Birth stories: why you won’t be hearing mine.

*trigger warning: despite the title there is a bit of birth talk in this post*

When I was a new mum doing the drinking-coffee-with-one-hand-rocking-pram-with-the-other-attempting-to-maintain-a-half-decent-conversation-thing was part of the deal. Admittedly a much nicer part than the crying at sleep-deprivation and poo-handling bits. It helped me bond with my fellow mums, mostly because we frequently did the too-much-information-thing. You know, talking about the colour of poo; the state of your boobs; your distinct lack of lobedo. Oh yes, small talk becomes a whole new ball game once babies are involved.

Of course, on the top of all our over-sharing lists was the birth itself. With slightly pained expressions, we’d ask each other if the birth was ‘okay’ and wait to see what was divulged. Some would give a short account; 40 hours, exhausting, natural delivery. Others would go into much more detail. This was not because they wanted the attention, nor were they playing bad-birth top trumps, they just needed their stories to be heard, especially by those who could have some genuine empathy.

In those early months I talked birth a lot. The funny thing was I never really wanted to talk about it at all. For me, labour was traumatic. About a thousand people tell you ‘nothing can prepare you for it’ when you’re pregnant, to this you might nod sagely in agreement. But then it happens and you realise: nothing can prepare you for it. Nothing. This isn’t to scare any one or say that antenatal classes are useless; I am very glad that I went to NCT and in some ways it did prepare me. But this is the queen of visceral experiences and, as such, no one can quite put it into words. And I’m not just talking long labours or assisted births (I’ve given my two pence about ‘good births‘ before). I know women who have had 7-hour labours and delivered in the pool and felt, well, frankly, fucked. Feeling like that myself, but not really being able to articulate it, meant it was not easy for me to talk about births, or hear about them. A swell of dread would rise in me at the mere mentioned; sort of like a flashback. It was not pleasant.

Despite my internal panics, I continued with the chat. In fact, often I would initiate the chat. Why, Dear Reader? WHY? Someone would make an offhand comment and I’d follow it up with a question. Then, before you know it, BOOM! This is a proper conversation with details and what not. As if nursing a baby whilst simultaneously trying to drink a luke-warm cappuccino weren’t enough to cope with on 3 hours sleep. Deary me.

The thing is, I wanted to have these conversations with my new friends and I’m sure they brought us closer together. It is an honour to be admitted into that most viscerally private of experiences, even if all that you learn is that they were scared, or shocked, or awed by the whole thing. I’m glad I know what happened to my friends and that many of their experiences resembled mine. I never thought I would shout I shout the words “I had an episiotomy too!” quite so loudly, or enthusiastically over a table in a public place. Once all of the babies were born our groups’ catchphrase became “where are all these ‘natural births’ then???” as 7 out of 8 of us had some complication or other. Sharing it meant we could laugh about it, just a little bit.

But sometimes, when these type of chats were in a group rather than one-to-one, I’d would feel myself slowly disappearing into an internal world. I remember meeting up with a group once, and a mum who I didn’t really know talking about her birth. I had thought we had passed the ‘how was your birth’ stage by then – I desperately wanted to be – even though it was probably only about 3 months after the fact. I found myself not bloody caring that she’d been sent home because she wasn’t dilated enough, and I certainly didn’t want to know home much hypno-birthing helped her. “Yah, so I started doing my meditations…” Meditations?? WTF??? after 2cm I couldn’t bloody see-straight! (FYI I do not think hypnobirthing isn’t good/genuine/etc, but because at that point I was still in the ‘if I’d done that it would have been better’ place. That place is crap.) The more she shared, and others shared with her, the more urgent the sense of dread became in my body became. If we’re talking ‘fight or flight’ reflexes, mine body was definitely telling me to catch the next flight to Kazakhstan.  So I just sat back in my chair and nodded at the appropriate points, trying to do my best interested/sympathetic expression. But I wasn’t really there, I was hiding somewhere in my head. Which was sad.

To be fair, I had worse. Friends without babies who I told I was ‘upset’ by the birth (and the award for understatement of the year 2013 goes to…) and didn’t really want to talk about it, would often respond by asking questions about the birth or, worse, telling me about ‘really bad‘ births they knew of already. I shit you not, Dear Reader, I shit you not.

And you know, I’m beginning to feel all weird as I write this. I’ve got the anxiety tingles. A year on I still find it hard to think about this stuff. And I’m not even thinking about the actual stuff, I’m thinking about talking about the actual stuff. What strange creatures we are.

Now, I shall get to the point. A lot of bloggers writing eloquently and movingly about their births. Some have managed to turn their traumatic experiences into dark comedies for our enjoyment, whilst others have shared their most profound tragedies in order to raise awareness and comfort others. All of these things are wonderful. But I won’t be reading any of them, I’m afraid. Not for a while yet, any way. And (obvs) I won’t be writing one either. Because it is not a day I want to relive.

I used to feel deeply sad and intensely guilty about not being able to remember my son’s birth fondly. But why should I? It was defo, totes, 100% the most physically traumatic experience of my life (and it wasn’t even a ‘really bad‘ one, bleurgh). Yes, afterwards I had my Bubs, but as I mentioned in the post I have just reblogged, my bond with him took time to form. I didn’t feel the Hollywood-sudden-rush-of-love sensation that makes it ‘all worth it’.

Now,, of course, I couldn’t be happier to have my Bubs (okay, I could be a bit happier when he is screaming in my face). As I may have mentioned before; he is the best. person. ever. (Sozzers other mums, but that is an objective fact!) And thought I am happy about the fact he was born (understatement of the year 2014) ; I will never be happy about the act of that birth. ‘The fact, not the act’, is actually a little phrase I coined to help me come to terms with my feelings about the it all. Pretty nifty, dontcha think?

