Do you remember when you little and you heard 'If you don't have anything nice to stay don't say anything at all'. Well I do. I must have had a terrible mouth on me because I heard it... A LOT. And the advice wasn't bad. I try real hard to filter before I say something that might unintentionally offend (it doesn't always work but I am trying).
Why doesn't this apply to birth stories?!
Why do women see a beautiful growing belly and feel compelled to tell Mary Bloggs about the fourth degree tear they got? That's right Mary I was torn vagina to asshole. OKay stranger that's too much information (please note fourth degrees tears are uncommon and HypnoBirthing® give you techniques to avoid coached pushing which may encourage tearing).
If your birth story was traumatic please do talk about it. But not with Jo from work, who is five months along, by the water cooler. For god's sake you've only had a couple wines with Jo at some work functions and prior to you spotting the belly you cordially nodded as you passed by each other at work. Jo does not need to hear about how you were terrified to ever have sex again after pushing out your 97th percentile angel. You need to talk to a counselor, maybe even request your records and debrief with a midwife or Doctor that attended. Your story needs to be heard and there is a time and a place for that.
What a pregnant lady on the street needs to hear are some incredibly encouraging things. Society needs to start acting as the completely supportive unit that it would if she had decided to run a marathon rather than birth a baby. It's a rare person that tells someone training for a marathon about how they broke their leg in a millionity places the first time they tried a fun run. I'm sure that person exists but normally interactions of this sort would be more positive.
So here are some alternative conversations to have with pregnant ladies if you find it impossible to hold your tongue;
- Have you found an exercise you love in pregnancy? I've heard it helps shorten labour! I must admit I was partial to .... insert favourite exercise here.
- What kind of birth prep are you doing? I recently heard of HypnoBirthing® it sounds so empowering.
- Look at your belly. Growing a tiny human inside of you is amazing. I really wish you all the best.
- Looking good Mary - you've got this.
- Who is in your birth team Jo? Great support can make all the difference.
If you absolutely can't help but talk of your birth then try not to give details but helpful advice. Saying you didn't love your birth or enjoy it is fine. Saying you may have tried something differently also fine. Giving gory details about your vagina or what organs were gently caressed during a c-section - crossing a line.
Also please note you haven't walked a mile in this pregnant ladies shoes. She may be pregnant after loss and is already full of anxieties and worries. I know I would hate to think I accidentally said something insensitive that caused a woman to fear when I could have said something to lift her up.
Pregnancy is an incredible journey and sometimes a woman just needs to be celebrated (particularly if she can't drink wine or eat Brie). Let's take a moment to celebrate with them. To bring a bit of happiness into their day. If only takes a second to bite your tongue and think of impact it could have.
If you are pregnant and reading this I have a phrase for you to learn and use often:
'I'm sorry that was your experience. This won't help my birth please can we move onto another topic'.