Pregnancy expert Becca Maberly on why we should open up and talk about pregnancy issues
You're pregnant, and it’s the happiest time of your life. Or is it? Becca Maberly explores some of the obstacles, and the deep and troubling feelings beyond the #blessed hashtag.
There’s a conspiracy of silence around pregnancy and birth, one which pregnancy and postnatal expert Becca Maberly and her consultant obstetrician father Roger Marwood were keen to break by writing Nobody Tells You. Here Maberly describes how expectations around the perfect birth and the perfect baby can collide with reality, and how sharing stories makes those expectations a little more grounded. Instead of feeling ashamed if you are struggling with lack of sleep and failed breastfeeding, Maberly wants to connect you to a community of fellow women.
So many aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenthood have long been shrouded in secrecy. It seems like only those fully paid-up members of this secret society are party to the finer details... some gory, some shocking, some depressing, and many just mundane and run-of-the-mill.
Difficult births are glossed over. Episiotomies are hush hush. Haemorrhoids go unmentioned. Stretchmarks are covered up. Postnatal depression is swept under the rug. Fibs about baby’s sleeping habits. Shame about feeding methods. Struggles hidden. Fears about bonding going unsaid. Disillusionment with motherhood not acknowledged.
So why so many secrets? Why do we not feel comfortable discussing these things openly and honestly even with our closest friends and family?
Why are so many mums thrown into the deep end, feeling clueless, disappointed and angry about their unrealistic expectations? Expectations that they have formed through the filtered images they see online, the outdated classes they attend or the rose tinted (or maybe rosé tinted) advice of the crew who have been there and got the T-shirt but have subsequently forgotten how itchy and uncomfortable that T-shirt was when they first got it… and can't remember those times when they didn’t like the T-shirt very much and wished that they had chosen a different souvenir. They fail to mention that even though the T-shirt is super comfy and soft now and they wouldn't be without it, it wasn’t always that way!
You know those types? They are the same ones with the ‘enjoy every moment’ ‘they won't be little for long’ and ‘it goes so fast’ sound bites… they are the same ones who perpetuate this secret squirrel approach to parenting.
So what's the deal with this?
One answer is perhaps obvious – it’s private, right? Not everyone is comfortable with talking about things that they consider to be intimate. Not everyone is comfortable chatting about the varicose veins in their vulva or the change in shape and colour of their areole, and that's fair enough. Not everyone wants to hear about your bum hole over a cup of tea and a hob nob.
Others are afraid of being judged. Judged for their decision to have an epidural. Judged for their decision to formula feed. They couldn't take the pain of the contractions and they couldn't feed their baby with their breasts, and they worry that this makes them look like a failure, or weak, or a bad mother. There is so much pressure to do it all naturally, and those who don’t reach these heady heights often feel like their story is not worth sharing.
The ones who are struggling with their pregnancy, with the after-effects of their birth or with certain aspects of parenting or the postnatal period are reluctant to have a public moan for fear of being seen as ungrateful. The media reminds them all the time that they should feel #blessed for having had a baby. To complain is to seem ungrateful. Stiff upper lip please!
Some are worried about scaring others. They won't tell you about the forceps, or the 72 hour labour that ended in an emergency Caesarean, because they don't want you to be afraid. That's not helpful. The ones with the great birth stories dont always feel comfortable to share either. They are concerned with appearing smug or triggering those who didn’t share their positive experience.
So what’s the answer? Where is the balance? How can we find that fine line between preparing people and scaring those who are just embarking on their parenting journey? Very simply, we can start off by being honest and realistic and then simply hoping that those who want to hear this kind of stuff will seek it out and listen.
You want to hear about miscarriage and how common it is? And how it feels to be pregnant again after a loss?
You want to read more about Hyperemesis Gravidarum, the physically and mentally challenging condition that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge so bravely helped bring to the fore?
You want to know more about how it feels to actually push an actual human being out of your vagina? (Yes… it hurts.)
You want to explore that idea that your body may be forever changed?
You want some warning that not everyone loves their baby at first sight, and like other relationships in your life, it may need nurturing?
You want to take comfort in the fact that not everyone loves being a mother at all times and that you’re not the only one who has felt like they weren't cut out for the job?
Above all, you want reassurance that your feelings and your fears are normal and that you are not alone?
We’ve got you.