Throughout the ages, pregnancy and childbirth has often been seen as a sort of mystical, magical experience. When you think about the awesomeness of creating and producing new, human life (a real, live, breathing and thinking human!), it's understandable that many view it as an experience of the divine, shrouded in mystery.
Perhaps it is because of this perceived mystery, then, that childbearing also contains a whole host of taboos -- topics no one talks about except in private circles, subject matter glossed over at best and revealed only once you're part of the club (a little too late at that point to be helpful). Unfortunately, this kind of closed-lid culture around pregnancy and birth does more than protect the mystery, it also keeps hidden information vital to the health and well-being of expectant parents. As you might imagine, the results are not good: women terrified of the pain of childbirth and horrified at a postpartum body that politely declines "bouncing back"; dads and partners ill-equipped to support mom through and after birth; and unexpected postpartum difficulties that cause significant emotional and physical pain.
More recently, however, we're airing out these oft-not-talked-about issues as we evolve from the closed-lid culture into a culture that pushes to expose taboos and demystify secrets. During any given week, as someone who is plugged into childbirth media, everyday people and journalists alike are writing about topics previously viewed as off-limits. Take for example the following sample of recent articles that shed light on hushed issues:
- Why don't people talk about stillbirths? (BBC)
- So THIS is why it takes awhile for a mom's baby bump to go away *immediately* (Hello Giggles)
- Motherhood and mesh undies: one mom's incredibly honest postpartum photo (Today)
- Nosy, yoga-ball bouncing doctor haters (Improving Birth)
- VBAC vs. planned cesarean (Pearls on a String)
And then, you can do your own Google search on "what no one tells you about childbirth" and you'll find scores of articles written to expose the raw realities that take place during pregnancy and childbirth, but that are rarely talked about.
The truth is, women and families want to know the truth. And more importantly, there's a real need to be talking and sharing about the details and realities of the childbearing time well before anyone becomes pregnant. Imagine if, conversations with children, teenagers, and youg adults about pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting happened with the same frequency, excitement, and honesty as conversations about getting married/finding a partner, landing a job, attending college, etc. How do you think we might approach this stage differently? Perhaps with more awareness, and therefore more ability to prepare for proper support and care. Perhaps with less fear, and therefore more confidence and a more stable beginning to parenthood. Perhaps with a greater respect -- not for the mystery of childbirth, but for the reality and normalcy of it, for it's ability to transform and have lasting impact on families.
So dear readers, keep sharing your stories, keep talking about what needs to be shared -- and do it early and often. Future and current families and parents-to-be will be better off for it.