Pregnant women are a curious bunch. In a time of total uncertainty and questioning (Is that a leg or a hand in my rib? Will my husband pass out during the delivery? Am I going to wind up on the news for giving birth to a 15 pound baby?) they’re hungry for information. Us mamas who have gone through it and come out on the other side are just as eager to provide that insight because we were there once, too. We sympathize with them as they trudge through 40 long weeks, wondering if they’ll lose their mind before the clock runs out (the answer is maybe) and if their next doctor’s appointment will give them any more information (the answer is no.) We’ll get nitty gritty and toe the line into TMI territory divulging the details of mucous plugs and episiotomies and post-baby sex. But as a fellow mama and a recently pregnant woman, I am begging you, for the love of all things that are good and decent, do not tell a pregnant woman your graphic birth story.
Pregnant women do not need to hear about how your contractions were so bad they made you vomit. They don’t need to know that you crowned for 2 hours and pushed for 20. They don’t want to see pictures of your placenta or visit the tree you planted with it in your backyard. They don’t require gory explanations of your post-baby vagina, which you dramatically equate to a world war battle scene.
You know why they don’t need to hear all of that? Because it’s not helpful. Labor and delivery is a frightening prospect for most women. The thought of pushing an actual human out of that tiny hole in your body doesn’t fill most women with warm and fuzzy feelings. And, as many of us already know, fear can inhibit labor, diverting the body’s energies to the fight or flight response, as opposed to the get-this-baby-out-of-me response. Those of us who have given birth are strong and brave and deserve the warrior woman title we so proudly give ourselves. But sometimes, I think we share these stories to prove our strength and value to other women and the more heinous and graphic the story, the better. I cannot tell you how many times a graphic birth story was shared with me during my pregnancy. After one too many, I finally started asking women to please wait until after I’d had my baby to tell me about their experience. I’m too easily swayed and I didn’t want to cloud the excitement and readiness I felt going into my labor with someone else’s negative experience.
I am 100% guilty of this myself. I just did it the other day when I was in the company of not one, but three pregnant women. And afterward, I was so mad at myself for it. I felt total fearlessness going into my labor (thank you Hypnobirthing!) and I want that so much for other women. Because it is easily the most beautiful, messy, amazing, empowering experience I could ever imagine. And, God-willing, I plan to do it several more times.
Sharing your birth story can be cathartic, therapeutic, freeing. I know it certainly has been for me, as someone whose birth did not go at all the way I expected. But, from one mother to another, please save that story for the mamas who have already had their babies. Instead, pass along your stories of holding your baby for the first time, your awe of creating a person, your feelings of love and triumph and giddiness. Because that’s what they need to hear now. And once their baby is here, you can tell them all about your stretched out vagina til the cows come home 🙂