The theme of our July issue (on shelves now) is confidence and reading all the amazing stories of women celebrating their confidence got me thinking about how important confidence is for us when we are giving birth. Now, I accept that some people reading the headline: Why Giving Birth Was The Best Night Of My Life, may feel a very strong urge to punch me at this moment. I feel you. I kinda feel like punching me too but hear me out.
Giving birth was not something I ever expected to enjoy. I was fully expecting to have a horrific ordeal, especially if the accounts of the other mothers I knew were anything to go by. I presumed that I'd have a forceps delivery after a 22-hour labour with a dud epidural and someone playing 'not touching, can't get mad' with my face throughout. It came as a huge shock to me when I found it to be awesome in the true sense of the word - my mother still thinks I'm totally bonkers by the way.
My friends seemed to be firmly divided into two camps: The 'get the epidural as fast as you can' side - whose tales of needles in spines frankly terrified me - and the ones who went drug-free - crazy b*tches with whom I felt I had nothing in common basically.
This was the birth of my second child and I?had already developed a strong fear because of a very surreal, unpleasant c-section birth with my first'son. Thankfully everything went smoothly with that c-section but I still felt very disassociated from the experience which I think impacted really negatively on the early days of his life. A difficult birth is a tricky thing to open up about because of course, the aim is to safely deliver the baby and if you are leaving the hospital with a beautiful baby in your arms then you are already profoundly lucky and it feels petty to dwell on the often very difficult circumstances of our deliveries.
However, a woman's experience of giving birth needs to be minded and our excellent but sadly pretty strained care system often doesn't have the resources to be as nurturing as individual mothers need. I'm talking about ME basically. I needed nurturing. I needed a hug and a valium and a G & (GODDAMN) T, dammit - a small person was apparently about to exit my body for God's sake. As the due date drew nearer, I began to obsessively fixate on the baby's pending entrance (or 'Baby-mageddon' as I often referred to it, depending on how nihilistic I was feeling towards the process).
"The human race put a man on the moon, why are we still making people inside people?" I'd rage to anyone who'd listen. "Even just from an engineering point of view, it makes no sense."
The pre-birth anxiety started to crescendo when we attended the birth prep class. As a mother who had previously had a c-section, I was in a special class that seemed to have even more horrifying details about the birth than your average antenatal course. In an extremely unpopular move, The Man (implanter of this parasite... I mean... baby) actually left the class early, such is his low-tolerance for disgusting details. As partaking in the birth was not optional for me, I felt I?needed to take some positive action if I was going to get the baby out with less trauma than last time. I decided to quiz some of the friends who seemed to have had positive birth experiences and noticed that the term 'GentleBirthing' kept coming up among the one's who had skipped the epidural.
I should point out that while I was still petrified of the entire endeavor, I had now organised the terror into different levels in ascending order:
Fear 3) The Birth; Fear 2) Having a botched epidural; Fear 1) Having another c-section. Since the birth would definitely be taking place one way or another, it was starting to seem like a bit of a no-win situation. I decided to give the Hypnobirthing a shot. I would like to stress at this point that I did not have any faith that a melodic voice whispering platitudes in my ear would help in getting this conniving baby out of me. And then I got the shock of my life when it totally did.
The experience of giving birth to my second son is honestly one of my most treasured memories. This is going to sound insane but if I could go back in time and do it again, I totally would. Madness. Even I know this is madness and I'm the one saying it. I used an app called GentleBirth created by Irish midwife, Tracey Donegan and to say I am evangelical about it, is the understatement of the century. I absolutely credit Tracey Donegan's GentleBirth method along with a bit of luck from the birthing gods for having a beautiful birthing experience, such a contrast to my first. The app is tailored to each user and sets you homework of hypno sessions to listen to each day. I think what the app did for me was remove the fear of the birth. The language used in the sessions is empowering and positive and supports all birth choices. It gave me the confidence to trust in my own body which is exactly what we need in that moment.
"GET. THE. GENTLEBIRTH APP." I obnoxiously scream into the face of every pregnant woman I meet. I know how irritating it is being pregnant and being constantly targetted with unsolicited advice, however, every mother needs Tracey Donegan whispering in their ear while they prepare for birth.
Get the GentleBirth app here.