When did Giving Birth become a Competition?

When you have a baby it’s a rite of passage to share every single, horrific detail of the birth with at least some of your close friends. We have a morbid fascination with the pain, the drama, the suffering, the stitches….as women, we love to talk about it. But it’s not just friends that ask for the details..sometimes random people; friends of friends, neighbours or school mums will ask about the labour. Now, it’s no bad thing to share birth stories, it can be therapeutic for the new mum and can help other women prepare for childbirth (not to mention terrify them), but since when did giving birth become a competition?

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Trying to smile through the exhaustion… moments after giving birth to Flump.

Some women take great pride in stating how excruciatingly painful their labour was. The more extreme the pain and suffering, the greater the honour. Unless you have endured some kind of physical horror or ordeal, you cannot wear this badge of honour. I was told twice by random people that I hadn’t been through a “proper labour” because I’d had an epidural.  One of the commentators was a man which particularly enraged me, given that he’d never have to experience pushing out a baby from his nether regions. The cheek of it. The other was a friend of a friend who had apparently been in labour for days and refused to take any pain relief. Eye roll. Congratulations on being such a martyr. Whilst you were screeching and rolling around in pain, I had a relatively calm and civilised labour thank you very much. Courtesy of my friend, the epidural.

There is also a new trend emerging when it comes to birth stories, with many women declaring that they had a wonderfully tranquil  natural water birth at home. Idyllic photos emerge on social media of women beaming their way through labour in the most zen-like way. It’s all peace and serenity. Whilst I’m happy for those women who don’t experience the pain and complications of childbirth, I worry about the message that is being conveyed. It almost implies that unless you have had the idyllic natural birth you are somehow less of a woman, that parenting may come less naturally to you. It all feels a bit smug and superior.

There is something about child birth that makes some women very competitive. Perhaps it’s just a sign of things to come with people competing at every stage of parenting; the first word, the first step, the first maths equation! Ultimately, every mother has a birth story to tell and none is more or less valid. Labour rarely goes according to plan and we need to have more empathy and less judgement towards each other.  Labour doesn’t define us, it’s the way that we raise our children once they are here that has far more importance and will help define our legacy.

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20 thoughts on “When did Giving Birth become a Competition?”

  1. Great post! One thing all mothers share is PAIN…however you gave birth there is pain & suffering involved at some stage. Everyone’s threshold is different and no two labours are the same. Focus should be on self care of their mother and child afterwards as that’s a lot harder!
    I love listening to birth stories now but there was a time when it was too raw to hear or watch programs like One Born Every Minute…was having flashbacks and all sorts!!

  2. Nice share..
    True .. we all go through this and once the baby is born it is such a bless being a mother. Holding the baby in your arms makes you forget all the pain.
    Women should be careful not to scare a to-be-mother with horrible stories but must comfort them that everyone goes through it.

    1. You are absolutely right. Over-sharing can terrify others and you have to choose your audience I feel! And spot on, whatever the birth situation, the key is to support and comfort, not to judge.

  3. I’m so glad I gave birth to all my three, well one and then twins in an age when type of birth process was not a fad. It was either normal or cesarean depending on what your gyn thought was the best for you and the baby. After so many, I really cannot fake remembering the pain! Its all a thing of the past. I feel taking an epidural makes you less tired to enjoy the baby as soon as its born otherwise one is just too exhausted.

    1. Yes, maybe we over think things these days and there are these ‘fads’ or trends. Perhaps years ago it was simpler?

  4. Loved your post. And your blog. But you never really talked about your own experience except to say you had an epidural. Was it painful for you? Did you enjoy the process (labour is hard but some people really liked it e.g. other bloggers *cough*amena*cough* talk about how their favourite part of pregnancy was actually the giving birth and crowning of their baby, and easy birthing was for them). x x

    1. Thank you Anita. Glad you liked it 🙂 As for my own experiences, I had epidurals for both kids, but for my second I had it much later on towards the end. First time round, I wanted it at the first twinge 😂. My actual labours were both ok because of the epidurals but they did slow the process down a fair bit. And NO WAY could I ever say the crowning would be my favourite part! Say what???? Isn’t that the bit when everyone thinks they’re going to DIE!!!😳 😳 But each to their own…I guess the point is we all get through it and live to tell the tale. Thank you for reading 🙂

  5. You mean I’m not going to get a medal for my 70 hour labour?
    But seriously, I couldn’t agree more. With my second son, I really felt the pressure to have the serene midwife led birth. In hindsight, its ridiculous. No one is going to look at either of my children and know how they were born. If I could do it again, I’d take all the pain relief!

  6. Urgh this makes me so mad! But I suppose it’s hardly surprising given that parenting has become so competitive as well.

    Why can’t we all just take on others experiences without the negative competitiveness.

    Great post x

  7. I did really feel like I needed to talk about my birth as part of processing it but I was lucky that I didn’t get any negative comments, I probably wouldn’t have coped with it very well at the time!

  8. Great post! While I loved my natural labors more than my hospital/epidural ones, I don’t think doing it naturally has made me a better mom. Every mom should be praised for going through labor no matter how it went!

  9. Fantastic post. You’ve hit the nail right on the head with this. Unless you’ve suffered for days or had some annoying thing with water and candles you’re not “winning”! But really, it doesn’t matter as long as it ends well. I had an epidural too. Definitely made me feel like I was winning! Xx

  10. Such a great post! Yes, sometimes it feels like a competition. Before I gave birth to my first one I was getting opinions about what kind of birth I should have. Because everyone knew better than me what’s best for me. I also feel like people think I owe them an explanation on why I had a C-section. I don’t feel any less of another to a child who was born via C-section than the one who was not😂 let’s support each other because in the end what matters is that we get to hold our babies in our arms🥰

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