When you have a baby it’s a rite of passage to share every single, horrific detail of the birth with at least some of your close friends. We have a morbid fascination with the pain, the drama, the suffering, the stitches….as women, we love to talk about it. But it’s not just friends that ask for the details..sometimes random people; friends of friends, neighbours or school mums will ask about the labour. Now, it’s no bad thing to share birth stories, it can be therapeutic for the new mum and can help other women prepare for childbirth (not to mention terrify them), but since when did giving birth become a competition?
Some women take great pride in stating how excruciatingly painful their labour was. The more extreme the pain and suffering, the greater the honour. Unless you have endured some kind of physical horror or ordeal, you cannot wear this badge of honour. I was told twice by random people that I hadn’t been through a “proper labour” because I’d had an epidural. One of the commentators was a man which particularly enraged me, given that he’d never have to experience pushing out a baby from his nether regions. The cheek of it. The other was a friend of a friend who had apparently been in labour for days and refused to take any pain relief. Eye roll. Congratulations on being such a martyr. Whilst you were screeching and rolling around in pain, I had a relatively calm and civilised labour thank you very much. Courtesy of my friend, the epidural.
There is also a new trend emerging when it comes to birth stories, with many women declaring that they had a wonderfully tranquil natural water birth at home. Idyllic photos emerge on social media of women beaming their way through labour in the most zen-like way. It’s all peace and serenity. Whilst I’m happy for those women who don’t experience the pain and complications of childbirth, I worry about the message that is being conveyed. It almost implies that unless you have had the idyllic natural birth you are somehow less of a woman, that parenting may come less naturally to you. It all feels a bit smug and superior.
There is something about child birth that makes some women very competitive. Perhaps it’s just a sign of things to come with people competing at every stage of parenting; the first word, the first step, the first maths equation! Ultimately, every mother has a birth story to tell and none is more or less valid. Labour rarely goes according to plan and we need to have more empathy and less judgement towards each other. Labour doesn’t define us, it’s the way that we raise our children once they are here that has far more importance and will help define our legacy.