Thursday, February 03, 2005

Childbirth is a pain in the....

So I received an email today from an old school friend – Ajay – who tells me that his wife has given birth to a healthy baby girl. 7lb 3 oz – mother and baby are doing fine. All very nice you might think. Except the medical details didn’t end there. For some reason Ajay saw fit to tell me (and the 100+ other multiple recipients of his round robbin email) that labour began at home with mild contractions, that the baby was born in the pool of the local birthing centre and that his wife delivered her as-yet-unnamed daughter without the assistance of any pain relief.

It was the first message I read when I got to the office and I was half way through eating an egg muffin. Lesson of the day: Do not eat a hot egg muffin while reading about the ins and outs of someone else’s obstetric experiences. You lose all appetite and the yolk ends up running down your shirt. Not a great look.

And why tell us that she gave birth without the assistance of any pain relief? What is there to boast about?? Why would you go through the most painful procedure known to (wo)man without pain relief? Can you imagine a man doing this? Have you ever heard of a bloke who opts to have his tonsils out without anaesthetic? And yet somehow, we women have convinced ourselves that the truest experience of childbirth has to be pain-relief-free. Why? When did childbirth become a competitive sport? Have these wimmin any notion of how it makes the rest of us lesser mortals feel? I have spoken to so many new mothers who feel that they’ve let themselves or (worse) their babies down by relying on gas and air, or pethidin, or – god-forbid – an epidural. And as for anyone who’s had a caesarean. They’re made to feel like utter failures.

Childbirth is painful. You spend hours looking rubbish, in a room that smells of dettol and feeling like you’re being ripped apart by a red-hot machete. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. And anything that alleviates the pain has to be a good thing. Convincing women that childbirth is actually a beautiful experience that would be ruined by pain-relief is, at best, inaccurate and, at worst, cruel. Pain relief does not make you a bad mother and does not affect how well you bond with your child. Raising pregnant women’s expectations about their birth experiences only serves to make them feel disappointed when the reality proves to be very different. And it causes them to waste precious emotions that should be showered on their new baby. So bring on the pethidin, the gas and air, and the epidural needle. I’m having all three next time.

And don’t even get me started on the birth pool! Where were these people when we learned the difference between land mammals and amphibians??

Okay. Rant over. I’m off to wish Ajay congratulations on the birth of his baby daughter. And ask him how the placenta tasted.

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