One of my best friends just gave birth. We have that SATC kind of friendship where we share everything, so she was giving me a play by play, because in addition to being rather painful, it also seems like all the waiting gets really dull. At the time, I was full of concern for her, but now that the baby’s here and she’s recovering (though she has an infection), my thoughts about labor are naturally turning towards myself, as I’m about to go through this in 15 weeks or so. They can be summed up thusly:
My Facebook wall has had a lot of baby related stuff on it in the past year. I suppose it’s because I’m at the age where a lot of people I know are having kids–fair enough, and actually, I like to see all the tiny babies and happy parents. I even like it when people share baby related links, like one I saw today of a little girl who couldn’t quite talk yet but insisted on babbling fluently to her father on the phone as though she were having a real conversation. Another where a couple took a video of their son every day for the first year of his life and then put 365 one second clips together for his first birthday inspired me to do the same when my daughter is born. And dammit, my husband is helping me edit that stuff, say what he will about the effort. ;P
But today, there was a post with a very graphic drawing of a baby being born which reads “A human body can only bear up to 45 (del) unit [sic] of pain. Yet at time of giving birth, a mother feels up to 57 del (unit) of pain. This is similar to 20 bones getting fractured at a time. Can u [sic] imagine it now, the mother’s pain and love?”
A quick google search reveals that this is not true, although the most reliable answer I could find did come from a blog itself. That said, the arguments are logical: look up pain scales, and they normally go from 1-10, different people have different pain thresholds, and each woman experiences labor pain differently, depending on a myriad of factors, like the baby’s position for starters (one of the reason’s my friend’s labor was so long). Also, the bad grammar in a trivia fact was already circumspect. (Random note: I’m much more about descriptive than prescriptive grammar, but if you want to sound like an authority on something, writing ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ is not the way to go.)
Nonetheless, this concept did unsettle me a bit since, as I mentioned, this is something I’m going to go through in a short while. And it struck me that people don’t really talk about labor in detail. If I had made this observation before getting pregnant I probably would have gone on a rant about how women are being oppressed and ‘women’s things’ are still taboo in society in a way men’s things never are. Now I’m thinking that perhaps it’s a conspiracy of kindness.
Of course tv shows and films of the past generation or so love to show a lot of overexaggerated panting and women having their water break in inconvenient places and yelling obscenities at their partners for impregnating them. But rarely do they show the truth of labor–it’s all done for camp or parody, or even in dramatic situations glossed over if labor is normal. Alternatively, drama loves to dwell in all the bad things that can go wrong (anyone remember Sybill’s preeclampsia on Downton Abbey? No? That’s because you remember the season finale cricket game more, I bet.)
This is, I think, an act of mercy. Childbirth is not something we talk about honestly because it’s not something that people can have an honest conversation about unless they’ve both done it. Maybe mothers swap stories–I’m not sure, not having been one before. Outside of that circle though, the conversation will never be productive. Mothers won’t get the empathy they’re searching for because people can’t conceive of what it must be like, it’s such a unique experience. The blog post which talks about the pain of childbirth has a long list of comments in which several men contend that getting a blow to the groin is as painful or more painful. That one upsmanship is an example of the ignorance people who haven’t gone through it have. On the other side of the coin, where I am, it’s just terrifying. Obviously when my time comes, I’ll grit my teeth and find a way through, as every woman does. But knowing beforehand that it could be days, that it’s hours of sweating and sobbing, that I could be on the verge of something scary, like a last minute c-section…I don’t think that knowledge is going to help me in any way. It’s just going to make me more nervous, and already has, to a degree. I’m all for openness and frankness, but sometimes, well–discretion is the better part of valor. Giving birth is a valiant act, but the bravery of it lies in the fact that it is so inconceivable to anyone who hasn’t done it.