Imagine this – glowing mama recounting her epic birth story. She is beaming with delight. She feels proud, victorious, alive with life. The listener, let’s assume a well meaning friend, is sulking. She blurts out, “You’re just one of the lucky ones.” Both go quiet and the air gets thick.
Glowing mama turns a pale shade of grey, she slouches into her chair and holds her newborn close. The joy pulled from underneath her, she shies away from the conversation and reaches for her cup of tea.
I can’t tell you how many mothers and parents I know have told me how they’ve been in the exact same situation as above. What should be a warm retelling of a passionately pivotal moment filled with empowerment and thrill, is instead turned to dust when feelings of shame and guilt take over for having a positive birth experience.
We need to STOP telling women/birthing people who are having orgasmic/ecstatic/joyful/fulfilling/empowering birth experiences that the only reason they have experienced it is because of luck. Nothing less. Nothing more. (With a dash of can you please not share that amazing story with me because mine was less than shit?)
Positive birth stories NEED to be shared. In fact, each time one is shared, a small seed of hope is planted in the listener’s mind, laying down roots and doing the hard work of reconditioning the brain to dismiss fears of birth and embrace the approaching adventure with vigor and enthusiasm.
Positive birth stories are powerful – we know this. Ask any expectant mother who has been privy to such tales of goddess like glory; ask her how capable, calm and comforted those stories made her feel.
But instead, we find ourselves in a place where happy birthers feel shameful and guilty for having the births they do. They hold back at mothers group because they don’t want to upset their friends. They hold onto their happiness, afraid it might break the many fragile, broken mama birds in their circle. They keep to themselves because they want to avoid the awkward commentary and disrespectful undermining,
‘Lucky you.’, they’re told.
Humans are a funny bunch, programmed to be fearful & vigilant as a means to survive, have made an art of the indulgent and modern shit show of sharing of horror stories from the birth room. Trauma, stress, overwhelm and disappointment in childbirth – the new age highlights reel from a new mother processing her pain and grief in the only way she knows, unknowingly projecting her feelings unto her impressionable pregnant & mama friends.
Let me tell you something – luck has nothing to do with a positive birth outcome.
It is time for happy, fulfilled birthing people to celebrate and be celebrated. And it is time for people to understand that a radically positive mindset teamed with the appropriate planning, action and belief does impact the way you birth.
What makes people so obsessed with the notion of chalking up a happy birth to luck? Why are we so eager to rob a fulfilled parent of their right to enjoy the fruit of their labor?
Disturbingly, the ‘lucky you’ dialogue does a few things that makes me feel less than inspired.
Firstly, saying a good/great birth can only come from a place of privileged luck insinuates that horrific/traumatic/awful/negative is the standard, and that anything else is an anomaly.
When used in the context of birth, the word ‘luck’ strips the power away from the person and family involved, and instead puts that power into the wheel of a roulette table. Is this really how we want to see birth? Risky, scary, unpredictable?
Real talk – there are folks having incredible births who worked really damn hard to achieve them. You know, like finding the right care model & provider, setting up the right team, digging into the right educational material and actively focusing on staying inspired/motivated/positive.
Hey, Usain Bolt, your determined and mindful preparation had nothing to do with that marathon win. It was just the stars aligning. (FFS.)
On a side note, giving ‘luck’ the credit for that mamas (or Usains!) victory is a disrespect to the journey and the tireless work that positive birth advocates do on a daily basis to transform birthing experiences for people worldwide.
We could easily associate luck to the game of life and death – but it isn’t luck, is it? You can choose to consciously live a life that is aligned, vibrant, precautious and full of health. Would it be kosher to call a long and happy life nothing but luck?
Too often, new mamas who have suffered the wrath of a traumatic birth are quick to coin their happy birthing friends ‘lucky’ in an attempt to consolidate their grief or disappointment. It is far simpler to leave good and bad birth outcomes up to fate then it is to properly digest and work through the often VERY avoidable and VERY obvious reasons people have bad birth experiences. Many don’t want to take responsibility for their bad birth experience (poor planning or just going with the flow), are too afraid to blame someone else who has done them obvious harm (care provider) or are just so scarred their subconscious feels safer deflecting or dissociating from the truth. The truth that bad births happen for very real reasons; not because you placed a bad bet.
“My friends first born was a stillborn and I gave birth to my son a few months later. The idea that I was lucky and blessed was really drilled into me. I have had a total of 3 births that were unmedicated and so empowering. Instead of taking ownership of this, I default to saying I am lucky because of the unbelievably terrible stories I hear about other people’s births. But I am going to stop saying this…because you’re right. I took care of my body, I prepared my mind, body and soul, and have to claim that amazing thing I did without apologies. There was no luck in that.”
If you are expecting a baby you have the ability to cultivate an experience that feels right to you.
It it is your right to live the potent power of that moment and sing it from the roof tops without fear of being pulled down.
And it is our right, as humans birthing babies, to hear those positive stories so that we may be as equally impacted. So that our children’s children might go on to be as positively impacted, too.
So tonight, I am pleading, next time a mama friend comes to you with cheeks blushing a rosy shade of bliss, give her the space to share her story. Listen with beaming ears and a heart cracked open. Forego the weight of your hurt and personal experience to make way for her joy. Let her happiness fill you with hope. Let her enthusiasm light you up. Let her pride inspire you to feel stronger. Leave luck out of it and give her a hug on a job well done.
Angela Gallo is a Melbourne Doula, Birth Photographer, philanthropist, educator, advocate and ambassador in the birth world. You can find out more about her or her work by visiting her Instagram page, her Facebook page or by browsing this website. Are you a birth worker looking for a mentor? Enrollments to her program close in 2 days and you sign up HERE.