‘What’s your ‘Normal’?

As midwives, we often comment on the type of birth someone has had…Did she have a ‘normal’ delivery?  At the Naked Midwives, this got us round to thinking about the language we use when discussing childbirth, labour and the effect our words can sometimes have on women and their expectations.

If a woman has a baby in a relatively short period of time and does so with little pain or discomfort, midwives can be heard to say, ‘oh Imogen did so well, her first baby in four hours….’.   But really, the woman who has had a long latent phase, then decided on the option of more pain relief and maybe had a forceps or ventouse delivery after days – yet is still smiling? Has she not done equally as well? Of course, but the language we use can sometimes dampen this which for some women, can lead to a sense of failure.

Midwives will freely use the word ‘Normal’ in relation to childbirth.  But really, if you’ve not had a baby before, do you even have a ‘normal’?   We all have different body types, different pain thresholds and medical history unique to each and every one of us.  So, it stands to reason that every birth will be different and what is one woman’s ‘normal’, maybe completely different from someone else’s. However, it is important to remember that for the medical term of reference there has to be a way of differentiating between a vaginal delivery, an instrumental delivery and a caesarean section, but surly the word ‘normal’ has no place within these categories… but it does and it’s used on a regular basis!

Every birth needs to be celebrated regardless of the type of delivery and whilst this is often the case, many women feel cheated or this sense of failure if they don’t have this magical ‘normal’ birth. Are we as an institute of maternity care contributing to this with our choice in language? Whilst we would all like to give birth in a comfortable beautiful setting with a short, pain free non-invasive delivery this is not always the case!    Yes, some women may take longer to birth than others, some may take longer to recover from birth and some may even take more time to come to terms with being a parent for the first time…that is their ‘normal’.   From a personal experience, I have had three caesarean sections, two emergencies and one planned so that is my normal…not a drop of ‘normal delivery’ in my birth experience!

It is our choice at The Naked Midwives to aim to stop using the word ‘normal’ in relation to birth after all………what is ‘normal’.

Please share your experiences and thoughts with us in our comments box or get in touch if you are an expectant parent and have any questions for Alex and I.

Beyond the bump…embracing our postnatal bodies

Where’s my body gone……..?

You can finally see your feet – a small but significant event after having a baby – that and being able to actually see whilst you shave your legs!   Having a baby has meant your body has gone through changes nothing short of miraculous but not everyone feels able to celebrate their own postnatal body.   But before you launch into a bout of promises and resolutions that may be at best unobtainable – I’m going to be like Victoria Beckham by the end of the month, exercise like Davina…… you know the thing, we want you to take stock of what you have actually achieved.   Take a moment to look, really study this beautiful and incredible little human you have grown.   You did this.  OK your partner may have done his bit too, but your body grew and nourished this ‘mini-me’ and did so for 9 months.

You may have stretch marks where before you had none, you may find sagging skin and thread veins and even a bulging tum but we would certainly recommend waiting at least three months before starting any intense exercise or strict diet regime.  It’s true the media – and social media, show women who apparently just pop back into place but in reality, you are never the same postnatally as you were before – you are now an improved and enhanced superwoman.  After all, look at what you have done!  With a healthy diet and exercise that starts relatively easy and then increases as you feel stronger, both your physical and your mental health will improve.  You will see photos of women, 4 days postpartum running/shopping/at award ceremonies……..don’t believe it.  Getting out of the shower and dressed is achievement enough, trust me!

A survey in 2013 by the Royal College of Midwives found that women who carried baby weight after delivery suffered with negative self-esteem issues and a considerable number felt under pressure to return to their form size and shape.    With most women – particularly those who do not have access to personal trainers/nutritionists/therapists and hairdressers to follow them around, I would say it takes a year to recover from having a baby.  And during that time, your body, mental health and life in general is all getting used to this new way of life – a life with a baby and this needs to be celebrated!   Your body will recover and you will fit into non-maternity clothes – trust me!  However, sometimes we never get our pre-pregnancy body back but that’s ok too.  This one you have now will, if looked after, allow you to feed your baby, run, dance and jump on the trampoline with your child (if you have done your pelvic floor that is!) and see your child grow.  Please do not be hard on yourself or your friends.   In spite of having 9 months of preparation, becoming a parent always comes as a shock.  You set out to have a baby but what you get is a complete and total takeover of your life!  Your baby does not need perfect – they just need you.

If you are having trouble coming to terms with your new life after having a baby, we would strongly recommend you talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor.  Please do not suffer alone, there are many services to help and work with you.