Climbing the birth mountain……….
So, I was at another birth at the weekend, a little girl born to very heroic parents after a really long and tough but incredible experience. Despite the long hours and the hard work, the culmination in a healthy mummy and baby brought all the tears of amazement and jubilation that an easier birth would have. Like all births, it was filled with its share of truly magical moments; the gentle touch of amazing midwives, whose capacity to dish out true kindness to strangers must be almost unrivalled, little intimacies between the mother and father that make you feel so glad for their baby, and as always, a mother who digs deep and then deeper still to find reserves even when they can only have run dry. I never fail to be amazed at the courage of women in labour, and their ability to find their own way- usually unplanned- of getting themselves through.
But I also never fail to marvel at how hard labour can be. And that is the reason I am writing, because as time fades, the magnitude of the birth fades and we are left with just the happy cocktail and the amazing moments. But it is important that we recognise as well how big, how awesome and how plain hard it can be to give birth, especially first time around.
That is not to say that I in any way go back on the creeds I have lived by the last ten years as a birth teacher. I maintain that the mind plays a huge part in the process and that being positive and embracing the experience will definitely make it easier. I maintain that the body really does know what to do and that a good birth is a truly amazing experience and one that I would like more mothers to have the benefit of. But at no time should we get complacent and think that first time around it could or will ever be a walk in the park. Even an easy birth has its hard parts. And it’s those bits, the hurdles, that we need not only to be realistic about but to truly prepare for.
Being honest about birth is not designed to put you off. This is no horror story. Far from it. But the story of birth is a proper kaleidoscopic one, that brings with it an avalanche of physical, mental and emotional experiences, and recognising that it will in all likelihood be the biggest experience of your whole life is unequivocally a good thing. Birth, easy or hard, will require at some point, every bit of reserve, grit and steely determination you can find, but I am yet to look after a woman in labour who hasn’t got them all in spades. We are- if I may say so myself- truly amazing.
Whilst there are many reasons that a natural birth is a good thing, starting on the path of motherhood having proved to yourself that you are really quite extraordinary, probably more so than you ever knew, is a pretty good way to start. For as magic as motherhood is, there will undoubtedly be times when the ability to dig deep and to surprise yourself will be a very useful tool. Patience, steely grit, determination and finding those extra reserves when they have all but run out is part and parcel of a good birth, and a very necessary part of motherhood too. As is often said, ‘birth is just the beginning’.