Childbirth used to be this huge deal equally celebrated and feared by women and men alike. I remember that my first foray into learning about childbirth was by watching it on video in my sixth grade classroom, surrounded by all of the girls in my health class. It was shocking, and more than a little scary, but our teacher brushed off our concerns with a simple "But don't worry, women do it every day." Now, as an adult, I frequently lead stories that play it down like it's nothing, and it's infuriating. The ways we understate how extreme childbirth is does a disservice to moms and women as a whole.
The news stories surrounding childbirth tend to look at it as a rote occurrence that isn't truly a disruptive factor in a woman's life. It has not even been a blip on the radar of the United States until this election cycle that just so happens to be chockfull of female candidates. We hear about "orgasmic births" and "bikini cut" C-sections. The first is something most women can not achieve, and the second is a cute name for the gaping hole cut into our bodies through which our organs are displaced and babies are pulled from the viscera of our loins.
I'm not saying that we should return to the days of dark fear over the prospect of childbirth. What I am saying is that it's an extreme action for our bodies to accomplish, and that by downplaying it, we're only hurting ourselves by allowing society to place expectations upon us during a time when we should be healing. We are also negating the true impact it has on women, and the emotions that surround us.
1. "It Happens All The Time"
Sure, according to estimates, about 255 babies are born every minute. That's a lot of childbirth. However, it's a poor response to the very valid concerns about giving birth and the very real impact that it has on women's lives.
Also, there is a good reason for women to be apprehensive about childbirth, especially in the United States. A report by NPR showed that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of the developed world. Black women in particular are vulnerable to complications in childbirth, as reported by the New York Times, which noted that "black women are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes as their white counterparts."
2. C-Sections Are No Big Deal Anymore
We call it a "bikini cut," we hear jokes about how much easier it is, how it's not really childbirth. "They're so safe now," people say.
As someone who has witnessed more than one C-section, I will tell you that it is certainly real childbirth, and it is very much a real, intense surgery that requires special consideration during the postpartum period.
Until you've seen someone's small intestines lifted out of someone's abdomen to pull out a baby head the size of an overgrown pomelo — or had it done to you — you have no idea how real it is.
Mad, mad props to my C-section moms.
3. The "Husband" Stitch
This one makes me madder than a scorched racoon just trying to steal some barbecue.
You know what? Having someone's child via a small canal on your body is going to change some things. Things might not be as "in shape" as they were before, according to the National Health Service. Your slip and slide fun times might require artificial slipperiness. Lube is a thing — buy some. Kegels work wonders.
Do you know what shouldn't change some things? A doctor wanting to make baby making a bit more fun for the husband, therefore ensuring repeat business. The husband stitch is a real phenomenon that is messing with women's lives and it needs to stop.
4. "This Celebrity Gave Birth Without Making A Sound"
We've all heard the stories about celebrity moms who gave birth without uttering a sound. I don't care if it's possible. I actually know a woman who has done it, we're good friends, and she's a zen creature from another planet whom I love.
As for me, my first birth was unmedicated, and I screamed like the hospital was on fire and I was trying to warn the other patients. I screamed like I won the lottery while being doused in gold flakes. I hollered like I was a part of a demonic yodeling contest, and that was perfectly normal.
5. The Expectation That We'll Be Out & About Right Away
I've given birth a few times, and nothing makes me madder when I think about it than how I pushed myself to get out of the house and active right after they were born. I live in New York City and had family come in to visit the baby from out of town, and I felt the need to entertain them and go to a food festival, see the sights, all the while I was bleeding the Niagara into my diaper-sized pad and popping ibuprofen just to stand upright.
There is an expectation that childbirth is so common that women should be active immediately. Seriously, most of us go back to work in a month or two, but our bodies are sore and beat up, and we're exhausted and leaking. It's ridiculous.
6. It Should Be The Happiest Time In Your Life
Postpartum depression and anxiety are a real thing. So is the lesser known postpartum psychosis. I spoke to doula and motherhood expert Rebekah Borucki, and asked her what she thought was the biggest problem surrounding childbirth, and she stated unequivocally that there is a serious lack of mental health support given to new mothers. Instead, we tell them how happy they should be. We tell them how important it is to "bond" with your baby.
We don't talk about how women need to put the oxygen masks on themselves first, and we need to.
7. We Idolize Celebrities Who Lose The Baby Weight Seemingly Overnight
You know what? Gaining those 35 or whatever pounds took nine months to do. There is zero reason why we need to pressure women to lose it in an instant by lionizing women who do it because their entire livelihoods depend upon it. (Which is also unfair and unreasonable, but that's another story.)
Making a human, birthing that human, and then caring for that human while you're recovering is a big deal, and really hard. You're doing your best, mama, and I see you.