I want to do it again!’ I announced, fist punching the air as I looked down at my tiny baby girl, who had just entered the world. That’s right, you heard me. Giving birth was the biggest high I have ever had. I then felt wobbly and had to have a little lie down before tucking into my post-partum tea and toast at Holles St, but those natural endorphins blew my mind.
I thought my reaction was unusual, but three of my prenatal yoga students recently described their births as ‘empowering’, ‘magical’ and ‘exactly the way I wanted it’. Yet it is almost whispered among women that birth can be a positive experience. We are conditioned to think of it as painful and terrifying — the word ‘labour’ doesn’t exactly conjure up positive vibes, does it? TV shows, media articles and horrific birth tales from friends have made us believe labour is something to endure, an idea that started way back with the biblical story of Eve and has been gathering momentum ever since.
Those endorphins that coursed around my body defy this view. I’m not saying my first labour wasn’t intense, but it wasn’t bigger than me. I felt a fierce pressure; I wasn’t in agony. And I got something at the end, a little bundle that changed my life forever in ways I never thought possible.
When you are lucky enough to get the birth you want, you feel as if you can conquer the world, which is the best way to start your journey into motherhood. I credit my births with helping me bond with my babies, breastfeed successfully, keep the baby blues away and regain my physical fitness.
So, how can you do all you can to achieve a positive birth experience? First, there’s an element of luck involved. My babies played the game, I had low-risk pregnancies and labours, my husband was surprisingly brilliant and the Domino community midwives excellent. But I put the effort in too, and that work has to start during pregnancy, if not before. That means keeping fit, eating properly, cultivating positivity, swotting up on labour and alleviating any pregnancy symptoms that may arise, all of which this column is going to cover in the coming weeks. Things don’t always go to plan. That natural birth might not work out. And sometimes a Caesarean section is a safer option. But if you’ve done the prep, regardless of how your baby comes into the world, you’ll bond more easily and recover more quickly. As for me, that birth high is addictive. Which is one of the reasons why I’m having baby No. 3.
Bump to Birth column, Irish Daily Mail, April 24, 2016