How to give birth. (Start by shutting your ears.)
A friend of mine has just had her baby. She’s knackered, milky, blissed out, and then knackered again. Our beloved NHS got her baby out safely – gosh, how easy it is to forget that no matter how tough a labour experience we have we are so very lucky.
And yet. And yet every mama’s journey from conception to delivery is different. But oh-so-many people tell you what you should be doing. Don’t touch booze. One glass won’t hurt. Sleep on your side. Sleep on a pillow. Get a pram. Use a sling. And you are sponge-like, soaking up the advice, panicking about the number of muslins you need (double whatever you think), and whether or not the baby has enough blankets, and what onesie should they wear home from the hospital. By all means take in all of the advice, but I promise you, your baby will guide you. You’ll get it right, or near enough.
Labour attracts even more conversation. Drugs? No drugs? Homebirth? My choice to hypnobirth was mocked, but it remains the best £300 I spent because of the techniques it taught me, which have proven to be as useful in the boardroom as it was on the labour ward. But in hindsight, I realise my snobbish attitude to drugs was naïve because labour HURTS. And to be honest, I wasn’t averse to some mild mind-altering substances in my 20s, so why I turned down the free pharma I’m not quite sure.
For every NHS hospital tour, or midwife appointment, or midnight google of Mumsnet, I wish someone would tell a mum-to-be that it is ok to be nervous of labour. You don’t have to face it like an Amazon, determined to get through on gas and air alone, when if you were having any other part of your body stretched to its limit (and beyond) you’d pop a pill or three. (Can you tell this is partly a letter to me, four years ago?!) Equally, if you want to try and embrace the power of labour with no drugs, go for it.
I wish someone would tell these pregnant ladies that so many of the decisions are theirs, from delayed cord clamping, to turning down a sweep (you aren’t a chimney my love) which is basically a fisting from a stranger. The obsession over due dates blows my mind because, on average, first babies are five days late so why the heck do we expect them before that? Can’t we rejig the maths to add five days to the EDD? Can’t we take the pressure off the whale-sized, swollen-of-ankle, hormonal, hungry preggo, and let her cook the baby for exactly the right time? I cried every day after my EDD because Aunty Doris kept calling to see if the baby had arrived (FFS Doris, I’ll bloody tell you, now naff off and let me watch McDreamy). As Gandalf said, “A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives exactly when he is meant to.” By all means take on board the medical advice, but don’t let anyone push you into anything you don’t want to do.
People don’t stop offering advice when the baby comes. And isn’t that wonderful – that everyone from Aunty Doris to the barista down the road (not forgetting the annoying blogger online) wants the best for your tiny human. Take it all on board. Discard the bits you don’t want. And bite your tongue when you start telling your mates how best to give birth.
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