‘Natural’ is great if the birth is going well, but what about when it’s not?

Pandemic Pregnancy: Listening to a hypnobirthing audio book just made me stressed

First day in creche.

First day in creche.


The zoo is opening two days after my due date. So if the baby’s not here, I’ll be there. I reckon it’s a safe place to be. I mean, if there are people on hand that are able to deliver a shape as awkward as a giraffe, surely my short-necked, two-legged baby would be a breeze.

This is part of a series by Aisling Marron on her pregnancy during the pandemic.

She could be on the front of the paper and the zookeepers would name her something like “Burren” or “Gorse”, because she’s native to Ireland. I think we’ll go with Gorse and her Donegal cousins can call her Whin. Whin Jones. She could be the new character in popular kids’ lift-the-flap books! “I wrote to the Zoo to send me a pet. They sent me a *lift-the-flap* BABY! She woke too much, I sent her back.”

Maybe we’d end up on an episode of The Zoo. I hear it’s popular in the Netherlands so my family there could get to see her, without us having to arrange an awkward zoom.

What other easing of restrictions can I now enjoy? Not the high-performance training, sadly. Being finally allowed to travel within your county boundaries means I might take advantage of the fact that no one is actually sure whether Ashbourne is in Dublin or Meath and meet my parents there.

Unfortunately, there is nothing opening up to allow me prepare for labour the way I did the first time: colour, cut and blowdry and a spray tan. But then, that preparation didn’t serve me well anyway. I spent the entire labour thinking either: “I’m never having another child” or “I should have done hypnobirthing”. Well, my first resolution obviously has not worked out so I give the latter a lash and download the audio version of a recommended hypnobirthing book.

‘A contractioneen’

The book was written by a woman but is being narrated by a man and I spend a good while irritatedly wondering if they couldn’t find a woman who could read. I was just starting to warm to the nice old Englishman narrator and then he went and told me how he felt as he birthed his fourth child.

He says that people tend to arrive at hypnobirthing sceptical but leave enthusiastic and positive. He adds, however, that he welcomes scepticism (and I must say, it’s nice to feel welcome).

First off, some language changes. The man doesn’t like the word “contraction” because it has a hard sound. But I like the word contraction! It sounds like something getting smaller. How could you be intimidated by something getting smaller? It’s practically called a contractioneen. The man’s preferred description is “surge”. But that makes me think of something out of control and powerful that’s about to cause damage. No thanks, let’s stick with a wee contraction.

Having listened to all seven hours of the nice man’s advice, I can sum up in three sentences any practical advice given to help you through labour: breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth during surges in the first stage of labour. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose in the second stage. Visualise an opening rose bud or a hot air balloon floating away in the first stage and visualise snow falling, leaves falling or a waterfall in the second stage.

This is hopefully good advice. I’m going to try it anyway. Nose-mouth, nose-nose. Got it.

Built for pregnancy?

The rest of the time is spent telling you all the things you shouldn’t do which can be summarised simply: natural is good, intervention is bad.

Vaginal examinations are bad. Membrane sweep is bad. Monitoring the baby’s heartrate is bad. Early induction is bad. Late induction is bad. Trying to induce labour with the old wives’ tales of drinking raspberry tea or having sex is even bad.

The more I listened the more stressed I became.

“Natural” is great if everything is going well, but what about when it’s not? It makes me so sad hearing women who struggle with feelings of guilt or failure because their longed for “natural” birth ended up requiring the assistance of an instrument or surgery or (God forbid) pain relief. Women feeling guilty because they had been repeatedly told that their body was “built for” or “perfectly designed for” labour. Women feeling less than either because they ended up requiring a bit of help. I am short-sighted to the tune of a prescription of -7.5 in each eye. My body isn’t built to get me safely down the stairs. Should I feel guilty or weak because of this? No. I’m not in Lord of the Flies. I intervene with some corrective lenses and continue about my day. Thank you, physics.

If medical intervention of any kind is required to get me and my baby safely over the line, I hope I will feel nothing but gratitude to live in a time and a place where this is available to us. 

Part 1: This is all getting a bit Angela’s Ashes
Part 2: We got bad news at the first baby scan
Part 3: What’s the oldest woman you’ve delivered a baby to?
Part 4: Not yet telling your colleagues about the baby
Part 5: I go in to the scan and it turns out, I do miss my husband
Part 6: Was she asking if the baby had magically appeared?
Part 7: I am more apprehensive about having a second child 
Part 8: I’m living for my monthly maternity check-ups
Part 9: We decide we’ll take a little holiday
Part 10: Maternity leave during lockdown has its advantages
Part 11: I bat away suggestions for coping with labour
Part 12: ‘Natural’ is great if the birth is going well


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