Most people’s birth stories seem to fall into one of the following categories:
1.) URRGGHH that was HORRIBLE.
2.) UURRGGHH that was HORRIBLE. There was blood everywhere. And stitches.* And it REALLY HURT.
3.) It was amazing. I was in a birthing pool. I had the intervention-free, drugless labour I always wanted. There was whalesong. It was orgasmic. I want to do it again, but on my own this time. Who needs a midwife anyway? I can just pull the baby out myself. I am woman, hear me roar!
Obviously it goes without saying that everyone hates anyone who says anything along the lines of #3. But that doesn’t really matter, because those people largely don’t exist outside of educational videos and hypnobirthing books anyway.
I have yet, however, to meet anyone else whose first thought, upon meeting their baby, was “thank God, they DID put the right one in, after all!”
You see, with IVF there’s always that chance. That chance that the baby that you have lovingly nurtured for the past nine months, isn’t really *your* baby after all, but a random one that somehow ended up inside you, and that someone is going to come and claim it back. Someone who’s probably married, and sensible, and a whole lot better at looking after a baby than you.
And that’s assuming that something went wrong at the clinic. There were so many other steps along the way that could have gone wrong. What if the sperm bank got it wrong? What if the baby that I was expecting, the one that looked a bit like a mixture of me and the sperm donor, what if that baby looked nothing like either of us? What if that baby had a different donor by mistake? Would I ever get over the shock? Would I not love the baby if it turned out to be different from what I expected?
As it happened, Piglet came out looking EXACTLY as I had expected, but I was so scared that it would be otherwise that I wouldn’t even hold him, and had to get my mother to do it.
I don’t know why I started thinking about this again over Christmas, but I think it had something to do with Call The Midwife, which despite being quality viewing, albeit in a schmaltzy, rose-tinted 1950s Cockney sort of way, with everyone eating jellied eels and leaving their doors unlocked while the children play on bomb sites, is in many ways the most unrealistic programme ever screened.
“Bring back any memories?” my mother asked brightly as we sat watching the Christmas episode, where a woman on the screen was delivering breech twins with the proverbial two pushes and a bit of panting. I was about to change Piglet’s nappy, or more accurately run around the house in pursuit of him, removing bits of clothing every few minutes-a sleeve here, a leg there-until he is sufficiently unclothed to have his nappy removed.
I gave my mother the withering look that says, it was hardly like that now, was it?
“It won’t be like it is on TV,” said the woman in the NCT class. “Their waters always break with a huge gush. In Real Life, it might only be a trickle.”
Well, thanks for that. And also thanks to the many TV births where those waters broke just enough to make an interesting plot point-Miranda’s amniotic fluid drenching Carrie’s new Manolos, just to pick an example out of the air from a programme I never, ever mention on this blog-but never enough to flood the entire hospital (like, er, mine. Seriously, it just KEPT ON COMING).
Now I know that TV dramas don’t make stuff up just to make me feel bad, and I know that the only outcome that matters is a healthy mother and a healthy baby, but I can’t help but feel that my birth story is a little bit, well, disappointing. All those hypnobirthing classes, and in the end it was all I could do to listen to the hypnobirthing track once before I decided it was utterly useless and it was far better just to resort to hard drugs. All those yoga classes and hypnobirthing books and breathing exercises, and telling myself that pain was all in the mind, and all that stuffing my face with sandwiches as it’s always a good idea to eat in labour, say the hypnobirthing books (until you start throwing up).
And well, I ended up having an emergency caesarean, and I know this is silly, but after all the hypnobirthing and yoga and books, I felt like a failure as a mother and as a woman. THANKS WORLD.
“Did you feel like this?” I asked my mother, veteran of three C-sections.
“No. You read too many books.”
I think that will be written on my gravestone.
*There is something which has always puzzled me about stitches. What did people do in the olden days-i.e. before stitches-if they, like, tore? Did they just have to walk around with lacerated vaginas for the remainder of their days? As any sane person would, I have googled this in an attempt to find out. And there is literally NOTHING out there on the subject. NOTHING. This is yet another depressing example of women’s stories being erased from history, I am sure. I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT THE MEDIEVAL STITCHES. WHY IS THIS NEVER SPOKEN OF?