Lots of first time mothers (and fathers) are frightened of childbirth. I can’t blame them, in all honesty; in fact, I was them. Pre-splashdown, the thought of pushing an actual human out of my nethers was pretty low down on my list of Things That Sound Like Fun. Right down there underneath being Katie Hopkins BFF and eating bogies, if you’re interested.
Before I wanted children, the whole birthing process was actually so scary as to be a bit gross, in my mind. It hurt, and people had to look up your hoo-hah, and you might poo on the bed-table thingy. I’ll pass, if you don’t mind. Not for me, thanks. Then, when it was time for the Procreation Project, the idea was so profoundly terrifying that I couldn’t think about it rationally. I deluded myself. It can’t hurt that much, otherwise nobody would have more than one child. It’s all about the breathing. I whimsically planned each detail of my birth plan, factoring in the playlist, the lack of drugs, the breathing techniques, and I even – and I am embarrassed at my own naivety here- packed makeup and hair products in my hospital bag for the post-push pic. I know, right? Bless me.
So, cut to the busy delivery-room, packed with loads of medical-looking people including roughly 19 student doctors with clipboards, I was eclampsia-ed to high heaven and my hoo-hah had had more views than a Kardashian sex tape. My birth plan was screwed up in a puddle of suspect fluid and I agreed to an epidural.
It was bliss. I loved it. I slept a beautiful, tranquil, Disney Princess-esque sleep, with woodland animals circling the bed, my Prince Charming snoring on the pull-out chair next to me, and everything was wonderful. Imagine Aurora snoozing with her fanny out and her legs in stirrups, and here we are. Actually, sorry…don’t; that is a potentially scarring image. I woke up to push – sans playlist – and found myself in the Motherhood. My beautiful girl was in the world, and I didn’t give a you-know-what if I had done a poo on the bed. (I still don’t know. I reckon they leave that info out of the post-natal notes for a reason).
My beauty was joined a few years later by a gorgeous brother, and he too was born in an epidural-haze of pain-free wondrousness. I do have moments where I wish I hadn’t needed the drugs, but since both times were out of necessity and at the advice of doctors in the interests of myself and my children, I am okay with it. As much as I can do that worthy “I wish I had felt natural motherhood” stuff, I have to admit, it was awesome. It felt good not to feel the pain after days of contractions and nine months of perpetual puking. I am so bad an advert for pregnancy that, when I used to be a teacher, a friend remarked I should do a tour of Secondary schools to promote abstinence/contraception. Which was kind of him. I threw a cup of decaf at him as a reward.
As my role as a mother has grown and changed and developed, I swiftly realised that childbirth is the easy part. Part of me wonders whether they will ever invent an epidural equivalent for all the harder stuff that comes after. Where’s the epidural for motherhood please? Will it ever be possible to stop the fear, worry and doubt that comes with bringing up people? Will there ever be a respite for the anxiety or the nagging, 2am feeling of “I am doing this stuff all wrong”?
I cry at adverts now. Children in Need leaves me a sobbing, jibbering mess. I cannot read an article on suicide or bullying or peer pressure or eating disorders without that strangling, stomach-clenching dread, and ardent hope that I will never know first-hand any of this. I wake up sweat-drenched at stupid o’ clock, my brain whirring with grocery orders, work, packed lunches, forgotten spelling tests, potential dangers, a slight lack of first aid training, overdue haircuts, possible incidences of bullying, and a terrible disconcerting feeling that I might have had bitchy resting face on the school run and now they all hate me.
Will my children be good people? Will they get in with the wrong crowd? Will he eat his vegetables? Would she tell me if she felt sad? Will they confide in me about their friendships, relationships, tattoo choices? How will we fare if they move far far away? What if I get ill and don’t see them grow up? What if they get sick? What if we have to go to another godawful soft play next week and all contract scurvy or something? I think I am quite laid back in the day-to-day, but I know I am not alone with the underlying worry. I know because I see it in every parent I meet.
I wouldn’t want an epidural in permanently. I’d miss too much fun, too much love, and too much life. But if they ever invent a very short term epidural-type scenario for the craziness of motherhood, then I might sign up for the night. I am quite tired. And I might like it all even more without my hoo-hah on show.