Updated on March 11, 2016
Stop Scaring Pregnant Women
What is it about pregnancy that turns off people’s filters? If someone you know is preparing for major surgery of some kind, would you proceed to tell them a horror story about that exact surgery going wrong? No? Then why would you do this to a pregnant woman? In this era of the internet, birth stories are EVERYWHERE. The more horrific, the further it travels, and the more likely it becomes that it will be shared with a pregnant woman. Why is it that this has become appropriate? Why is it that upon hearing of someone’s pregnancy, that our first instinct is to share the worst birth stories we’ve ever heard? It’s time to stop doing this, and I’m going to explain why.
When I was pregnant with The Heir, something strange happened. At first, I couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Ready for it? Every time I saw a labour and delivery scene in a tv show or a movie, I’d cry. Every time. It didn’t matter if it was a scene in a comedy or the cheesiest scene from a soap opera, I’d still cry. Do you know why this was happening (aside from pregnancy hormones of course)? I had come to the realization that the baby was going to have to come out eventually, and that was just a little bit scary. You know what doesn’t help when a pregnant woman is already apprehensive about the whole birth experience they’ve signed up for? Telling her the worst horror stories about birth that you’ve ever heard.
Picture this. You’ve just announced your pregnancy to a friend. She’s thrilled for you, and then it happens. She takes this opportunity to tell you about a friend of a friend’s birth story and how CRAZY and SCARY it was because of complications X, Y, and Z. Followed by “Did you even know that was possible?!?!”. If you’ve ever been pregnant, I don’t doubt that this has happened to you, maybe even more than once. What’s the deal with people telling horror stories about birth to pregnant women? I mean, really? Stop it.
Look, there’s a lot about birth that a woman can only experience for herself. In part because those of us who have had babies don’t always remember every single detail of the whole experience, but also because every birth (no matter how it happens) is different. The bottom line is, pregnant women are going to have to get the baby out. I’ve already talked about anxiety over birth, and the last thing any pregnant woman needs to hear is a birthing horror story that you recently read about on HuffPost. I could go into an explanation of which types of stories you should avoid sharing, but since I know I have some pregnant readers, I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that if the story includes a detail about birth that you didn’t think was even possible, you should not be telling that story to your pregnant friend.
For the record, mothers and mothers in law are not exempt from this rule. If the story you’re about to tell that very pregnant daughter or daughter in law of yours isn’t the happiest, calmest, most perfectly serene and simple birth story you’ve ever heard, zip it. This would include not only sharing these stories in person over a cup of tea, but also emailing links to these types of stories, tagging her on a Facebook post so she definitely sees the headline, phoning her just to ask if she’s read that one, and printing the stories and collecting them to hand over in a folder next time you see her. Just sayin’. I know you want her to be informed and prepared, and I agree that it’s important to be aware of and understand the possible interventions that can happen. HOWEVER, this is something that the mom to be can bring up with her care provider, and “click bait” headlines are NOT the place to educate oneself on birth interventions.
I have to admit that the blame for the sharing of birth horror stories doesn’t fall entirely on the person telling the story. Yes, I’m talking to you moms to be! If you know someone is sharing a birth story, SAY SOMETHING. We shouldn’t just sit idly by while horror story after horror story is thrown at us over a much needed latte. If it happens to you (and I’m certain it will), tell the person to stop! Try a simple, “I’m going to stop you right there, I don’t want to hear it.” If the person persists, remind them that you’re pregnant and the last thing you need to hear are horror stories.
Now if you really want to share birth stories with a mom to be, why don’t you share some inspirational and empowering ones? There are lots of them out there! The Birth Without Fear blog is the perfect place to start.