Stacey Solomon has opened up about giving birth for the first time, saying it made her question her own mortality.
The TV personality, who is set to return to screens in a new series of Sort Your Life Out on January 25, spoke to HuffPost UK about her experience of birth when she had her eldest son Zachary in her late teens.
Solomon, now 33, is set to give birth to her fifth child any day now, and was reflecting on her first birth – and what she might say to others experiencing it for the first time.
“I guess there’s a fine line between telling women something that might scare them or telling them something that might empower them,” she told HuffPost UK.
“I always feel like honesty is the best policy because, when I had Zachary, I felt extremely blindsided by people just saying: ‘Don’t worry, it hurts a little bit but it doesn’t matter, people do it again and again and you’ll forget about the pain,’ and [being] kind of dismissive of the fact that it’s a huge physiological thing for your body to go through.”
The experience of birth for the first time made Solomon feel really vulnerable. “I remember when I had my first, it was probably the first time I questioned my own mortality,” she said.
“Up until that point I thought I was pretty invincible and I would never die, whereas I felt like the experience of birth made me feel like I was very vulnerable and, all of a sudden, very human – and at any time, anything could happen to me.”
She caveats that she would never give unsolicited advice to a woman who’s about to give birth, “but if anyone wanted to know my personal experience and advice, it would be that for your first time, it can be really scary and daunting.
“It is a pain that you’ve probably never experienced before in your life. If you can, find it in you to be empowered by that. By the fact that it’s a huge, huge, massive thing that your body’s about to do ... which is quite incredible.”
Something she feels is important for new parents to know is that “you might not instantly feel love for that child that you’ve just birthed, which is completely normal – which I didn’t know”.
While you’ll often see this kind of representation on TV and in films, it’s not quite how it goes for lots of new parents, who will need more time to bond. For many, it’s much more of a gradual process.
Birth can also trigger “a huge mix of emotions,” the star said, encouraging prospective parents to “be prepared for that” – and to be unafraid to talk about it, or ask somebody about it.
Solomon is married to actor Joe Swash, 40, and has two children with him – Rose, 15 months, and Rex, three – as well as two other children from previous relationships: Leighton, 10 and Zachery, 14.
Echoing something many new parents – particularly mums – can relate to, the TV personality urged people giving birth to “stick to their guns” during labour.
“I regret putting my birth completely into someone else’s hands because I was so scared,” she said.
“When you have your first baby, you feel at the mercy of every other woman or health professional around you because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’ve never done it before, but there will certain parts of you that have some instinct.
“You might feel a certain way, you might want to stand a certain way, or push a certain way, or do something a certain way – and you know what, although you have never done it before, trust yourself.”
Her message to fellow mums – especially as she prepares to give birth herself – is an empowering one, of listening to your body and advocating for your needs.
“If you feel like someone is telling you to do something that goes against what your body and mind is telling you you should do, then stick with your guns,” she said.
“If someone tells you to sit down or lay down and you want to get on the floor and roar, you just do what you’ve got to do.”
Sort Your Life Out airs on BBC One and iPlayer from Wednesday January 25 at 9pm.