to be as mental as is fitting to one of the biggest challenges you’ll ever face.
P.S. And before the birth cook as many meals as your freezer can store while having your favourite takeaways on fast dial, the last place you want to be is near an open flame on 3 hours sleep.