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Birth Stories

Why is it that when you announce that you are to have your appendix out, or a wisdom tooth pulled, everyone rallies around you with mutterings of support and casual ‘You’ll be all right’s, yet upon announcing that you are pregnant, you get relayed nothing but birth horror stories? Thirty-six hour labours, forceps deliveries, emergency dashes to the hospital. And turn on the television and any birth scene is depicted as traumatic, terrifying and torturous. If, as the writer Ben Okri says, nations are the stories that they tell themselves, is it any wonder that as few as 3% of births in this country are truly natural? Are stories of birth as at best an ordeal to be endured self- fulfilling prophecies? Is it possible that by continuously feeding ourselves stories of difficulty, we create the very thing we fear? Fear is one of the biggest impediments to labour and the more fear we cast, the more we make birth difficult for women. In many cultures, long births are unheard of and women never speak of the pain of labour. We need to recognise the extent to which birth is culturally conditioned and instead of simply accepting the stories, search a little deeper. When you try, it is equally not so difficult to find good, even amazing stories. Many many a woman has said to me that giving birth was simply the most extraordinary thing she had ever done and that she marvelled at her capacity to cope. These are the voices that need heard.

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