Why do people have a hard time remembering their manners when it comes to talking to pregnant women?  Would you go up to someone who was about to have their appendix out and say “My cousin Stan, died from that operation!” Or “She was never the same again….” to someone about to have a hysterectomy??????  Yet on hearing that someone is expecting, complete strangers will waste no time in saying  “…..52 hours in labour I was, huge baby – they had to cut me – couldn’t sit down for weeks….”  or “….the pain was unbelievable – thought I was going to die…”

The media does not help, ‘One Born Every Minute’, Channel Four’s recent documentary on the labour ward at Southampton Hospital worn a BAFTA for Best Factual Series.  The majority of births were, quite frankly, terrifying.  Even I, who knows a fair bit about how babies come into this world, had to watch it from behind a cushion! Ironically, there was a beautiful, calm, waterbirth but if you blinked, you would have missed it – afterall, a woman calmly breathing her baby into this world doesn’t make nearly as compelling viewing as some poor girl screaming blue murder and writhing about on the bed.

Soap operas go on to confirm this idea that birth is dangerous by every birth scene portraying wild-eyed panicky people – and that is just the doctors!  Any time a birth occurs outside a hospital setting it has to end in near disaster, for example when Zainab Masood (Nina Wadia) recently gave birth to her son Kamil on ‘Eastenders’ he wasn’t breathing. Yes, ok, she had been trapped inside the ‘Masala Queen’ unit office and had to cope with Christian (John Partridge) flexing his biceps in despair – which would be enough to make anyone feel odd – but why couldn’t she have given birth to the baby safely and calmly and the two of them spent some time bonding, whilst waiting  for help to come?

Yes, I know it is only television and there is such a thing as taking something too literally- but, unfortunately, this is where many women get their information about birth.  To make matters worse, lots of pregnancy and birthing magazines feature true life stories of women who have recently given birth and their stories are pretty frightening as well.

Birth does not have to be all water and incense candles, but it should be calm and empowering.   My advice to anyone expecting a baby is to turn off the television and look for positive birth stories.  Natal Hypnotherapy (www.natalhypnotherapy.co.uk) has loads, as does The Homebirth Website (www.homebirth.org.uk) and you can’t go wrong by reading a bit of Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to childbirth (best book ever!)

So next time you see a pregnant woman tell her something good about giving birth.  Labour should start with a woman feeling confident and inspired and it should end with a mother feeling exactly the same way – no matter how the baby was born.

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