Are you pregnant now? Have you ever been pregnant? Chances are, if you fall into one of the those two categories, some well-meaning person has decided it was their duty to tell you some childbirth horror stories. Or to tell you that you’ll catch up on your sleep in about twenty years. Or to remind you that your body will never, ever look the same as it did pre-pregnancy. Even celebrities, such as Jessica Simpson, cave to fear-based decision-making in the last moments of pregnancy. Negativity, more often than not, surrounds what should be a happy and joyous experience.
And really, who is to blame for our society’s often negative view of childbirth? We could certainly blame it on the media. Childbirth and motherhood are sensationalized, and TV shows portray pregnant women being rushed to the ER, babies in distress, and slovenly and exhausted moms with a bunch of bratty kids in tow. If we truly believed the negative press on childbirth and motherhood, who would ever have kids?
So let’s get a few things straight and talk about it honestly. Yes, childbirth can be painful. Yes, parenting is a tough 24/7 job that lasts a lifetime. But to focus solely on those two points to the exclusion of everything else is an exercise in emotional and mental hazing.
What would it take to change our societal view of childbirth and parenthood? What would it take to stop the ritualized “hazing” that takes places in the supermarket, at the park, and from your co-workers, friends, family, even strangers? A few months ago, a pregnant acquaintance of mine told me of how many people criticized her decision to homebirth. Yet no one stepped forward to tell this first time mama what a joy it is to give birth naturally and to feel the harmonious sensation of your little one skin to skin for the first time. No one told her to follow her instinct to birth at home. And certainly, no one trusted her instincts either.
My experience was no different. I had a “well-meaning” co-worker (whom I wasn’t even close with) debate my decision to birth naturally in front of other faculty at a holiday party. Multiple people told me that I would be begging for an epidural and questioned my decision to use a midwife rather than an OB/GYN. If not for the support of my classmates from a Bradley Method childbirth class, I might not have stayed true to my instincts.
Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the media to change the way childbirth and motherhood are portrayed. But we, the mothers and fathers who have experienced it, can. No matter how you gave birth or where, support a pregnant friend in her decision-making. Encourage her to trust her instinct. Give her (and her partner) what the media cannot: a positive, supportive experience based in love, not fear.
Kate is a first-time mama who experienced her fair share of pregnancy hazing, including a stranger in the grocery line encouraging her husband to “force her to get an epidural.” When she’s not advocating for others’ childbirth and parenting decisions, she enjoys sewing, researching different parenting philosophies, and playing “animals” with her sweet little girl.