Saturday, 1 October 2016

In which I sign up to the childbirth secrecy club

“It’s simply your journey to meet your baby”, trilled my tiny pink-haired yoga teacher as we sat in a circle practising our breathing exercises.  For a short time I was swept along by the euphemisms and the number of second time mums who nodded enthusiastically when describing how helpful various yoga poses had been in their first labour.  The evidence was there in a full-to-bursting class: labour was gentle enough that deep breathing and rocking from one foot to the other would keep me calm, cool and relaxed when giving birth. 

But my cynical side fought back.  Much as I had resisted thinking too much about the whole giving birth scenario, avoided watching One Born Every Minute and failed to ask any direct questions of anyone I knew with experience in the field, I was pretty sceptical of the euphemisms.   I mean, let’s be realistic about this – it’s not called labour for nothing.  Really, how is deep breathing going to help me give birth?  (I mean, I breathe every day for goodness sake).  But I felt I should try and be a responsible and open-minded mother-to-be and as such managed to attend all of four yoga classes in my 9 months.  I should point out that most of my friends raised an eyebrow when I told them I was attending:  for someone who measures her degree of exercise satisfaction in how out of breath, bright red and dripping with sweat she is at the end of a session, I was always going to be a tricky customer at a yoga class. 

No.  I’d say my true expectations of labour were most accurately summed up by the dictionary definition.  “Work, especially physical work” states the Oxford English Dictionary.  In other words, something hard, but manageable.  I was relatively confident that I could cope:  having run two marathons I knew I had a good mental attitude for endurance when things get tough. 

It’s fair to say giving birth did not in any sense live up to my expectations.  My due date, for little G rocked up bang on cue (and just when I was least expecting any drama), turned out to be one heck of a journey.  I delighted in reliving the gory details.  Call it therapeutic.  “Why did nobody tell me?” I asked around in frustration. 

But then something weird happened.  The sympathy nausea I felt on seeing a pregnant woman at the thought that she would have to give birth subsided.  I began to smile and roll my eyes at the hyperbole of the choice adjectives I had used.   I had unintentionally signed up to the rules of the birth-givers club:  secrecy.  I’ve even started thinking maybe I could do it again someday.  All I can say is, nature is a flipping powerful process. 

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