Is it insensitive to say you enjoy giving birth?
As Holly Willoughby sparks anger by saying it’s ‘the best experience ever’… Is it insensitive to say you enjoy giving birth?
- Holly Willoughby spoke about the joys of labour with a listener on This Morning
- Clover Stroud has been shamed into silence about best day of her life
- Helena Frith Powell says Holly’s experience can lead to women feeling cheated
Clover (pictured) says she has been shamed into silence about saying giving birth was the best day of her life
By Clover Stroud
The pain of childbirth is often des-cribed as a secret women keep from one another, but in my experience, the opposite is true.
I have often sat with friends while they trade gruesome birth stories that sound more like life on a battlefield. But if you admit you actually enjoy it, and feel empowered by it — as I do — you will be labelled a ‘weirdo’.
To me, giving birth is the least horrendous and challenging aspect of motherhood.
So I applaud the way TV presenter Holly Willoughby has spoken out so boldly about the potential joys of labour, urging a listener on This Morning who was giving birth over Christmas to ‘really enjoy it!’ She added that, for her, labour was ‘the best experience ever’.
I hear you Holly! I have given birth five times, and although each one was terrifyingly painful, they were all, without doubt, the best and most extraordinary days of my life.
Yet, I often feel shamed into silence about this, as if saying this other-worldly experience is incredible, will upset those who haven’t felt the same, or worse, be seen as boasting.
I’m not, for a moment, saying labour wasn’t agony, or that I wasn’t scared by the way my body was behaving, during each of these five labours, but that didn’t cancel out how amazing it was, either.
I’m lucky that nothing went wrong and I do not underestimate how frightening it must be to go through a labour where emergency intervention is needed. But, just as our children are all individuals, so too are our experiences of birthing them.
It is important to remind women that labour can be — and often is — a truly awe-inspiring rite of passage.
I don’t want to feel ashamed for having enjoyed it, or told I should keep quiet, just because other women haven’t felt the same.
Motherhood is hard enough without being told to be silent about the moments of real joy, so I cheer Holly for being brave enough to be so outspoken, and hope it will encourage other women to do the same without fearing they will be called a freak.
There is, after all, a lot about motherhood I don’t really like.
If you gave me the choice between cooking supper and doing bath and bedtime with my three youngest children, or giving birth again, I’d go for birth, every time.
Helena (pictured) argues holding up childbirth as a close-to-sublime experience will inevitably lead to women feeling either cheated or like failures
By Helena Frith Powell
Sitting in a fibreglass tub at a birthing centre in Crowborough, East Sussex, 22 years ago, many things went through my mind as I worked to welcome my first child into the world.
‘When is this going to stop?’ being the most predominant, followed closely by ‘Why the hell did I opt for a natural childbirth?’
I didn’t speak much during the ordeal, except to announce to my birthing partner (a doctor friend whom I decided early on in my pregnancy would be more useful than my husband) that ‘this really, really hurts,’ and once when I demanded of some poor innocent gardener outside the window ‘who the **** mows the lawn at a time like this?’
Adjectives that best describe the day include agonising, excruciating, even unbearable. But at no point did the word ‘magical’ pop into my mind. There was not a single moment, even when it was finally over, that I would describe as anywhere close to approaching my ‘best experience ever’.
I’m thrilled Holly Willoughby has such positive memories of her three births, and perhaps there are many women out there just like her. But for the ones who are pregnant and have been gently contemplating (as I did) that the arrival of this baby is likely to hurt, don’t feel there is anything wrong if you’re not enjoying the prospect as much as Holly. I would argue that she is in a blessed minority, with a pain threshold to rival Iron Man’s.
And I’m not sure how helpful it is to hold up childbirth as a close-to-sublime experience, as it will inevitably lead to women feeling either cheated or like failures if they feel the way I did. Which, I predict, is most of us. I can count on no fingers at all the number of girlfriends who called me after giving birth, chirruping about how jolly marvellous it was.
The second time round, I opted for a caesarean. And the third time, with no excuse for a caesarean, I went for as many drugs as were legal. Although better than the first experience, I can’t honestly say I relished either of them. And this in spite of an obstetrician who gave Grey’s Anatomy’s McDreamy a run for his money.
As to the popular myth that you forget the pain of childbirth, well up to a point you do… until you go into labour again. The night before my caesarean, my contractions began. They were the first ones, spaced out and barely noticeable. But I remembered the agonising pain that followed them straightaway. And all I could think was: ‘Thank God I’m not going through that again.’
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