Labour (not the Jeremy Corbyn kind.)
Alongside sex, it is one of the most natural human occurrences there is. Nearly half of the population are likely to experience it at least once in their lives. Almost every woman I know either has or plans to. The women that I pass in the street, women that I’ve read about or have seen on T.V, the women that I’ve yet to meet, they’ve done it too. And if they haven’t yet, they probably will.
I’ve wanted to write about my experience of labour for a long time but I’ve struggled to find the words. Partly, because I question whether it is remotely interesting. Countless women will give birth during my lifetime, many in less fortunate or more exciting circumstances than mine. My birth story is tinier than a drop in the sea. But, that’s not really important, is it? No, the reason I’ve found it hard to put pen to paper is that it is something which I’ve been avoiding thinking about since it happened. Of course, that hasn’t worked and I’ve ended up constantly avoiding whilst simultaneously obsessing over something that happened almost a year ago now.
At first, I think it is normal to recount. When you’ve been through something so physically and emotionally draining, especially if it doesn’t quite go to plan; it really knocks you for six. It’s hard not to try to remember and relive what happened because; you can’t believe that it really happened that way. I was never intent on a way that my labour should pan out, but after it did I was gobsmacked that that’s what labour really was. I don’t think anything could have prepared me. For me, that fear hasn’t gone away. I’d had lots of women explain ‘‘oh, you’ll forget the pain as soon as you hold your baby’’ but I didn’t.
That feeling when you see your baby for the first time is indescribable. It redefines the meaning of beautiful. But, it didn’t miraculously erase the umpteen hours of pain that we took to get there like I’d hoped. It still hasn’t. In fact, I’ve found myself thinking about it more than usual recently. Maybe because Malala is approaching one and I’m feeling sentimental, or perhaps it’s because the prospect of having to go through it again one day seems closer now then when she was a fresh little babe.
I’ve never been entirely sure whether what I went through was normal, or abnormal or if there even is such thing when it comes to having a baby. What I do know is that I’ve not heard anyone else ever speak about labour in this way (I’m not trying to put anyone off, I swear!) It could be that I was not prepared for the physical and emotional shock that labour brings. During my labour, I was so intent on doing us proud that I wasn’t really there, and then afterwards you are so overcome with emotion and you now have a teeny baby in your arms so again, there really isn’t the time to dwell. It was only since leaving the hospital and beginning to feel myself again that I began to question how something so integral to us can be so traumatic.
I am unbelievably grateful to live in a place with such remarkable health care, to have a supportive family around me and to have had a healthy baby. I know how fortunate I am and I feel pangs of guilt just writing that I found the experience traumatic as I know that there are so many women less supported than I am. For ages, I have reminded myself this in an attempt to just ‘get over it’ but I’m still thinking about it regularly, which is something that I didn’t think would happen.
There is truth in ‘time heals all wounds’ but right now I’m still scared. I’m scared to do it again and I so desperately don’t want to be.