Opinion

Giving birth to a new way of looking at giving birth

“Gory.” “The worst.” “Horror stories.” “Hardest physical feat you’ll ever experience.”

These are just some of the ways giving birth is described in a column I wrote almost a year after my son was born.

I recently looked back at this tongue-in-cheek piece about bragging rights with women and their worst labour stories for a couple reasons: last month, I gave birth to my second child, a beautiful baby girl and  the way I see childbirth has changed.

I gave birth to Audrey without the fear I felt when I was pregnant with Jack.

It’s probably because I’ve been around the block before, but also because the reading material and conversations I had before were quite different.

Instead of watching episode upon episode of women white-knuckling hospital bed rails in TLC’s A Baby Story I was watching eye-opening documentaries like The Business of Being Born and flipping through books like midwife Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth.

My outlook towards the big finale was different because I discovered something pretty cool about the mind-body connection.

If you let people’s stories about how traumatic their deliveries were overtake the way you picture birth, there’s a good chance you will have another “gory story” to add to the others.

Not only does this work in an emotional kind of way, but in a physical sense too.

Gaskin talks about women she cared for during labour. Often when they were struggling, or not advancing, she would gently ask if there was something bothering them or that they were holding onto. They’d tell her about a fear or worry they had.

Once they felt the relief of sharing and letting go she’d notice a change almost right away in their composure and cervix. Baby would make its appearance shortly after.

For some moms, talking about their horrific birth experience is a way for them to heal. That’s OK. It can go sideways, and you shouldn’t hold onto any firm expectations on how exactly it should play out. But birth doesn’t have to be traumatic.

When I’m asked this time how the labour went instead of starting ‘Oh, man it was horrible,’ I’m more inclined to say things like, ‘It was awesome’, and ‘It was so amazing having her at home,’ and ‘It was quick.’

To be fair, when Audrey decided to make her appearance she wasn’t lollygagging. I’m talking 2 1/2 hours quick.

And you’re probably thinking, ‘No wonder now you can say it went so well, and it was awesome,’ but for me her arrival was part of an overall experience which included two very calm, knowledgeable and passionate midwives caring for me up to that day.

Now if only more women would brag about how great it was, rather than how awful it was, maybe we’d eventually start to see a change in the way we view birth.

The final moment you will remember always is what you were working for the entire time. It’s far from being gory, the worst, a horror story, or the hardest physical feat.

It’s the moment you fall in love forever.

Ashley Degraaf is a News Leader Pictorial reporter on maternity leave following the birth of her second child.

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