This is for those of us who cannot relate - to give us a motivator and a healthy dose of empathy.
This is also for those who find the idea of pregnancy and birth incapacitating, frightening, disgusting, or otherwise fearful.
If you fall into the latter group, you now have a term for your fear: tokophobia. The fear of childbirth.
How far do we go back to find the root of this? When did childbirth turn from a normal and natural occurrence, a part of life, into a debilitating fear?
Let's go back to PB (pre-baby/pre-birth). As a young pregnant woman, Sophie* is surrounded by friends and family - those female mentors and confidants that she trusts to give her insight, wisdom, advise, and encouragement. Those women feed her horror stories of women who die in labor, have horrible episiotomies, sepsis, and stillborns. They encourage her to watch ABNORMAL births on "Baby Story", "Special Delivery", and all of the prime time shows that are featuring a birth. They 'encourage' her by telling her how horrible the pain of birth is and to get medication as soon as possible. She is frightened.
But, maybe she was fearful even before that? Perhaps it isn't only about the pain of birth, but what the event means?! Let's go about 3-6 months prior to that... Sophie is just finding out that she is pregnant. Wonderful news right? Wrong. She belongs to a church where, just a few months ago, she saw a young girl in the same situation have to publically repent in front of the congregation. She had been working in childcare, but now was not allowed to. She has a 1 month old and no one threw her a shower. She was kicked out of her Christian College and now lived at home with two parent's who are coddled for the grief their wayward daughter has given them. She is terrified to let anyone know she is pregnant, let alone actually give birth and become a parent. She is afraid the father will leave her for an 'untarnished' version - one that won't be 'stretched out' by motherhood. She has no woman whom she can trust to talk to. She is frightened.
Could that have been where it started? Let's try even further back... Sophie is a middle schooler, about 12 years of age. She is in Sex Education and watching a film on reproduction. The room is dark and it smells like dry erase markers, rubber bands, and boys who don't wear enough deodorant. Throughout the 'reporduction' section, the boys hoot and whistle while the girl's grin nervously and blush. When it gets to the pregnancy section, many of the boy's make snide comments about the woman's changing body and the girl's self-consciously whisper to one another. There are uneasy shuffles as the film gets to the birth section. Suddenly, the screen fills with a woman who is yelling, sobbing, and thrashing, turning purple while a nurse yells at her to hold her breath and push, her husband pants oddly at her elbow, and a doctor stretches her roughly. He performs an episiotomy with no fanfare and no warning, and finishes by grabbing the infant's head and turns it by it's neck, pulling down and out. Once the baby is born, she is handed off to the nurse who hangs him by his two feet and starts shoving a suction down his nose and throat. The film ends. Lights up. The title of the film? "The Miracle of Life". Looking around, she sees 1/2 the class covering their eyes, a few who had to leave for the restroom slowly and shakily return, and the others look at the blank projection screen with gaping mouths and terrified expressions. She feels ill. She is scared.
Maybe not even there? How far do we have to go back? Sitting at a baby shower as a tweenager, listening to her classmates talk about period cramps and how their older sister's say having a baby is a million times worse and more disgusting? When Sophie is an 8 year old, and she overhears her Aunt talk about her cesarean while she flashes her 6 inch, badly healed, scar? At the feet of her mother as a 5 year old, listening to the horrors of early IV narcotics during labor? Perhaps even her own traumatic birth? Perhaps?...
Do any of those resonate with you? If not, you are lucky, being raised in the U.S. culture that we live in today, that it doesn't.
Fear is a strong motivator for making bad decisions. Yessir; it is. So what do we do about Tokophobia? Eradicate it from our culture - one young female at a time. Talk to our daughters early about reproduction and sex. Talk to them about self image. Tell them about the beautiful and NORMAL rite of passage of labor and birth. Fathers, embrace your wives' changing figures - gush over her breasts and handles, beauty and flaws. She is a woman. Refuse to listen to or perpetuate the horror stories of abnormal birth - instead, surround young pregnant women with Truth and Trust.
Break the cycle. Reclaim truth and trust. Dispel fear.