There has been a backlash recently against new mothers who share their birthing stories online. Some people don’t like this latest version of “oversharing” because they think it traumatizes pregnant women.
Although, not as much as the birth… I hasten to quip.
I have to admit that I always felt a bit cheated after the births of my children about the silent agreement among women not to discuss the absolute horror the nitty gritty of childbirth, except with your close friends – those that have seen you wee in public, puke on alcohol, or provide you with blow-by-blow accounts of sex with their husband.
But fortunately, we’re a lot more open these days about what was once considered to be women’s business. In fact, it might surprise you to know that it was men that instigated the change to be with their partners in the delivery room. Evidently, it was difficult to focus on the paper in the waiting room with the bloodcurdling screams of their wives in their ear. Although my father was lucky enough to be in the pub – a story that, (not being one to shy away from sexism or political correctness), he continues to recount with pride.
Perhaps, predictably, I dragged the old man into the torture chamber with me, although he did come kicking and screaming when I went into labor two weeks early, the morning after a very boozy farewell to life without real responsibility the night before. It is no exaggeration to say that he slept through most of my ordeal until NC was thrust into his arms so that the medical team could save me from bleeding out – and I believe from certain death, had I been in Outlander.
NC’s birth was a shock, but not as massive a shock as my naive interpretation of what a sleepless night meant. Both of my children were in a rush to get out, which meant short, sharp periods of the kind of intense agony that Cassie goes through each week on The Bachelor, rather than a prolonged ordeal. Aside from what felt like wall staples in place of stitches in my vagina – that I secretly hoped wouldn’t be removed for several years – my experiences could have been worse. (Okay, not much worse). In fact, I found the sight of blood on the bathroom floor of the hospital to be far more unsettling.
But should we share the grisly, bloody detail of this natural, yet savage ordeal of bringing children into the world?
Absolutely. If you don’t want to know what really happens, don’t read about it or watch the videos. Obviously, I read everything that I could get my hands on at the time – because…anxiety – and in hindsight, I’m glad I did. I was more prepared and more aware of my options when it became evident that my birth plan was as useless as a knitted condom. Added to which, I knew that no one would bat an eyelid when I called the old man those names that even we have censored in our marriage.
We make many decisions in our lifetime, some important and some fortunately less so.
I’ve made great decisions in my own life, (such as trying Scarborough wine), and a few I’m not so proud of now, like an annual salary’s worth of gym memberships, a long list of jobs and a multitude of bad hair styles.
We often have to make life-changing decisions in our relationships too, like choosing the right time to say ‘I love you’ and the risk of baring our soul, deciding when it’s time to pull the plug and finally say goodbye or when it’s been long enough to tell him he’s a shit head who doesn’t deserve you. And in those situations, (because someone else’s feelings are invariably on the line), we need to be certain that our decision is right.
NB (NC’s eye candy) made an important decision yesterday – the right one, I believe.
But before I tell you about it, I will take you through a good decision that the old man made a very long time ago – well, other than marrying me in spite of his doubts or buying me that eternity ring that he had robbed me of for at least ten years.
Two weeks before my due date with NC, (and for some reason that I really can’t fathom out now but can only assume was because we were young and foolish), the old man and I decided to paint the town red with some friends as a last fling before the real responsibility of parenthood began.
Aside from weighing the same as a small Blue Whale, I must have been feeling well because we didn’t get back home until the early hours of the morning – I was still sober, but unfortunately the old man was completely off his face.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to imagine what happened next…
We went to bed and within half an hour I awoke to find myself swimming in amniotic fluid. So I called the hospital and they told me I had to come in straight away.
Obviously, the old man was not in any physical state to do this – the best laid plans and all that. In fairness, I too had believed, as every first-time mother does, (and before we twerked our butts off at JoJo’s that night), that I would have a textbook birth, the stork would land on my due date, and my husband would be there at my side, tearful, supportive and demonstrating all the potential of a truly, natural father – like the ones you see on One Born Every Minute.
Shit happens, what can I say?
I remember bending (with great difficulty) over his inert body and shaking him to tell him our fantastic news and him responding in ‘grunt’, a language developed by red wine that is even more un-intelligible than teenage-speak. So I shook him a second time, quite violently this time, because although I knew it wasn’t really his fault that he was absolutely fucking shitfaced when our baby was about to make her entry into the world, I had still expected him to jump to his new responsibilities like a crazy man when he heard that I was going into labour; like they do in the movies.
This was when the old man made the best decision in our relationship.
