10 Things I'd Tell My Best Friend About... Giving Birth
She might not want to hear these!
1. You are not prepared
It doesn’t matter how much reading you’ve done, how much visualisation, how much talking to your mother or the midwife – when the first real contractions, the really heavy, painful ones, hit, all those things will go clean out of your head. At which point you may very well find yourself telling God ‘Ok, it’s not for me. Let’s just make me un-pregnant, as if this never happened, and we’ll say no more about it…’ But it is of course too late, and the only way out is through. Deep breath.
2. Epidural v no epidural? Whatever...
Seriously. It matters far less than you might think now. Do whatever works for you, but know this – by the time three months have passed, you will barely remember which way you did it. Because – and here’s the thing - it's very hard to get one’s head around at first – giving birth is only the beginning! Often, the really hard work comes next.
3. Make a birth plan, by all means
It’s an excellent idea and will give doctors/midwives a clear idea of how you want this to go, as well as giving you a chance to think through the various aspects of childbirth – but, that said, be prepared for the unexpected to occur. No matter how carefully you have written the script, this is Nature, and Nature can take its own course. If the birth plan needs to be abandoned, let it go. A good outcome is the main thing, not how closely you have adhered to the plan you drew up.
4. Some women are really good at this bit
They tune into their own internal rhythms and breathe their way through intense pain and panic. The rest of us just put our trust in the doctor or midwife and hope for the best. But that’s ok too.
5. Producing a baby is rather more gory an experience than you might have expected
I’m talking medieval levels of blood and stuff here. Somehow, I didn’t quite expect that first time around. And of course we are conditioned to go into alarm-mode when we see blood. Try and remember, this is ‘normal’ – although you may well take issue with Nature’s idea of ‘normal’…
6. There is no feeling in the world like the joy of holding your baby for the first time
No matter how painful, traumatic, bewildering the birth, everything recedes the moment that child is in your arms. It will even wipe the look of shock from your partner’s face and allow him (or her) to begin to forget what he (she) has witnessed. For a while anyway (don’t be entirely surprised if you catch a strange look on their faces for a while afterwards as they contemplate you…)
7. When you say ‘I’m never doing that again,’ you will mean it
Wholeheartedly. But not for very long. Yes, the memory fades, just as everyone tells you it will, until it becomes a sort of hazy, nostalgic glow – ‘gosh, I can’t believe I did that…’ Then, you have another baby, the time comes, pain starts up and you think ‘uh-oh, now I remember…’
8. Every birth is different, just as every baby is different
If you have previously had a difficult experience, try to trust that this one will be easier. And if everything went wonderfully the last time, keep in mind that there is no formal guarantee that you will get the same again.
9. Whatever you thought you might do with that placenta...
Whether it was to eat or plant it, do not be surprised if, when actually confronted with that mass of bloody tissue, these all evaporate and you find yourself agreeing heartily with the midwife when she suggests disposing of it.
10. Because anyway...
You have other things on your mind. The really wonderful thing about giving birth is how little any of the things you planned, hoped and feared actually matter when you find yourself with your very own baby in your arms.
What would you tell your best friend about giving birth?