Expectations vs Reality


Having worked with traumatic birth I think I went into birth with very low expectations, which was maybe counterintuitively very helpful for me as I had a long labour and difficult birth but I was ready, in some ways, for that to happen (still bloody hard though!). What would have made it better for me was the aftercare though. The midwives throughout the actual birth were great and discussed things openly. More compassion to me and the other ladies in the ward during the period after birth would have made things easier. I was personally concerned about trauma in the lady next to me and I didn't think this was validated in any way. And when I went back home we ended up going back into hospital, solely due to poor aftercare. However after this I got the most amazing new midwife who I still remember as my superhero until this day. In the light of a bad experience she totally turned the situation round, and validated the terrible experience I had been through. She wasn't scared to ask difficult questions and listened, which was key and I cannot sing her praises highly enough.

My baby was born in the middle of a snow thunderstorm (I never knew before that snow and lightning could occur together). The snow lay on the ground for 6 weeks, and as a new mum I was too scared to take the pram out of the house for fear of slipping on sheet ice or one of the amazing ice stalactites landing on my new baby.

So I stayed at home (except for the odd trip to a neon lit shopping mall) and with the help of the only radio times I buy all year, watched Christmas tv. A marathon of old films, Christmas specials, 70s sitcom repeats, while I developed trenchbum feeding my ever hungry snowbaby (I swear there's still a dent in the sofa where I sat). It was in the middle of one of these tv marathons that my husband came home to find me shouting and screaming at the TV. You can only imagine his face when he found the recipient of my anger was a coronation street Christmas special where a character gives birth (possibly Fizz?).

Why did Fizz and her new baby rile me so much? It was the all too common depiction of a two minute labour followed by a clean baby being placed in the smiling mums arms, which lay in stark contrast to the long, exhausting and, at times, scary birth I'd just experienced. I was riled by the misconception and false representation of birth (severe sleep deprivation, pain and post birth hormones didn't help).

If we believe Hollywood and Hollyoaks then we rush to hospital when our waters break and give birth shortly afterwards. Obviously this is not a depiction of reality, but it feeds into expectations. For many people expectations of birth are vastly different to the reality they experience. It's not just TV that contributes to these expectations, often as a society we do not talk about when things go wrong or when birth is traumatic. Maybe we are scared of making other people anxious? Whatever the reason, as a result people often feel unable to speak about their difficult birth experiences or seek help when needed.

© Make Birth Better CIC 2019

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