Years later, he admitted to me that when he felt me rough him up the second time, the last thing on earth he felt like doing was getting up out of that warm bed and accompanying me to the hospital, (although the thought of watching me in pain for 24 hours was tempting). And for a nano-second, while he ruminated on his decision, he contemplated telling me to go ahead by myself, until fortunately – DING! – a warning siren went off somewhere in the logic side of his brain. And VERY fortunately for that man, he managed to pull his sorry ass out of bed and into the passenger seat of the car, while I squeezed my bump behind the wheel and drove myself to the hospital.
NB faced a similar dilemma this morning.
NC had organized for me to take NB to the airport to meet her after her five-week travels in Thailand. However, fifteen minutes before he was due to arrive at our house he casually texted me to say that his motorbike had unfortunately got a flat tyre and he wouldn’t be able to make it to the airport.
Bear in mind that one of the other girls boyfriend’s was going to the airport too and she and her boyfriend are one of those couples that can’t keep their hands off each other, even in public – as NB admitted when bravely comparing his Lothario game to Romeo’s, the boy had probably camped out at the airport the night before just to blow up the army of ‘welcome home’ balloons and write the banners and to make sure he would be on time.
To be honest, I was impressed by NB’s calm in the face of impending doom. But couldn’t he see that being a no-show wasn’t seriously a viable option and that he’d need to come up with a better excuse than a dodgy tyre? I texted him back hastily, urging him to reconsider what might become a pivotal decision in his relationship. I reminded him as diplomatically as I could that NC had been on a flight all night, not slept, and might become unnaturally bitchy irrational if he wasn’t there to meet her. I hoped he knew how to ‘read between the lines.’
Fortunately, NB is a potential rocket scientist and he reconsidered his options.
That Kate Middleton is one seriously lucky lady. Not only did she land a prince, (in spite of being a commoner), but she also appears to have had the easiest childbirth on record for a first-time mum.
Did I hear correctly – was it really an 8 hour labour? The words ‘lucky biatch’ spring to mind if I’m honest – or is that a treasonable offence?
There will be pregnant women around the globe turning green with envy when the average labour is more like 12 hours, (and realistically that statistic has probably been fictitiously created to prevent a decrease in the population).
Perhaps there really is something special about the Monarchy after all.
Perhaps the Royal sperm has the mystical qualities of Royal Jelly or Royal blood and its powers managed to loosen the tight Royal cervix unnaturally quickly for delivery of the future heir to the throne.
It certainly sounds as though Kate didn’t experience the atypical child-birth horrors that the rest of us mortals experience, (and that none of us likes to talk about during our child-rearing years – not while we may still have to go through the whole bloodbath again).
Forget the Hollywood movies, the vocabulary associated with childbirth of mucus plugs, dilation, transition (which is when pain becomes unbearable fucking pain and you are screaming for someone to put you out of your misery) and labour pain (which still makes me protectively cross my legs rather like when you mention circumcision to men) are descriptive enough for even a blind person to get the picture of what the ordeal is really like.
Mind you, an 8lb+ baby can do some lasting damage, even to a future queen, if it enters the world too quickly.
Those little critters have been known to drag half your pelvic floor out with them in their rush to get to your breast.
But Kate didn’t appear to be too damaged when she faced the press the following day. Not a sign of a waddle. When I had my first baby I couldn’t walk properly for about ten weeks afterwards so I’m guessing that Kate had only the very best seamstress to hand to stitch the Royal bits back together again.
So how did she do it? How did she manage to give birth in eight hours and then look so fucking fabulous a mere 24 hours later? Where were the bags under the eyes, the tears, the leaking nipples and the ‘stitches shuffle’?
I’m so glad she didn’t attempt to disguise the post-uterine swell – women around the world will be thanking her in their millions.
I remember my brother-in-law, (who taught the old man everything he knows), eyeing my bulging stomach the day after Nerd Child was born and asking me when exactly I was going to deliver my baby. Needless to say, I dissolved into a blubbering, hormonal mess.
I’ve been charging him my bills for therapy ever since.
I wonder if Kate fell for the myth of a natural birth, or if she wisely went straight for the epidural.
Stoicism during childbirth is just so ‘eighties’ now.
I had all the natural childbirth gadgets and remedies at my disposal, but I must admit that the only one to really give me the relief I needed was digging my nails into the old man’s arms as hard as possible.
I mean, WTF was spraying water on my face supposed to do when it felt like someone was shoving hot pokers up my vajayjay?
I remember the old man inadvertently spraying the water into my eyes at one point and slapping him viciously around the face – a much more effective form of pain relief.
The Tens machine obviously also needed to be designed with a scale higher than 10 (just saying) to take your mind off the pain; but then just stabbing sharp knives into my lower back might have been an even more effective distraction too. And I never quite understood what exactly that big ball was for, other than to entertain the old man, when all it made me want to do when I sat on it was either pee or throw it at my irritating partner.
