Wednesday, July 11, 2012


my last lucid moment. 



I've been trying to finish up writing about giving birth (part 1 is here) but as usual, it's slow-going. My memories of the second part of the whole two-babies thing is hazy (opiates will do that to you) and I can't write the kind of detailed 'birth story' telling you exactly what time I was dilated how much (thank god) that I read all over the internets. What I have managed to write is a very long and slightly irritating stream-of-consciousness style telling of my memories of being completely drugged up and giving birth twice in one morning. It's about a million words so far and I haven't even given birth to Puke yet. 

Aside from self-consciousness (I feel like a tit when I write, that's why everything I post is short. Or wordless), I'm struggling to convey just how I felt about birth. Some of you know that I found the whole thing remarkably positive, that a couple of minutes after Amelia was born I leaned over to Nye and said 'lets have more', that when people ask me how it was the word I most often use is 'amazing.' Some of you have asked me to write about it, because you want to know how birth could be amazing, you want to hear about the bit where it was empowering. And I worry that I can't do it justice. Because it wasn't a case of revelations of strength, or embracing my maternal power or feeling deeply connected with nature and my womanhood (gag), it was all a lot more pedestrian than that. A lot more 'hey! I'm giving birth! Wow!' I worry that you're expecting me to write something powerful and inspiring but really what I've got is 'mmmmm, the drugs feel niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. Are those paediatricians flirting while I squeeze a person out of my vagina butt-first? They are, they're flirting.' 

But maybe there's power in that? My friend Cate posted a link on twitter last week to a project that partners up pregnant women with women who have a positive birth story to tell. It sounds minor but I don't think I can over-stress just what an impact this could have. I think that the reason I describe the girls' births as amazing, despite a fair amount of medical intervention (induction, epidural, episiotomy, forceps, theatre) is because I wasn't scared. I mean beforehand there were times when I was absolutely terrified, days when I cried all day and shouted at Nye ' You don't understand, YOU don't have to give birth'. But by and large I had faith that it was all going to be fine. I never imagined scenarios when things went wrong, I read many many positive birth stories and I pictured the best and happiest outcome continuously. I hadn't realised how rare that was. It turns out that almost no one in our culture has head a positive birth story, that that's why people are so fascinated when I tell them that I loved giving birth and why women are so scared going into labour, they have never heard anything other than that it was terrible/agony/horrifying and they've sure as shit never heard anyone say that they enjoyed it. 

Which is why I feel like I owe more than a crappy, drug-addled recollection of the girls' messy, flawed, medicalised birth. I owe an inspirational fable, the kind that makes you cry and rally and feel empowered. But I worry you're just going to come away from reading about W&P's birth slightly nauseated and thinking 'I really must score some pethidine.' 


58 comments:

  1. If it helps, I can't wait to read the rest of your birth story. I'm not after an inspirational fable, I just want to read your story because you write so beautifully and write about life in a way that is inspiring because you keep it real and are honest. So, no inspirational fables required, what I find inspiring about you and your blog is that you share your life, as it is. That is enough.

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  2. I don't think that "flawed" and "inspirational" are mutually exclusive. Flawed is the reality of most things, and especially of such significant times as births.

    I think what we need, culturally, is more genuine, reflective story-telling. We need to share and discuss and reflect and make meaning. We need to dig into the realities of birthing womens' experiences - not just the Standard Movie Birth (woman-on-her-back-in-hospital-bed-screaming) or the Horror Stories, or the Perfect Natural Waterbirth with Candles. /All/ our experiences are valid, because they are real, and we should try to own them, "imperfect" as they might be compared to the ideals and standard tropes.

    I think that it's the stories that are "flawed" that are inspirational and empowering, because they aren't "just stories" - they're real women's lived experiences, including all the corresponding messiness of real life.

    I'd love to hear your story. And I always cry at birth stories. You've got that part in the bag :P

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  3. Please don't feel like a tit when you write. You do it so well.