When I realised that I never had to be happy about the labour and delivery, that I didn’t need to amalgamate the memory of a horrid stitches infection (TMI?) into some grand “isn’t motherhood wonderful at all times” narrative, it was a major relief. It is probably not a radical statement to say that women don’t  always have to smile fondly and say “it was all worth it!” when recalling the birth of their children, but it feels radical to me! Because, yes, or course it’s bloody worth it, but sometimes I just want to say it was fucking traumatic without a caveat, without any “but now he’s here and…” stuff. Sometimes, things are just shit. And I think going through labour earns us the right to say so!

So, just in case you were hoping to hear all about my birthing experience (weirdo), you won’t be. But I have created this visual aid, just so you’re in the loop:

Nuff said.


If you feel confused or upset by your birth then it might be an idea to talk to a Supervisor of Midwives at your hospital, see more info on my help for you page.

How to feel about retelling your birth? Maybe you adopted and feel left out in these conversations? Have your say by commenting below, go to my facebook page or tweet me @aafew


19 thoughts on “Birth stories: why you won’t be hearing mine.

  1. I had two very different labours and birth experiences (don’t worry, I am not going to give details!). I remember feeling a bit, well, put out after both. Don’t get me wrong I was overjoyed to finally meet my babies, but if felt like I didn’t get enough credit or praise for what I had just been through. I know millions of women have done it before, but that beautiful scrunched up little alien in the onsie, I pushed that out of my fanny! I wanted a fanfare, confetti, chorus girls and people bowing at my feet. I wanted a big fat well done you. Of course my husband said it. But I wanted to hear it from EVERYONE!!! We do not give new mums no where near enough praise for what they have just achieved, whatever their birth story and whether they choose to share it or not.
    Great post 🙂

    • Absolutely! I had a debrief with a supervisor of midwives at our hospital and the best thing that came out of that was her encouragement; she said I’d done really well and should be proud of myself. I highly recommend her!
      But yes, more fanfares please!!!

  2. Felt exactly the same. Found it all very exhausting and traumatic- though I don’t think it was actually all that bad- but felt compelled to take about it constantly for a long time. I also didn’t have the giant rush of love others talk about, but instead the bond with my daughter has just grown and grown. Wouldn’t have it any other way but am in COMPLETE DENIAL that I am going to have to do it all again in 3 blimmin’ months!

  3. I have blogged about one of my children’s birth stories and whilst I feel positive about them both, I do also agree with you that absolutely nothing prepares you for labour and birth, the huge overwhelmingness of it all and the fact that it can be hugely traumatic and many, many women do feel very traumatised as a result of it. It shouldn’t matter how you gave birth, how long your labour was, whether someone else’s experience was more or less traumatic than yours – your experience is what matters to you. The fact that you grew a human being and brought them into the world is a huge thing to be celebrated, a huge achievement. Definitely agree with the comment about more fanfares. Mothers should be celebrated.

    I am so sorry that your birth experience was so traumatic and no, you shouldn’t need to feel that you have to add a caveat to that either. I hope that you have been able to find some kind of healing from the trauma of it all and that talking to a supervisor of midwives has helped you. I do like your ‘fact not the act’ phrase – that’s a very good way of summarising that you are glad that Bubs is here without having to feel like you have to feel that the birth was ‘worth it’.

    Thank you for sharing such an honest post x

    • What a gorgeous comment, thank you so much for that, very encouraging. I have certainly found a lot peace with it all.

      And it’s lovely to hear from someone who feels more positive about their experiences. Maybe I’ll yours a read in a while 🙂

  4. I hated being pregnant and giving birth sucked. Basically from the first time I got a positive test, through to the point where they handed me a baby, that whole bit was just rubbish.

    No one really believes me when I tell them how much I hated it though.

  5. I’ve had one shit one (epidural) and one great one (which was actually quite horrifically painful and I kept begging to die). Both inductions. Never want to do that shit again. Syntocin can kiss my ass.

  6. That bloody “moment” when love radiates from every orrafice as you gaze into your babies eyes… I was too busy talking to the doctors about playing football and having tight stomach muscles (such a distant dream now…) whilst being sewn up as I was mildly delirious and off my tits on gas and air to realise there was a tiny person next to me. Thank you for reminding us that when we do meet another parent we don’t need to spill out all the gory details before we have asked their names!! x

  7. I have the birth story fear. I don’t really talk about it. As I had two c sections (HOW DARE I NOT PUSH A BABY OUT) one male friend said how can you be a REAL woman and not have had a baby out of your fanny. And that is kinda how I feel. I’m not really a woman who has given birth and that makes me sad. I can’t tell my girl how it feels as I don’t know. And that’s awful. Sigh. We all have our little sad things don’t we? x

    • Well, that guy sounds like a dick! That’s such a hard thing to deal with. I felt a bit like that having forceps (hate that word *shudder*) in theatre; like I ‘couldn’t do it’. You know it’s irrational and you carried the baby for 9 months so we’re pretty instrumental in the whole process, but still, it’s not what we imagined, is it?
      Thanks for you comment hun, lots of love xxx

  8. I understand. I still feel very traumatized after my son’s birth and it was five and a half years ago now. I was extremely realistic about it and was ready for severe pain and didn’t have any daft ideas about lavender candles helping and what have you, but when it came to it, I just did not cope, was in absolute agony before I was even 1cm dilated, was having panic attacks all the way through and wanted to die. Then I lost a lot of blood, which made me severely anaemic afterwards. I should have had a blood transfusion, but nobody came to do it, so I didn’t. As a result, I did not recover well from the birth and was a mess for months. (and that’s without telling you a proper birth story, as, like you, I avoid it). It was a tarumatic experience and not one which I wish to repeat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s