Recently I was accosted with a vision that went something like this: me, lying on a hospital bed with my legs sprawled marinating in my own placenta juices. Like a pickled onion in beetroot sauce. Disgusting. I am repeatedly told that “birth is beautiful”. In spite of the fact that I have the maternal instinct of a flea I am happy to acknowledge that babies are beautiful. But birth. What planet are people living on? Birth is pretty damn yuck. How can episiotomies, stitches, blood, umbilical chords, forceps, injections and pain be beautiful. Associating pain and grossness with beauty sounds pretty masochistic to me. Life is beautiful. Producing life is miraculous. Giving birth may be both miraculous and beautiful theoretically and romantically but certainly not practically and realistically. It’s painful, it’s gross and it’s humiliating. Nope, I have never given birth but I am not about to delude myself into thinking it pleasant and beautiful in any way. I like to call it keeping it real. It is this very philosophy that has dictated the abandonment of my usual ‘cut the bullshit keep it real’ attitude for a brief sojourn in Pleasantville that will end, rather unpleasantly I am sure, on December 17th 2009.
Please note that I am not saying that it’s not worth it. It being birth. I just said that it’s gross. When my little miracle of life is handed my way I am sure that the angels will chorus and the bright lights will shine as I have an epiphany of gratitude. It’s all very lovely and sentimental, but in no way negates the realities of childbirth. Although the gift of life certainly compensates for the realities of which I speak. I want to know why women are expected (mostly by other women) to euphemise childbirth? Certainly childbirth is different for every woman and perhaps those who are blind or comatose may find it beautiful but I am lucky enough to be gifted with a group of friends who do not hide behind the bullshit. They say it’s ugly and sore but they say that women do it again and again and that speaks volumes. Society seems to propagate the notion that out of respect for the women who have given birth I should ignore my fears and submerge reality beneath a masquerade of sentimentality straight out of an 18th century literary England. Mangled vaginas, stretch marks, sagging boobs and enemas are taboo topics. Birth seems to be viewed as some sacred ritual that must be observed with respect and dignity. The irony is like a punch in the gut, and the thought inspires me to vulgarity. Giving birth is anything but dignified.
Laura Stavoe Harm said: “We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” In order to acknowledge the truth of this statement, in order to acknowledge the strength of womankind, the reality of childbirth must be acknowledged. Its grim realities should be realised rather than sentimentalised, in order to reveal the strength confirmed through suffering endured. Suffering in childbirth is a result of original sin yet God gave women the strength to bare it. That is beautiful.