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  4. I hate that you even referenced what you "owe" your readers. I'm no mom but I have a strong assumption that when I do give birth for the 1st time I'll probably give a loopy half grin and say something along the lines of, "Gee..THAT'S fucked up!" <3

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  5. No way. You write stuff better than anyone else cause it doesn't fit into a silly box, and it's smart, and funny , and irreverent. Did you see Heather from One Love Photo linked to you as her favourite blogger in a recent post? I thought it was pretty cool. I was like yeah! Cara is one of my favourite bloggers too. Especially when you write words. Lots and lots of Cara words. Those are the best.

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    1. I did see! I mentioned you in the comment I left, as the only person I know who manages to combine the personal and the professional well.

      And thank you. you're sweet.

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  6. You know something... this is honestly one of the best things I have read about giving birth. Ever. Extreme pain stories are scary and inspirational stories, well, they're actually a little scary too. And actually hearing an amazing, 'pedestrian' honest account is really rather refreshing. (Makes it seem a whole less scary to be honest!)

    Remember you don't owe anyone anything... and actually you just being you is inspiring enough xx

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    1. "inspirational stories, well, they're actually a little scary too"

      that's kind of how I've always felt about 'inspirational' stories, I just didn't realise it until you said it there.

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  7. Please talk more about using drugs. Seriously. All the "positive" birth stories you read online are really just a way for women who opt for a natural childbirth to shame women who might possibly opt for drugs. If they are less than positive, it's because the woman who wanted a natural childbirth ended up with drugs or a c-section. I hear a shit ton of scary epidural stories - "only my thighs went numb" "I had back pain for two years because they stuck the needle in wrong" - please please share a good one!!!

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    1. Right?! I was so convinced that the drugs were evil. Turns out that they're not.

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  8. Oh please continue writing.. I love your words , it is so honest and real.
    When my time comes I think I am *for* drugs... I just want to avoid all the pain.

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  9. I don't care what you say - I just like to read you. Well, I suppose if you became a born again Christian I'd have trouble, or a terribly conservative political sort. Otherwise, keep talking please:).

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    1. Both seem highly unlikely. I think we're safe.

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  10. Catherine B11/7/12 3:10 pm

    Oh please keep writing these stories! You don't sound like a tit! Your voice is so lovely and it is so valuable to hear non-horrifying, medically aided perspectives.

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  11. DEAR GOD WHAT A TEASE GIVE ME THE STORY NOW NOW NOW PLEASE! THIS WAS GREAT I NEED DETAILS!

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    1. HEY WITH THE SHOUTING. The shouting does not make me feel more relaxed about writing this stuff. Just so you know.

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  12. These ladies have already said it all. Don't worry about meeting expectations, just be true to your experience. Write this one for you and your girls, first and foremost.

    Also, thank you for linking to Tell Me a Good Birth Story. My husband and I are trying to conceive, and I've been a bit overwhelmed with all of the information I've found on the web so far. It's such a simple concept, yet it's the most compassionate resource I've found.

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  13. I'm looking forward to reading your story. I like the birth stories best which tell what happened (to satisfy the curiosity) rather than brag smugly about lack of pain relief or interventions or what have you. I must finish writing the second half of mine and I hope I achieve the right tone.

    I had to stop people telling me birth stories. People either competed to tell me horror stories or smugly set out their natural water birth with no pain killers. I had an assisted birth and am determined to feel positively about it even though everything I read before hand told me I should feel bad and traumatised by what happened. I refuse.

    So I'm looking forward to yours too x

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  14. I love reading your writing, so look forward to your story!

    I had an amazing birth experience too (I would go through labour again in a heartbeat - don't fancy the pregnancy bit though, that was really wearing) despite some tough times during it, but I feel too embarrassed to tell people about it. It seems that it often doesn't count unless it's a horror story or a drug-free one.

    In fact, tell any story, your long written posts are great, I always read them all the way through!

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  15. I struggle with my birth story too. It went not at all as planned (which happens probably more than not), I was out of sorts the whole 40 something hours, felt fairly rotten about the whole experience- mostly about myself, but I learned and experienced some pretty powerful things and I got my daughter out of it. Lots to reconcile still.

