It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The Survey Says…

Thanks to everyone who responded to my quick survey the other day.

Okay, now that the results are in, I can let you know why I was asking…

I am reading a fascinating book by Susan Maushart called The Mask of Motherhood. Its subtitle is telling: “How becoming a Mother changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn’t”. (We do?)

I am enjoying this book enormously. I am not, not by a long chalk, agreeing with everything she writes. In fact, at page 130 of 247, I have disagreed with far more than I’ve agreed with. But is in interesting? Oh, lordy, yes! My brain cells are just buzzing with ideas and responses.

In chapter three, “Labouring Under Delusions”, she discusses – surprise! – labour. She seems to feel that when women speak to other women of labour, they are almost uniformly positive about it. They soft-pedal the pain, they whitewash the worry, they seek to soothe and reassure – all at the cost of leaving women hugely unprepared for the reality.

Labour, she claims, is horrific. That is Reality. “The reality was this: childbirth was torment–not because my mind or body was doing it wrong, but because it was doing it right.” Though she admits that there are women out there who have positive labours, she seems to admit these mostly as a theoretical possibility, and even then, a tremendous abberation from the norm. Additionally, she seems to believe that if a labour is painful, it is by definition negative; that a positive experience of labour requires a largely pain-free labour.

I disagree with all that. Even where I don’t totally disagree, I’m tossing corrolaries up all over.

However, it did get me thinking. Now, my experience of pregnancy was positive, all three pregnancies. Apart from those long, weary last five weeks or so, I loved being pregnant. I loved the changes that overtook my body, I loved the movements inside, I loved knowing that I was making a whole other human being inside me. Awe-inspiring. I’m sure I was boring as hell when I was pregnant, I was so taken up with the whole thing…

But the stories other women told me! They were awful! Maybe there were some positive ones in there, but they were few and far between. I heard tales of 3 day-labours, of 4th-degree lacerations (the tears that go right through from vagina to anus), of babies whose lives were in the balance, of pain and fear and blood and tears.

However, our woman Susan, who had truly rotten pregnancies, heard nothing but tales of sunshine and fluffy bunnies. What gives?

Perhaps, I thought, it’s to do with the woman’s mindset. Perhaps, because I felt so generally positive about my experience, I only took note of the negative labour tales, because they jarred me. Perhaps Susan was doing the same – hearing only the positive stories, because they jarred so with her pregnancy experience.

So, off to you with my two questions, and I discovered…

no such correlation.

Oh, well!

Of the 50-odd of you who replied to both questions, the breakdown was thus:

A. Positive Pregnancy, Negative Tales: 18
B. Negative Pregnancy, Positive Tales: 7
C. Positive Pregnancy, Positive Tales: 14
D. Negative Pregnancy, Negative Tales: 8

(The half-dozen or so of you who heard no labour tales were not included in the tally.)

If my hypothesis had been proven right, A and B would have had the most votes. C and D would have had least. Clearly that isn’t the case.

(I do note, though, that women who generally liked their pregnancies reported more labour stories than women who didn’t – positive and negative. Kind of suggestive, I think.)

I realized when I read your comments that “horror stories” was distracting. I should have stopped at “generally positive” and “generally negative”. Your comments also indicated a nuance – an important one – that my simple questions missed: a tale focussed on doctors and hospital procedures, and how to manage that minefield is not exactly a tale of labour, in that it isn’t focussed on the woman’s bodily experience, but on externals. This information is not what I was after, but I hadn’t thought to make that distinction.

This is so interesting!

I have been reading this book for over a month. Every weekday morning I’m spending at least a half-hour at it, and I’m a little over half through. Why such a snail’s pace for this voracious reader?

Because I rarely get through a single paragraph without jotting something down, without copying out a quote or writing a response to an idea.

I may not agree with all (or even much) – but I am loving the reading.

Think, think, thinkety, think….

July 16, 2007 Posted by | books, individuality, parenting, pregnancy and delivery | 14 Comments