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I read this blog post http://coldcoffeeconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/the-lies-we-tell-each-other/ and yes I had tears rolling down my face. Not from laughter as some comments mentioned, but because this is so very very sad. It’s quite ironic really…Just the other day I was having lunch with some lovely people and the conversation turned to birth. And all we got was horror stories – how bad it is, how crappy men are at supporting us, how great gas and epidurals are. The young man involved in the conversation was profoundly relieved to never have to experience childbirth. As a childbirth educator, student doula and birth junkie all I could think was “why don’t we share positive stories about birth?” Why don’t we tell women that childbirth can be (and SHOULD be!!!) the most beautiful thing you will ever experience? Why don’t we tell women that if your birth wasn’t beautiful that’s probably not because birth is not beautiful, but because our maternity “care” system has corrupted it? “If a woman does not look like a goddess during labour, then someone isn’t treating her right” – Ina May Gaskin. In other words – if your birth experience sucks, it’s more likely your care provider’s fault than Mother Nature.

Here are my responses to the “lies” the author was told:

Pregnancy is a beautiful magical time – So the author had a crappy pregnancy and feels that everyone who said that pregnancy is a beautiful, magical time, lied. Guess what? Some people do find that pregnancy is a beautiful magical time!! It doesn’t mean they lied – it just means that your experience was different to theirs. And that’s okay. You don’t have to love being pregnant, and to be honest some of the side effects of pregnancy can be really unflattering, uncomfortable, embarrassing, painful or just plain crappy. “Why in the world would anyone call pregnancy magical?” she asks. I can’t say that I had an easy pregnancy, but the idea that I was growing a whole new person inside me was pretty magical.

The delivery will hurt but once you see that baby’s face it will all be worth it – Firstly, pizzas, letters and cricket balls are delivered – babies are birthed! Secondly after reading the birthing story she put in this section I’m truly not surprised that she isn’t really sure it was worth it. She was “forced” into “questionable” procedures. Denied food and water. Used as a training tool for students. She says that “something so precious shouldn’t burst in to your life under such hateful circumstances.” But here’s the thing. If your baby is being born under “hateful circumstances” then you have a shitty care provider. When you are in labour you should be feeling: safe, loved, secure, strong, powerful, empowered and excited. Yes it is painful (although some lucky women do achieve pain free or orgasmic births!) and incredibly intense, but here it is: BIRTH SHOULD NOT BE TRAUMATIC. For anyone. Ever. Generally speaking if it is – either you are extremely unlucky to have been dealt a shitty hand or you have chosen a shitty care provider. Either way you should seek support and help to heal from this. Birth trauma is a real condition and should not be taken lightly.

Your body knows what to do! It will snap back in no time! – This is a new one for me. Never have I heard anyone say this – although maybe that’s because I had never actually held this as a concern. I just took it for granted that my body will never be the same again. It just grew an entire person FFS – why would I even think that it would just go back to how it was? And to be really honest – why would I want it to? Do I really miss having the body of a teenager…nope. Sorry – but I love having the body of a mother, this body has achieved some awesome shit – and, yes, I have the scars to prove it.

So now that I’ve addressed those things that the original author felt were lies, I will admit that I too came out of my first birth (and second…slow learner here!) astounded by some of the “lies” I was told. I also thought that I could just ask people about pregnancy and birth and I’d find the truth. Never mind the fact that the truth is different for every woman, because every pregnancy and birth is different, but I felt ripped off. I felt that my friends and the world at large had done me a huge disservice. I felt angry, abandoned and traumatised by the “lies” I listened to. So just what were these lies?

Lie number 1:
Hospital is the best and safest place to birth your baby – let’s get this controversial one out of the way first. I’m happy to admit that this isn’t a lie for everyone. For some women hospital really is the best and safest place to birth their baby. However I would suggest that most women who share this lie have never experienced a homebirth, considered a homebirth, researched the stats on homebirth vs hospital birth, spoken to a homebirth midwife, spoken to a homebirth mum or researched the risks associated with hospital birth. If you have done all that and you still feel that hospital is the best place for YOU to birth your baby, that’s all cool. Because here’s another thing – in order to labour and birth most effectively it is really important for mum to feel safe and secure. For some women that means going to hospital. For someone with a phobia of hospitals, that means staying at home. I considered a homebirth for my first baby, but was shot down by my partner. I didn’t know enough about homebirth to fight for it so we compromised and did it his way (don’t worry – there’s an article coming up about men as decision makers during pregnancy and childbirth!). I had always considered hospital to be a place where doctors bully you into tests and procedures that are dangerous, painful and of questionable benefit (after just such an experience in my early 20s) – turns out I was right. Second birth – I researched homebirth, knew it was the option that would make me feel safest and still ended up in hospital. Same thing again (remember, I’m a slow learner!!) – turns out I don’t labour and birth well in hospital. Only time will tell if I’ve actually learned my lesson yet.

Lie number 2:
Your care provider would NEVER recommend something that wasn’t completely totally 100% safe – There is NOTHING that has no risks. If your care provider recommends something and tells you it has “no risks” they are lying. Everything from a vaginal exam to an epidural, continuous monitoring to elective caesarean ALL carry risks. There are even potential risks associated with ultrasounds and prenatal blood testing! Sometimes the risks are physical, but very often the risks we aren’t told of are the psychological ones. Research, research, research!!

Which leads nicely into lie number 3:
You don’t need to learn anything – You just go to the hospital and the midwife will tell you what you need to know / do – Holy crap is this a biggie! I would ask question after question about procedures and what to do during labour etc and the most common response was “You just do whatever the midwife says”. I guess I can sort of understand why people say this – they figure it takes the pressure off them in terms of decision making. But guess what? It doesn’t!! You still have to consent to or decline everything the midwife recommends. You are still the birthing woman and you still hold the responsibility for the decisions you make – because your midwife is not legally allowed to make decisions for you. The other risk with this is – the midwife is hired by the hospital. She has an obligation to follow hospital policies. Not all of these policies are going to be in your best interests…see where I’m going with this? Research, research, research!!!

Lie number 4:
That induction is “no big deal” – This one was the kicker for me. I had done a little research and was aware of some of the risks associated with inductions. I voiced those concerns to my friends on facebook and got a whole heap of responses that basically said “stop worrying. Induction is easy and risk free”. Well blow me down if the “no big deal” induction didn’t cause a huge range of issues. For a start it took almost 60 hours just to get me to go into labour. Cascade of interventions is too gentle of a description for me – it was a train wreck. Caused complications for both me and bub. If you had a “no big deal” induction, you are very lucky! I, on the other hand, came away feeling betrayed and angry that no-one had told me that induction can actually be a very big deal. Research, research, research!!

Lie number 5:
“All that matters is a healthy baby” – I have covered this in a previous post and therefore won’t cover it here. Suffice to say that this is an incredibly damaging lie!

Perhaps the biggest lie of all is that there are any actual truths in pregnancy and birth. I can’t think of one single thing that is true for every single birthing woman. Every pregnancy and birthing journey is different – and even what you found to be true in one pregnancy may change for the next. Just because someone experienced something different to you doesn’t make it a lie, it just means that it’s not the truth for you. All you can do is do your research, use your BRAIN, and make the best decisions for you, your baby and your birthing journey.

What “lies” were you told about pregnancy and birth?