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    1. You've got time to reconcile. It's big stuff, you made a baby appear in the world that wasn't there when you started, that's big stuff. There are bit lessons to learn about things not going how you planned, I think that's about 60-70% of parenthood actually. x

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    2. Megahan - if you ever are ready to tell your story, I am super eager to read it. I think we may have had similar experiences (mine was 55 hours and ended in the c-section I had tried so hard to avoid). And I'm still struggling with it, and can't find much in the way of birth stories that resonate / don't make me feel bad about myself.

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  16. I will read anything you write. Even a birth story.

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  17. Basically to repeat what everyone else has said, just be true to yourself, your girls, and your experience. In my opinion, the only person you "owe" anything to is yourself. I can't wait to read the next part of this beautiful story.

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  18. I like what you have written so far and it does make me feel less scared. If a birth story with as much medical intervention as you had is a positive one then that is awesome! Also: I don't expect to have a transformational experience. I like the idea of it being great in an ordinary way. All the negative stories have been putting me off trying so more positivity is always ace (and I like the way you write a LOT)

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  19. Hey Cara!

    I too had an amazing birth. It wasn't without its complications, however, I found it amazing because I wasn't scared. Don't get me wrong I was totally crapping it before hand, but when labour kicked in I seemed to find faith in my body and let nature take it course. Ah-mazing. An expereince I will treasure forever.

    Una x

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  20. Bring it on. Pethidine and all ;)

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  21. I'd like to read more too. I find reading other people's birth stories kind of valuable and helpful in helping me process my own feelings about the whole shebang. And yes, those where intervention isn't uniformly portrayed as a 'failure' or invalidation of some sort. Please to write more!

    Getting an idea of other peoples' birth experiences whilst pregnant can be a useful thing (in moderation? Damn Ina May and engendering unrealistic expectations of my 'lotus flower';).
    But mainly I think there should be big stickers handed out on conception shouting KID, STOP THINKING YOU CAN CONTROL THIS. PSH.

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  22. 1. i love you.
    2. i had an amazing birth, and it was a c-section. (gasp!)
    3. i think you've inspired me to write my own birth story... finally.
    4. i love you.

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    1. I can't wait to read it. Positive stories of sections are thin on the ground. In fact one of the only bits of Naomi Wolff's Misconceptions was the bit at the end where she had a positive experience having her second daughter by section.

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  23. The world could do with more REAL accounts of birth. None of this warring drugs v. natural nonsense, just real people with real stories.

    Looking forward to reading yours.

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  24. I admit that project you linked lost me with the first sample story. "I really believe that a good birth is very little to do with luck and everything to do with belief in yourself that you can do it."

    Because no. I believed with everything in me that I could do it naturally, and prepared for it, and in the end my kid's head was 99th percentile and she was cut out of me, because if not, well. Who knows. Badness, I'm sure. I laboured for 3 days and couldn't make it happen naturally. I personally hate the message that if you just BELIEVED in yourself, you'd have the birth you want. (Not that YOU are doing this. Just, you know, that random person on the internet, who also lives in my head and makes me feel bad about myself.)

    I much prefer the honest, messy stories.

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    1. I read that too and was a bit put off as well. Which is a shame as I think the project in itself seems a good idea. There is just too much shaming going on with birth. It's not just about preparation and belief. It's about accepting the situation that arises in ones own experience. I believed I could do it too and then required assistance. It's the reconciliation of those two things which I am struggling to reframe as positive (and it's down to articles such as that one in the project which sowed my seeds of doubt)

      As someone said above, we just need honest stories, not proclamations or statements.

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    2. Hmm, I hadn't noticed that. I agree that that's a really damaging message. What we need to be told is 'whatever happens, you are a super hero for birthing a child.'

