Sometimes it is a very bittersweet honour; that despite Mum doing all she can to prepare herself for a positive birth, sometimes things just don’t go the way she planned and I sense huge disappointment, or even shame. In fact, this was my own experience, and for a very brief while, I was a little ashamed that I had ended up having an emergency c-section. When my own Daisy Birthing™ teacher, Julie Keys (The Daisy Foundation Lanarkshire) offered to share my birth story in her online community, I told her she didn’t have to as it wasn’t a “Daisy” birth. She immediately dismissed my comment, asked if I had birthed my baby (he was there as evidence), and told me that of course it was a “Daisy” birth, and that all birth journeys are equally relevant and important. This meant so much to me; I had prepared for a positive birth, I had laboured using my Daisy techniques, I had confidently opted for some of the pain relief options we had spoken about in class, and I ultimately had a very positive experience with exceptional care from my midwives and medical team. So why did I feel ashamed?
Time and time again, I hear of women being “shamed” for the options they chose during labour. As a society, we perceive that a birth using no pain relief, and with no intervention is held as the “platinum” standard against which all other births should be measured. Yet paradoxically (as a society), we don’t celebrate those births, instead we tell women how awful the whole thing is and that they should “take all the drugs”. I hear of women who are embarrassed to “admit” that they had diamorphine, or an epidural or who feel that they failed in some way by having to “resort” to them. I hear of women who used no pain relief being referred to as “hippies” and those who are planning to use as little as possible being told to “wise up and be realistic”. I hear of women who are told they are “too posh to push” after c-sections, or even worse that they “didn’t really give birth”. Talk about setting women up to fail!
January Harshe’s (Birth Without Fear) quote sums up exactly how I feel about birth and women’s birth stories. My greatest professional thrill is a Mummy telling me that she had a positive birth – however that played out for her. I’ve seen the full range of birth stories, from the home birthing Mum who didn’t take a single thing, to Mums who opt for each form of pain relief they possibly can. Whose birth is better? The Mum who feels that she had options and that she was respected is always the answer.
There is no doubt that there are some risks with pain relief, but arguably there are benefits too – otherwise what would be the point? What matters in birth is informed choice and respect. I love teaching women (and their partners) about informed choice. The misconceptions around childbirth and what your options are is still staggering (thanks in part to how birth is portrayed in mainstream media and the stories / beliefs we pass on in society). The wide eyes of a women discovering you don’t have to be on the bed to have a baby, or the gradual realisation that birth can be a positive experience are personal highlights of mine in class!
In my private community which houses nearly 750 women who have attended my classes over the last 3 years, the posts which often get the most attention are the birth stories. Sometimes women want to share every last detail, and sometimes just a mention that their baby is here. I constantly worry that women will fret in the same way that I did; maybe their birth story isn’t “good” enough to be shared, maybe they don’t want people to know they had an epidural, maybe it wasn’t the experience they hoped it would be.
I want to tell each woman that I am always immensely proud to share her news; whatever way her birth has played out. Of course, my favourite stories as the ones where she felt empowered, confident and positive, but they are all equally relevant and it is how she felt, and not what she did that really matters. I am privy to lots of information and know that positive birth stories come in all shapes and sizes! Shaming women for their choices, or making them feel as if they didn’t really birth their baby has got to stop. If a baby came out (regardless of which route it took), she still birthed her baby. If Mum chose pain relief and it helped her to cope, she still birthed her baby!
For any woman who feels that her body failed her in birth, let me encourage you to take a moment to realise the miracle that it is to conceive, grow and nurture your baby. How could that be classed as any kind of failure? Some of our babies need a helping hand out, or mum needs a helping hand along the way – and that’s ok! For those women who are failed by our system, I am so desperately sad that this can happen, and often those women are the ones who blame themselves or their bodies when they have been failed by a lack of respect or choices removed without discussion. If you feel this has happened to you, get in touch so I can signpost you to some resources which can help. We are rarely more vulnerable than when we are in labour which is why informed choice is so vital.
The miracle of childbirth is something to behold, and I want to encourage each of you, especially those of you reading this having felt as if you did something “wrong”, to celebrate what your bodies did in creating and growing your babies. Whatever way your baby was welcomed in to the world, you rock!!
To prepare for a positive birth, Daisy Birthing™ classes combine gentle pregnancy yoga style movement, evidence based antenatal education & wonderful relaxation to help you to prepare confidently to make informed choices on your big day. Contact Jess on 07793 727543 for more information or visit www.thedaisyfoundation.com
Jess also co-chairs Positive Birth Movement – Mid Ulster & Mid Antrim and would be happy to welcome you to any of our regional meetings which take place in Ballymena & Magherafelt.