This all started at a young age when I experienced a video that showcased a woman giving birth. So many people rejoiced in the beauty of natural birth and I couldn’t get over the screaming.
’Push! Keep pushing!’ They said.
Yet, I couldn’t help but look into her face and wonder. Was this truly beautiful or was this just a part of our ingrained need to normalize the pain of women?
Women have been giving birth for decades. I’ve heard people say (and I’m thinking) yes, so where are our accolades, our prizes, gifts, cheers? Where is our praise?
The thing is, for some women pregnancy can be absolutely beautiful and they glow and radiate beauty. But for so many others the ones we don’t talk about as often pregnancy can be absolutely scary and terrifying and in some cases even life-threatening.
There are so many risks that come with giving birth. Not only from being sick before, during and after pregnancy but, the changes to the body and a long list of other things society never speaks of. Well, I’ve not given birth thus I am in no way, shape or form qualified to have this conversation but, I’m just going to talk about the scariest common risk that I am personally terrified of.
The vagina tearing (actually known as perineal tearing).
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, “up to 9 in every 10 first-time mothers who have a vaginal birth will experience some sort of tear, graze or episiotomy. It is slightly less common for mothers who have had a vaginal birth before”.
Here is why this shocked me. How do we have nine out of ten women? 9! That’s 90% going through this and we don’t talk about it? How??
Y’all, if men had to get their dicks cut so this earth could get populated, the headlines would be different!
Now, before I send you into a panic and the rabbit hole that I got into, here are a few more numbers from theconversation.com.
“Only 2% of women endure the most severe form of perineal tearing during birth, involving the vagina, perineum and sometimes the anus. Around 27% of women experience no tearing at all, while 23% have a very minor vaginal tear or graze that often does not require stitches and heals on its own. Around 26% of women have a perineal tear that may need to be stitched.”
When it comes to episiotomies, this is a surgical cut made to the vagina by a doctor to make room for the baby. New York Times cites that, “episiotomy rates vary widely, from less than 1 per cent to more than 40 per cent of vaginal births at some hospitals today,” according to The Leapfrog Group.
Now, an important conversation we need to be having is, why aren’t we talking about this more? Why?
I’ll be honest, this whole writing and reading binge was started by women that press and someone sharing of the process of healing that follows this. The lack of resources, advice and guidance that our medical system gives to women from low-income homes.
Imagine that, having your vagina cut and being sent home with no idea how to take care of yourself and what that process even looks like.
Here is advice on what to expect:
- Clean the area by squirting warm water over it during and after going to the bathroom.
- Pat dry — no rubbing — with gauze pads or paper wipes that come with your hospital-approved sanitary pads.
- Use a fresh maxi pad at least every four to six hours.
Also, take what is known as a sitz bath (pretty much putting your vagina into water) to soothe pain. You can also add salt or lavender oil but, please do check with a doctor or medical health professionals if you can.
Y’all, you know the old adage, “don’t be a pussy.”
Anyway, so obviously young Mandy had a solution to this. I was going to have a c-section despite lots of people telling me that, c-sections were dangerous and more painful long term. I was there like, cool but what’s more painful than your vagina getting ripped? Your vagina?? The fact that 9 out of 10 women just do this and keep it moving like it ain’t a thing is outstanding to me.
Buy that woman a car! Or a house! She deserves the entire neighbourhood.
Sadly, my flawed logic and every form of pregnancy come with their own dangers and with a c-section some of the dangers will affect your baby.
Short-term problems include breathing difficulty, risk of head/facial laceration from surgery, breastfeeding difficulties, and delayed bonding.
In the long term, these risks have to do with your baby not getting the right bacteria from the vaginal canal that will continue to protect them as they grow but make sure to read more about it in the resources cited below because yes there’s a lot more.
Needless to say, it’s not advised to have a c-section unless you absolutely have to. Then I was stuck with the thought of having to go through something I genuinely didn’t want to and having to go through something that might endanger my baby.
See the other thing we don’t talk about is the mental toil that birth has on parents, in particular mothers. I’ve been battling with this choice for year’s now. I’ve always wanted a family. Since watching Cheaper By the Dozen, I wanted a big family. But at what price?
Another side effect of a c-section is an increased risk of postpartum depression and other mood disorders. The one at the worst end of the spectrum being Postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis is rare but, it does happen with symptoms ranging from:
- hallucinations and hearing voices
- delusions – thoughts or beliefs that are unlikely to be true
- a manic mood – talking and thinking too much or too quickly, feeling “high” or “on top of the world”
- a low mood – showing signs of depression, being withdrawn or tearful, lacking energy, having a loss of appetite, anxiety or trouble sleeping
- loss of inhibitions
- feeling suspicious or fearful
- feeling very confused
- behaving in a way that’s out of character
Now as someone who has battled with mental health, particularly unstable moods my entire life, this one was the really scary one. It’s no secret that pain can drive you mad. The up and down movements of hormones can definitely be unnerving and can affect some people in numerous ways from inducing anxiety to on the worst days, suicidal thoughts.
I want you to take this one home with you. All women, every woman who’s ever given birth, ie your own mother, have risked going mad and being on pills the rest of their life to bring you into this world.
I know you might be thinking, Mandy, you are being dramatic and I am, but this is also very real. It’s happening to women and we just don’t talk about it. Women just give birth every single day and it’s not something we have thought of as a society; at what cost?
Did I want to start motherhood that way? If I was dreading the pain so much that it was giving me this much anxiety, how much worse could my emotions get before and after? How good of a mother could I be with a heightened risk of depression and even psychosis?
It has been a long journey of trying to reach acceptance and most importantly allowing myself the room to change my mind but at this point, I don’t think giving birth is something that I’m going to be doing.
Yes, making this choice has made me feel so guilty and oftentimes selfish. If I can’t handle the thought of the pain and the mental risk, then why should another woman take that risk for me?
Answer: I don’t know.
I know that I battle with mental health every single day and if it was a physical risk, then it would be more palatable for people. Easier to understand even. No one wants to risk another person dying, so it’s safer to find someone healthier and better equipped. Yet when it comes to pregnancy we never ask women or even allow them the room to question whether they feel equipped, physically, mentally and emotionally.
This isn’t some choice to take lightly. Being a mother, giving birth and even adopting or otherwise is a huge responsibility and I think it’s time that we really talk about that.
What if the best decision you could make for your child is not being the one to bring them into this world?