      Although, it doesn't say that 'a natural is very little to do with luck and everything to do with belief in yourself', it says a 'good' birth and I firmly believe that a good birth is nothing to do with natural or non-interventionist and everything to do with leaving the hospital feeling proud of yourself for birthing a child, however it happened. And to achieve that we need to stop feeling guilty for accepting help.

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    3. I see the point you guys are making. Totally.

      For me though, it was more about believing that everything was going to be ok, that baby would arrive safely [in whichever manner] and that I had nothing to be scared of. Luckily, that belief paid off for me. This time. But I'd be sure to 'believe' the same thing next time because I think the more positive you are the easier you will handle whatever labour you are handed.

      I think the message is probably just a little skewed but it's sentiment, for me, is right. I love the idea of the project too.

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  25. I've given birth twice - both amazing experiences! You should write about it - for you and your babies, nobody else. Needs to be more positive stories out there! Like you I had faith in myself and my body - that's half the battle I think xx

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  26. Oh please post it - even the prologue is refreshing!
    x

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  28. Everybody should score some pethidine.

    And oh my word, you were SO pregnant.

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    1. SO SO pregnant. Times two.

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  29. I'd love to read a birth story that wasn't all drug-free/ at home/ in a birthing pool. Both my births required intervention (Lila was a 30 hour labour with an epidural and ending in an emergency c-section and with Rose I decided not to go down the epidural route but had some diamorphine- hello floating on a little cloud!- however she also got wedged and ended up coming out with the aid of a ventouse). Not sure I'd describe the first one as completely positive but it made me think a lot about how I could work towards a better experience with the next one and I felt much better about it- even though for some people it would still probably be a bit traumatic! I was just so happy that I wasn't constantly throwing up which was the outcome of the epidural with Lila and I was actually conscious enough to hold Rose in the first few minutes. That felt so amazing! Most of all I've just realised you can never plan these things like a military operation, even with the best intentions and I guess you just have to look for the positive in whatever the outcome.

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    1. I think that feeling prepared and feeling like you have a say in the situation has a lot to do with what makes a positive outcome. I think that so many people feel completely out of control and like other people are making the decisions for them and they are overwhelmed with fear and the unknown. And of course you can't *know* what's going to happen but just feeling like it's your experience makes a huge difference.

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  30. oh, just do it!! because i know your honesty is going to be way more inspirational than an "inspirational" story. because it wasn't a horrible experience even though you were induced and had drugs and gave birth 2 times in 1 morning. because "positive" stories are nice ways of saying "well I had a great time, i don't know what's wrong with YOU."

    i think there needs to be more honest stories out there about birth. because honestly, no one's story prepared me for the fact that the absolute worst part of my "rush to the hospital now because twin b hasn't been growing for the past 2 weeks, oh now you have to sit here and wait for 9 hours with no food or drink" c-section was blood pressure cuff. they strap the cuff to your arm and it automatically inflates and deflates, inflates and deflates, over and over for the entire operation. or that the best part about being in the hospital was the patient's complimentary kitchenette area that was always fully stocked with amazing vanilla pudding sprinkled with nutmeg. sometimes i feel like i lost out on the feelings all of the blogs talk about, but then i remember that my birth story is the one that matters most to me, because it's the truth.

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    1. Wow, I could really have gone a complimentary kitchenette. And those blood pressure cuffs are a total bitch.

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  31. I read you because your not one of those internet 'persona's, all faced and pretty for the world. And the more I read you, the more I start to feel like maybe I could start to blog, which is something I've been too shy to really commit too because I always feel like that persona, that designed person.

    So your making differences where you don't even know it, sweetie.

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    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. x

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  32. Peonies, I am a long, lonnng time reader of your blog. I've often wanted to comment before but never have because I didn't think I had much worth contributing. But here goes: I am a 25-year-old fraternal twin, whose sister is my best friend and champion (and a right pain in the backside at times, but that's all part of it). My mum gave birth to us in a scary emergency caesarian after a really difficult pregnancy and I am so proud of her - because she is so proud of herself! Growing up, I never thought pain relief / medical intervention was failing - it was more like, look how lucky we are that we live in a time when all three of us (mum, sis and me) came through it unscathed (and it was a close thing). Fact: women and babies used to die from childbirth. Or they used to have severe, long-term health problems arising from childbirth. It is bizarre and sinister to me that the very progress and hard work by the medical profession to make this process safe and less traumatic (because as I understand it, labour can be traumatic) is being used as a tool BY WOMEN to create some sort of hierarchy to beat each other down?! Why do we do this to ourselves?

