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Image / Parenthood

Childbirth: Is ignorance ever bliss?


By Amanda Cassidy
15th Sep 2023
Childbirth: Is ignorance ever bliss?

A friend of mine is pregnant. And she’s terrified. Her fear is based on the unknown – she has no idea what it’s really like. But it’s also based on the known – her own mother had a difficult birth with her and talked about it in great detail in the hope her daughter might be as prepared as possible for what may come.

It’s left my friend tense and afraid. But isn’t everyone’s experience different? When it comes to childbirth, how much detail should we share about our own experiences? Do we have a duty to spell out the process from start to finish? Are those qualified to educate about childbirth doing a good enough job?

Tough

29-year-old scriptwriter Emily believes that she should have known more about the challenges when it came to having her son. “It kills me to admit it but I wasn’t in love with my boy from day one. The first ten weeks of his life was a blur, as if I was watching from above. Someone handed him to me and expected me to know what to do. I was overwhelmed and ill-prepared. I wasn’t sure what I was doing.”

In Emily’s opinion, it was as a result of her childbirth.

“For some reason I thought I’d be the one who’d sail through it. At the back of my mind I knew labour might take up to eight hours but I just assumed that wasn’t going to be me. I never thought I’d be the one throwing up or having to be rushed into an emergency c-section.”

But how else might Emily have been prepared?

Peers

‘You know birth is the means to the end but when you are pregnant you are only focused on the baby – on the life you are going to give it, on nesting and meal prepping and making sure the buggy is ready. The antenatal class was a novelty but thinking back, I’d have much preferred to have had a peer-group to answer any questions I might have had.

I had friends also pregnant, we moaned about heartburn and swollen ankles but when it came to birth preparation, all I knew was I needed a bobbin for my hair and lip balm. Once the pain really started and the midwives were rushing about, I felt extremely alone, and totally terrified. I think that’s what prompted the period of time after my son was born when I felt too overwhelmed by all of it.”

But how much information is too much? And is ‘the ostrich effect’ having an impact on the decision to ‘wing it’?

Information aversion called the ostrich effect comes from the myth that when ostriches are in danger, bury their heads in the sand. It can be used referring to some who prefer to ignore bills if in difficult financial situations but it also applies to medical decisions.

“It’s a form of denial,” explains medical psychologist Laura Dolman. “But there are also consequences of not knowing.”

Control

I was on the other end of the spectrum. I wanted to know every tiny detail about the c-section that I’d been scheduled to have. I read books about it, watched YouTube videos of c-sections. I hyper-focused on every last detail so I wouldn’t be caught off guard.

For my friend, she’s starting to realise that how her birth goes is really out of her control. There are certain things that she can prepare for, friends she can talk to but ultimately, if the information is available, it’s up to the individual to choose to seek it or not.

Of course, there’s always something that crops up that you haven’t considered. Or that friend who harps on about the horror story parts. What we need to talk about more are the positives. yes it’s painful and scary sometimes, but it’s also joyful, life-changing, beautiful.

And that’s the paradox of motherhood – the bad parts are also the good parts. And you will never really be prepared for exactly what come next.

Feature image via Jimmy Conover @Unsplash

This article was originally published in April 2023.