9 July 2012

Bite your own massaged perineum. I say each to their own.

So your mother gave birth in winter, in the Alps, with nothing but a goatherd and a yodel.  Your besties all did Calmbirth and pushed their babies out with a gentle sigh and a conviction that all that prental perineal massage was a good thing.  Your other friends scheduled caesareans and booked nannies so they could be back at the gym by morning.  Your grandmother got to lie-in for six weeks while her hired help looked after the wee angels and when your dad had major abdominal surgery sure as fuck nobody sent him home with a baby to care for and strict instructions to get rest.

The fact is - there is no such thing as a perfect birth.  Birth is messy and painful and that is just when you are the birth partner.  There is so much emphasis on the birth that it seems to pass people by that they actually have to take the baby home and raise it until they become independent.  Which depending on your parenting style could be anywhere from 16 to 60.

I had a rubbish first birth experience.  And I had gone in with no birth plan and no expectations.  My plan was to try and push her out my hoohar but if I needed gas, drugs or even a caesarean to ensure she came out healthy I was willing to give it a go.  In the end, the whole thing was one hideous fuckup after another and I had to have an emergency caesearean after 54 hours of going nowhere.  And that was 2.5 weeks after she was due.  I ended up with post natal depression, PTSD and the enduring feeling that somehow I had done something wrong.  I was so utterly exhausted that while entranced by my daughter it took me a little while to be smacked in the face with that 'mother love' thing.  And now, if you were to do anything to either of my perfect children I'd hunt you down and hurt you.  Love is like that sometimes. 

And I had no expectations. I was viewing it a bit like bungy jumping.  I'd read up on it.  I knew the risks, I knew about the adrenalin but I was basically going to have to step off the platform and experience it for myself. 

And yet even after the birth of my second daughter 19 months later, which was much calmer (bar the bit where she forgot to breathe on her own for a couple of days) - I still struggle with judgement that comes from 'not doing it right'.  

I am absolutely infuriated when I hear people judging other people's experience.  It shouldn't matter.  If faffing around on your loungeroom floor with a midwife works for you - great.  If a planned caesarean works for you - whoopy doo.  If you want your extended family there and to video it so you can show it at their 21st - super!  

So when I hear people say "Well I did it all with no drugs in 45 minutes darling, its just a case of mind over matter" I want to punch their smug faces.  Great that it worked like that for you but their experience is going to be unique to them and their aim is to have a healthy baby not a socially acceptable birth.  There is no gold medal for this process.  Your child doesn't give a crap how you deep breathed or drugged it up to get them out.  They are just thankful for the life you gave them.  Nobody is mentioning their mother's caesar scar or breastfeeding when winning Oscars or in their presidential acceptance speech.  

Big sigh.  Deep breath.  Good luck to all of you about to embark on the most exhilarating, exhausting, baffling and brilliant adventure ever.  And that's parenting.  Not the freakin' birth.