“Death is scary, but not nearly as frightening as birth…” – Unknown
All these years I thought my mum had always told me the truth. Boy, was I wrong.
My mum betrayed me! In fact I felt betrayed by every mother I knew. Why had they not described this hell? Every woman, particularly my mother, who has seven children, completely downplayed the tsunami that is childbirth. I know this might sound fairly dramatic to those who have not stood in my position, BUT believe me when I say this, there is no drama involved here with my words.
Last weekend, I put my life at risk. I ‘stood’ by whilst my sister gave birth to my niece.
I felt like a prisoner on death row. In that I knew what was about to happen, but I didn’t KNOW. Well, not really.
Somehow over the last few years, I have managed to escape the labor of all my younger siblings and nieces. This was very much intentional. I have and will always hate being in hospitals—I mean I’m really terrible at watching people suffer/be in pain. I don’t know what to do or how to feel. My mum knows this about me! This however did not stop her from summoning me into the hospital to be with my sister. After much hesitation, I obeyed (like any Nigerian daughter would). The only thing that brought me comfort was the thought that: “At least this isn’t me, so it shouldn’t be that bad”, which in hindsight was very naïve!
Within moments of me walking into the hospital, my sister had a contraction; the pain was written all over her face. I burst into tears. Seriously. This didn’t help the situation at all. I had to hold it together. I wanted to scream so loud but all I could muster up was air. I was shaking with fatigue and excitement, focused on the immense pain my sister was feeling, as the contractions got more frequent and grew with intensity. At this point she had dilated 6cm, which meant that we could go to the labor room and begin to welcome this miracle into the world. Shortly after we were ushered into the labor room, it was as if she ceased being a person. She had transformed into a vessel of searing red-hot pain. When I asked about the pain, my sister said she was beyond feeling pain because it was so all-encompassing that she had become the pain. She continued to say, it was as if the pain covered her like a heavy cloak that she couldn’t crawl out of. As an observer, I cant even begin to imagine this feeling described let alone experience it. It must have been horrible!
I was there through the whole debacle. I watched as her water broke, then as the head protruded through the vagina, and finally as the baby’s body slipped out. At that point we (my sister, her partner and I) all burst in tears. It was a relief. My sister had made it through labor drug-free. I was so proud of her! Looking back at that day, I am surprised I didn’t pass out at any of those stages.
My mother—who had made several excuses as to why she ‘couldn’t’ swap places with me, eventually made it into the delivery room, but only lasted two minutes, if that, before she burst into tears. She couldn’t stand the sight of my sister, her daughter, being in pain so she rushed out and waited until the baby was delivered. The easy part! She was beyond ecstatic. It was as if the whole room forgot all the hours of pain that my sister had gone through, as soon as we saw the baby.
Watching my sister giving birth, is certainly a highlight of my life and an experience I’d never get again. In fact it is an experience I would never want again. Going through this really makes me believe that we are capable of a whole lot more than we often believe. The fact that our bodies can give birth to another live human being is overwhelming. Every woman who has given birth deserves a medal, strike that, they deserve a freaking parade because it is not easy AT ALL.
I cannot believe I fell for the fairy tale that women have any control whatsoever with this whole business of childbirth. You don’t give birth. You are given a birth. I guess that’s why they call it labor —because it’s hard work!
So in case you end up in a similar situation to me soon, here are a few tips I learned from my experience last weekend, that may help;
Would you ever (or have you ever) watched someone else give birth? Share with me in the comments section.
Be happy. x