    Like you say, the reason I read stories like yours and watch One Born Every Minute is because it seems to me that however, whichever way a baby is born is truly incredible and joyful. As someone who dearly wants to have twins because it's been so amazing (not to be self-aggrandising, I mean more the relationship and fun my sis and I have together), I would love to read your story. And if I am lucky enough one day to have even one baby, that would (of course) be amazing too. Sorry, I didn't mean this to turn into an essay but simply put: I have loved the way you have told your story thus far, I've been intrigued by your thoughts on the subject and look forward to hearing what else you have to say - however you say it. (Also your pics are fab.)

    Grace

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  33. Hi

    After you have your lovely baby - please come and join us ....as a guest ...all the best - IT WILL BE AMAZING! - I have 3 and highly recommend parenthood!

    www.culturebaby.co.uk

    Lucie x

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  34. I teach prenatal yoga and one of my biggest goals is to try to share positive birth stories, whether they're natural, induced, cesarean births, whatever! Some are sad, some are sweet, some are beautiful, and others are hilarious. Those are often the best. Can't wait to hear yours!

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  35. YES! I tell my birth story to my pregnant friends because they've never heard a positive one. But, I had no interventions or drugs, which is not a path everyone wants to take. I had my reasons (and being a smug hippy wasn't one of them) but I also made plans for going 'off-plan'. For example, including a request for skin to skin contact immediately after birth even the case of a c-section, or looking at my options and deciding that I probably would take pain relief if I was induced because it can bring much stronger contractions.

    I'm firm believer in having the births we need, rather than those we might plan for. I would love to hear, and share more positive stories, especially those that are different to mine.

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  36. This post articulates absolutely everything that has been holding me back from completing my baby's birth story. I've sat on it for 3 months knowing I can't do it justice and that I cannot, completely, convey the experience. I can't explain how intense and amazing and what a privilege it was to deliver my baby.

    You shouldn't feel self-conscious when you write. You write it real. You write it good. It resonates. I should read your blog more. A friend once told me my writing style reminder her of yours. What an awesome compliment that is to me. [She's wrong however but it still felt good!]

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  37. snap. Induction, epidural, vontouse. A stay in Hospital plus lots more tests and other general rubbishness. But empowering and amazing too.

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  38. When I was pregnant my mom would remind me all the time how she had five natural labors- five out of five. And the whole time I felt this pressure mounting behind me to at least get this one out "naturally." And I didn't want it only because of the reasons I did actually want it for myself, I wanted it because I felt that it would make me not a weak person. People have called me strong, but there was something important seeming about not just being strong but this not being weak idea. Anyway, my water broke and we tried to get some sleep. So while my husband slept I paced the house and cried and figured things out. I am thankful for many things about that night, but those hours of silence are high on the list. I somehow managed to get everyone else's stupid thoughts out of my head and focus on myself.
    I had a natural labor. It was the most amazing thing I have ever done. We hope to have more children and, while pregnancy and postpartum were not my thing, I am honestly looking forward to labor.
    I met myself in that delivery room. It had nothing to do with the baby really, just with a very strong sense of internal strength and solitude. And I don't care what people say about sappiness or whatnot, I've kept that awareness with me since. After the first few months nobody asks you how you delivered anyway. The experience will only ever matter to you- and only if you let it in the right way.
    If you have something positive to say then you should share it. Sappiness be damned.

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  39. Returning after so long to re-read these (for obvious reasons ;)) and now I'm mostly struck by how damn beautiful & stylish you look, in the throes of labour. (Because, priorities.) What were you wearing?

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play nice.