Pre-baby maternity diary: “Are you afraid?”

image7Dear diary, on a third occasion this week I was asked whether I was afraid.

“Afraid of what?” was my response designed to sound mildly ignorant with the intention to make the person asking that question feel slightly awkward. Of course I know they are referring to childbirth. But, what kind of question is that? Are you suggesting that I should be afraid? Of something that is a normal part of life? I mean, women and animals have done it since always, plenty of them multiple times. So how bad can it really be? If a woman did it once and it was a horrendously traumatic experience that is impossible to overcome, she sure as hell wouldn’t choose to do it again, and again. Right?

Nowadays we just love drama, don’t we? Think of all the reality shows and shocking stories that we are fed and enjoy being fed. If you tuned in to watch One Born Every Minute and this birthing lady would be just chilling there, then pop and baby would come out like “that was easy”, you’d find it disappointingly boring. Actually, it would never get on national television in the first place. People are obsessed with horror stories. I had a stranger on a bus telling me about how her cousin’s wife’s baby died at birth, and one of my best friends within five minutes of finding about my pregnancy proceeded to describe her colleague’s childbirth story that ended something like “…so after several long hours the doctor shoved his hands in and literally ripped the baby out”. Great!

So come one and ask me if I’m afraid. Based on what the majority says, I should be. But despite baby brain, I am smart enough to know that fear is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you expect pain and freak yourself out, then you will be in pain, guaranteed. People don’t give their brain power enough credit. Reality is not objective, nor is pain. Our expectations and perceptions shape our reality. Our mind and attitude impacts our future and our perception of presence more than we are willing to admit. After realising that, it would be silly not to take advantage of it. My attitude is to be prepared for the worst while expecting the best. I am treating my upcoming childbirth experience like a spa day. Seriously – there are some similarities from lavender essential oil to dedicated staff who will be there just for me. Yes please!

And if things gets tough, I know I’m always tougher. I’ve been fortunate enough to complete a 220 kilometres hike to Santiago de Compostela. On a third day of the pilgrimage I messed up my knees. It was bad. Over the next five days I carried on walking 30km each day, with a full backpack, in total agony. With literally every step I took, I was surprised I was still able to carry on. I was free to quit at any time, but I didn’t. I put it down to my extreme stubbornness, my inability to give up and a small glass of red wine consumed every couple hours. (Can I bring a cheeky flask to the birth center?) Today, this experience gives me comfort and reassurance because I know that if (IF!) I was in agony, I can always carry on.

So if anyone else asks me if I’m afraid, my response will remain seemingly oblivious. Afraid of what? Besides, it is a total waste of time and energy to spend months agonising over something that will be done and dusted in a few hours…