There is no “right” way to have a baby

On the way home the other day I saw in the paper a brief interview with Marina Fogle. In it she described the reactions by people to her having a c-section. She explained how she felt she was judged by people for her decision.

This reminded me of when I had my first baby. I had three friends due at a similar time. We thankfully all had wonderful healthy babies. A few weeks after the births we got together in a cafe to meet each other’s precious bundles and inject some much needed caffeine (ok, cake) into our day. My overriding memory of that afternoon, however, is not my first sighting of these incredible women and their babies, but of my three friends sitting there with tears in their eyes because they had “failed”. Because they had ended up with emergency c-sections (as opposed to an orgasmic birth in a pool surrounded by candles and baby deer), they had apparently failed some test of womanhood. I don’t know about you, but to me this seems fundamentally wrong.

Since when was there only one proper way to give birth? Since when was the birth of a healthy baby and mother not enough? When did the world go mad and everyone lose focus on what is actually important in childbirth?

And we can’t even blame this one on men, who, in my experience, are in awe of their wives irrelevant of how their baby comes into the world. Women are doing it to each other. We are undermining each other and the rights of women to choose. And that to me is unforgivable.

Childbirth is different for each person, and even each baby

My first was long (I went through 6 midwives) and ended with a forceps delivery. My second was genuinely one of the most amazing experiences in my life (though still long!). And, after three days of active labour, my third ended in a McRoberts (need I say more). I am clearly not designed to give birth, at least not without substantial assistance from professionals (thank God for the NHS).

I do not share this in a bid to worry or scare anyone about to go through labour for the first time (my experience is definitely not typical anyway!).  I am sharing this to make the point that in spite of not being the most efficient labourer, I had three babies.  And frankly, I would do it again now in the blink of an eye (that is if my husband and I didn’t think that a fourth child would tip us over the edge – I can see it now, we would be found squashed under a mountain of dirty washing).

Our birth stories are important, but they are not everything

Giving birth is a life-changing and unique experience and most of us feel the need to share our stories. They bond and unite us in a common experience, but do not define the rest of ours or our children’s lives. And above all, there is no “right” answer to the question “how was your birth?”.

I have friends who have had water births, friends who have delivered with no pain relief at all, friends who have had an emergency c-section and friends who have elected to have a c-section (see Lucy’s post). Some of them have got to full dilation without even realising (Bonnie is one of them!), others of us worked hard for every centimetre. I have friends who have delivered on the labour ward, friends who have delivered in the birthing centre and I even know one person who had a home birth (the family we bought our house from in fact – I still wonder which room it happened in!).

I also have friends who have lost their babies.

Ultimately, amongst all these options and scenarios the only thing that matters, and I mean the only thing that matters, is that you and your baby are safe and healthy

So I beg you, next time you hear someone say that they had a baby (irrelevant of how it happened), say “congratulations”, and praise her for being amazing, because she is. She has carried that baby for nine months, her body has been transformed and traumatised, she is recovering from an intense experience, potentially even an operation, and is about to embark on the steepest learning curve of her life. She will be sleep deprived and hormonal, and face a million challenges a day from how to get her newborn to latch on and feed, to how to get out of the house before midday.  She deserves kind words and awe, and lots and lots and lots of chocolate!



(My three babies – worth every second of labour.)

Some useful links:

  • lulu Watts
    Posted at 09:20h, 06 January Reply

    So good iona xxx Lulu

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