I know when some people read this, they're going to say pregnant woman are under enough pressure. Articles like this, promoting birth as a wonderfully positive experience just add to the pressure. But I say tosh.
It's time for more of us to start shouting to the majority of women in the western world that birth is a normal, natural event that doesn't need to feel like hell.
And when I say feel like hell, I'm not actually talking about pain. I know from experience you can feel extremely distanced from the bodily sensations of labour. I felt intensity, but it really wasn't enough to break me out in a sweat. And no, my recollection wasn't just nature's handy way of helping me forget what just happened so I could focus on my baby.
One of the first things my midwife asked me once I'd birthed my placenta (which took bloody ages by the way) and I was holding my beauty in my arms was, "you didn't feel any pain did you?" It wasn't that there wasn't any pain, but I wasn't engaged in it. It didn't feel scary. I was...distanced. And I have worked with many women who say they have birthed in complete comfort. But this isn't a post about labour having to be pain-free for your birth to be amazing. I am completely clear on the plethora of testimonials I receive every month: when a woman feels no fear, she is more likely to birth in less pain. Because when there is less resistance to what her body is naturally doing, it makes birth easier. There is no fight. She is not battling against her body, she is working with it.
But this post is about expectation.
As women, we have so much to thank our mothers and our grandmothers for. There was a time, when we were expected to sit at home, preparing the tea, cleaning the house and completing 'a woman's work' without fuss. That mindset shift means in society today, we expect something very different when it comes to the choices we want to make for our lives.
We expect more.
We expect more in life, in work, for our children, for ourselves in so many areas.
However, when it comes to birth, for the most part, what do we expect? Not enough. We resign ourselves to the angry, disempowering, undignified images perpetuated by TV.
We engross ourselves in the 'let me tell you about my battle scar' conversation at the water cooler. And we pass on the, 'don't expect too much, you'll be sorely disappointed' baton from one woman to the next.
For all of the pregnant women out there who are not doing hypnobirthing courses, going to your local Positive Birth Movement meet-up, or finding your own path that enables you to feel fully informed - which is so much more than just going to a NCT class. For those of you who genuinely believe that birth is simply a means to an end, something to get through.
What if someone could show you it doesn't need to be like that?
What if, you could understand why birth can feel like a nightmare sometimes and the specific things you could do to pre-empt and avoid those situations?
What if could learn tools and techniques that would help eliminate the fear surrounding your ability to give birth, so you could go into labour feeling calm and confident?
What if you were able to build up your resources so even if your birth doesn't play out as planned, you could look back on it and still say you enjoyed a really positive experience anyway?
Does any of that sound remotely appealing?
You can have that. It's here for the taking. All you have to do is raise your expectations and start seeking out the people who have been there, done it and help other women do it every day.
By choosing to empower yourself with the information you need, to be able to take control and make informed decisions about your birth, you build the ideal foundation required to create the positive experience every woman and baby deserves.