I imagine that William was the dutiful husband and father, supporting Kate through the mire of pain, blood and foul language – I’m sure that there was more than a:
‘Gosh darling, I think it might be coming out now. Best tell the Queen.’
Well done, Kate, you’ve produced the heir, so only the ‘spare’ to go now. It looks like you’re a natural.
Try and ignore the (‘wrong-on-so-many-levels’) image of 80s pop icon Cher that is probably fogging your brain right now when you read the title of this post, clad in her barely-there, hooker-style full-piece, draping her cosmetically sculpted physique strategically over a gaggle of camp looking sailors, (good times), and cast your mind to what you would do given the power to become a kind of time traveller, with the ability to pop back in time to make some tweaks to your destiny. (I was just trying to grab your attention with the Cher thing).
Admit it, by the time we reach middle-age we all have a regret box, no matter how new-age and spiritually positive we’ve all been brainwashed to think. Admitting to the existence of a regret box is not about being ‘glass half-empty’, it’s more about finding closure for your cock-ups.
Everyone knows that when hormones and alcohol collide in adolescence the limiting functionality of a still developing brain can sorely impact destiny. And we can make mistakes.
So would you change key areas of your past knowing what you know now in middle age?
I’ve got a few ‘if only I’d….’ missed opportunities of my own, and given the chance, I mightn’t be completely averse to a quick duck and dive, bob and weave through my past.
I would consider my life a successful journey so far, depending on how you measure success of course. I would consider that I’ve been luckier than some, not as lucky as others. My lolly shop full of experiences have been on the whole sweet, with only the odd sour one thrown in.
But would I seriously go back and change the events of my late teens and early twenties, for example? Back to an era that on the one hand was resplendent with fun-filled excess, yet simmering close to the surface were those first strains of responsibility; an underlying question mark of what I was actually going to do with my life. It was the first fork in the road where I had to choose a direction. I wonder if I went back, whether I’d now take the other direction, with hindsight, have the career that alluded me, risk not meeting my soul mate, the father of my children?
I’d be an unwilling competitor in the dating game again, despondently searching for my life partner, when frankly, it was hard enough the first time around. Falling for the wrong types again, having to sift through the wasters, waiting for the phone to ring, knowing what it meant when it didn’t.
I could certainly do my wedding day again, although not because I would do anything different really, (apart from the wedding dress disaster which had to be bought off the rack two weeks prior because my original supplier went bust; a dress that was catwalk fashionably shorter in length than the norm, and in my panic I somehow forgot that I was not catwalk fashionably tall), although this time I would stand and take a moment, to reflect and inhale and really smell the roses of happiness. I would speak to everyone, and I would be prepared (and not sh*t faced) when the old man sprung his wedding gift of MY speech on our guests; and me. I would make sure that the organist knew our version of ‘At The Name Of Jesus’, the one that everyone was expecting to sing but ended up mumbling incoherently.
I would make sure that I stayed in contact with all those friends that came to our wedding, although I suppose that if they were as influential a part of my life now as they were then, I wouldn’t have the time or the privilege of knowing the friends I have today.
I’d certainly skip back more recently and accept my initial gut instinct of our son’s ADHD long before the quacks and counsellors confirmed it, to waste less time searching for reasons and answers, to have more time to find solutions, to find support, to adapt to his needs.
I might even hop back to the birth of our children. I’d have epidurals this time, (obviously), in the knowledge that the back-patting derived from natural childbirth stoicism lasts all of twelve hours. This time I’d be ready to truly embrace the changes that our children’s births signified. The old man would be sober at the entry of our first-born into the world, he would be able to drive me to the hospital and we’d have textbook births like the ones we planned in the naivety of extensive ‘birth plans’. We’d inherently understand what to do with a baby car seat, swaddling, and cracked nipples.
I’d say goodbye to my own mum properly, not spend the rest of my life angry that she left me, forever holding her responsible for that ‘why me?’ feeling of hopelessness that has permeated much of my darker side since. I would ask her what I can do to make her proud, how she would measure my success if she’d been around.
I’d make sure I wasn’t in the kitchen at that party when I had my first Camel cigarette, to eliminate the fear that has pervaded my middle age since I suddenly became aware of my own mortality, about the time my children were born.
I’d choose a dog instead of cats, and not waste so many precious years trying to develop a relationship with animals who clearly have no tolerance for nor interest in human kind.
If I did go back in time, I imagine that my heart would still rule my head and I’d no doubt make the same mistakes all over again.
I went to yoga for the third time in my ‘spiritual life’ yesterday. I’d like to say it was to focus on my inner tranquility, but my motives were purely egocentric. My lower back ache has now transcended to a stage 2, ‘transition-intense’ labour pain, (in spite of keeping my chiropractor in business), so desperate measures are required.
