The first time I held my son, a few hours after his birth.
Though the day I gave birth to my first child remains hazy in my memory, one moment sticks out with picture-perfect clarity:
I had finally made it to my “regular” room after 12 hours of labor, baby’s erratic heart rate, a gown change because of blood ever-y-where, and an emergency c-section and recovery. I won’t go into the details (because this entire post is about not going into the details), but I had an “out of body” experience—not because I was dying, but because I was so traumatized my psyche just mentally checked out when things got super scary. It was bad. I am beyond thankful that my son and I survived it, and that I don’t remember a lot of it.
But I do remember this: While my husband was out of the room checking on the baby, my mom, who was with me, leaned in close and said softly, “You know you can’t tell Emily about this.”
Emily was (and is) my BFF/cousin. And she was also pregnant with her first child, due in just 8 weeks. We’d SO enjoyed sharing the ups and downs of our first pregnancies together, but now, my mom was right: Emily did NOT need to know about the horror show that I’d just endured attempting to give birth. At least not before she gave birth herself.
So I didn’t tell her. And 7 weeks later she had a pretty standard, uneventful non-horror show birth herself. WHEW.
Now let me be clear: Emily would have had her super great birth whether I told her my story or not: but she MIGHT have had it with more fear, worry, and anxiety than all new moms have ANYWAY, and what would have been the point in that? There was no need for me to scare her with my rare traumatic experience. And though it’s natural to want to share these things with your BFF, I didn’t. For her sake.
Pregnancy can be really hard. Childbirth can be really hard. Either can abound with complications and scary moments, and either can go super smoothly and be a joy. No matter how your pregnancy and birth goes, you deserve a medal for gestating and delivering a human being. TRUTH.
But I sort of feel like those of us who puked for 20 weeks instead of 12, or labored forEVVVER or had a million stitches or a life-threatening experience feel like we deserve a bigger one. At the very least, we want to tell our stories and be validated.
But we shouldn’t do that at the expense of a young mom who is already scared poop-less by all the pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting books, who’s tender mom heart is already feeling the pressure of ALL THE CHOICES and parenting styles and “OH MAH GAH WHAT IF I SCREW THIS UP?” The one who dreamily stares at a Pinterest maternity photo shoot that makes pregnancy look like a beautiful fairytale, then looks down at her ankles and sees that they are the size of an elephant’s,
Don’t freak that girl out. PLEASE.
Girlfriends, swap your horror stories if you must. I did finally tell my cousin, because she wanted to know. And sometimes talking about the rough ones with a friend help you get through the trauma that may have resulted from a difficult birth is NECESSARY and good. I get that, BELIEVE ME, I do. But don’t flaunt them.
You have a beautiful child, and THAT’S your badge of honor. Wear THAT with pride.
When I tell my story, I just say that it was difficult and leave out the gory details. I do, however, add in the lesson my husband and I learned from that birth: if you feel like you are being mistreated by medical staff or even are just receiving sub-par care, SPEAK UP and ADVOCATE for yourself. If you feel like the two of you will be too emotional to do it, invite a friend or family member to attend your birth specifically for that reason.