It doesn’t matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, for some reason people feel the unquenchable need to tell you birth horror stories.
You hear them from friends, family members, even strangers, and they come in many varieties…
“Oh you better get that epidural, I labored for 2 days and pushed for 6 hours! It was awful.”
“We stopped after the first child because I almost died.”
“It took them 4 tries to get the epidural in, and my husband fainted watching it.”
“Your having a homebirth? I know someone who knows someone whos baby didn’t make it.”
Even the guys hear it…
“I can never look at her down there the same way, it was so freaky.”
“She was crazy, and yelled at me whenever I tried to talk to her!”
Never have I met a pregnant woman, or any parent, who couldn’t relate with my disdain for being subjected to stories and comments like that. Especially since most of those stories are FAR from the norm.
I remember being pregnant for the first time and hearing these stories. I remember feeling the anxiety creep up while I thought, “Will this happen to me? Does it run in the family? Is that common?”.
At first I would just listen, thinking that there was some type of insight or good advice in there. It didn’t take hearing many of these horror stories to realize that the only thing they helped me do was stress out and fear birth.
At the time I was skimming through a Hypnobirthing book. I got to a part in the book that encouraged mothers to ignore these stories and not let them affect your own birth. The only way I felt I could do that was to refuse to hear them.
So the next time someone started to tell me about a horrific birth, I politely asked them to wait until after I had my baby to tell me.
Now I have to admit, this worked better on some than others. You will always have those who will just tell you anyways. But for the most part, people got it. They remembered hearing stories like that told to them when they were expecting.
It frustrates me that stories like that are seen as socially acceptable to tell a pregnant person. However, I am starting to gain some insight on why people dump their horror stories on passerby’s.
Sometimes you just need to talk about what happened.
Birth is an event that is hard to forget the details of. Unfortunately, birth trauma is very common. If someone has experienced it, it is healthy and healing for them to share it with others. Often, it is just brushed off and Mothers are told, “Well at least *(insert even worse outcome here)* didn’t happen”. Mothers need to share their feelings in a safe place and know that their feelings are valid. Read my blog about this subject for more detail.
However, sharing your trauma with a pregnant person is not the appropriate place to do so.
Thankfully there are many resources for birth trauma. If you experienced a traumatic birth I encourage you to visit solaceformothers.org and find a friend or local group of moms who can be a listening ear and a support to lean on.
To those are just telling these stories to make conversation, please don’t.
Or maybe you feel you are trying to prepare them, or make them aware of the “what ifs”. I’ll let you know right now they will NOT see it as very helpful, so please refrain.
It is natural to want to relate to each other over shared experiences, and that’s fine, but negative birth stories freak pregnant people out! Often that fear is carried into the labor. Fear makes you tense, and tension can negatively affect labor. Your words can have more effect that you think, so choose them wisely.
So instead, wait until AFTER the baby comes to swap your birth stories, whatever they look like.
We have all probably done this at some point, myself included. I don’t say any of this to shame anyone. We all say things without thinking through the impact of it, but once we are aware, we can begin to change this common social phenomenon.
Lets encourage parents as they prepare for their birth, not scare them.