Personally, I can’t think of a better way to spend the next twenty years, lying prostrate on the sofa, watching re-runs of Gossip Girl and ER, but the old man is of the opinion that I need to contribute to our retirement fund (Bah! Humbug!).
As I can’t drink wine all day and hold down a job, I need to find another source of pain relief. So upon the advice of several friends, I decided that ‘strengthening my ‘core’ via Yoga, might hold the secret.
The only problem is, that I haven’t quite worked out what exactly my ‘core’ is, or if I’ve even got one.
I do vaguely remember, post childbirth, (somewhere in between chapped nipples and infected sutures) all the ‘feeding-on-demand’, new-age mums proclaiming the need to strengthen my pelvic floor, to avoid future ‘issues down below’ (?). But when I tried following their advice, sucking in my girl bits, squeezing my thighs tightly and holding my breath, the combination of that much physical exertion and so little sleep made me almost pass out. To be honest, I didn’t want anything to do with that area of my body for a long time after childbirth – being the entrepreneur that he is, the old man saw it as the optimum opportunity for ‘quickies’ and unlike me, still harks back to those ‘golden days’.
In fact, Yoga might have helped with the narrowing of the four-lane tunnel created by the exit of my second child, (codename ‘Buddha’), if I’d stuck to it. Passing a watermelon would have been a walk in the park in comparison to the healthy toddler I expelled, (who may in fact have mistakenly grabbed my ‘core’ on the way out, thinking it was food).
The first time I went to a yoga class was probably sometime in the eighties, when the results of too much subsidised uni beer began to accumulate into unwanted kilos around my waist. But after nodding off during the Tadakasana position, (which had all the hallmarks of a sleeping position), loyalty prevailed, and I decided that I preferred ‘feeling the burn’ and the comfort of my fluorescent pink leg warmers, and returned to Jane Fonda.
It would be twenty years before I returned, this time accompanied by my daughter.
Our yogi, Skye, was not exactly what either of us expected, shattering my belief that all yoga teachers are spiritual, ‘nice’ people; the only people who can walk around in brown flax fisherman trousers and get away with it. Skye’s approach was the opposite of Karmic and unfortunately for us, he didn’t suffer yoga fools gladly.
From my first body collapse mid- ‘plow’ (Halasana), to the refusal of my right foot to adhere to my thigh (at a physically impossible ninety degree angle) in my ‘tree’ (Vrikshasana) posture, it was obvious that our level of spiritual discipline was too amateur to remain in his class; my harmonizing queef during the Om sealed our fate.
Nevertheless, yesterday I decided to give it a final shot.
Thank Buddha the other mums were already ‘omming’ by the time I rolled out my mat and so were blissfully oblivious to my chipped toenail polish, assortment of bunions and the French cheese odour that emanated from my sweaty feet, (which have not been exposed since Daylight Saving). Nevertheless, my determination to rid my back of pain spurred me on, and so, aided by a mental image of Sting in Lotus, I flexed my muscles and endeavoured to zone into a more ‘tantric’ state of mind.
My initial goal was to find my ‘core‘. I closed my eyes as instructed, inhaled deeply and tried to focus on finding it, assuming that at some point it would identify itself to me in some sort of spiritual vision. ‘Breathing in’ seemed to be the route that everyone else was taking, so I inhaled with an unconvincingly loud vocal sigh in a bid to reach the unchartered depths of my bodily ‘temple’. Disappointingly, the images and thoughts conjured up by my conscience could hardly be described as celestial, ranging from what was for dinner that night to that expensive bottle of Chardy that was tantalisingly waiting for me in the bar fridge at home (secreted into the house when ‘Mr Tight’ was out).
‘Relaxation’ and ‘Yoga’ – not such an obvious association after all.
The humping-dolphin soundtrack certainly entices you into what you think will be a womb-like experience, but before there’s time to say ‘osteoporosis’, your body is contorted into positions you haven’t tried since your sexually liberated days (before children); all at breakneck speed. It’s like patting your head and circling your stomach, ON SPEED. With the twang of tearing muscle tissue resounding in my ears, by the end of the forty-five minutes, I realised that I wouldn’t be walking up or down stairs comfortably for at least a week.
I didn’t find them yesterday after all; my ‘core’ or my spirituality. But I haven’t given up. I can identify with Claire Mockridge’s analogy of your body to a house, where the ‘core’ comprises of all the muscley bits that strengthen the body, like the walls, roof and foundations in a house. (Claire Mockridge – What is your ‘core’?)
This ‘house’ obviously needs some serious underpinning, that’s all. I just need to find the perfect builder to help me with it.