Being a mother to five children, it is often assumed that I must love being pregnant but in fact this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not popular to say this, most of my female friends will insist that they’ve absolutely loved their pregnancies, loved the feeling of being a one-woman mini-miracle, but for me pregnancy is more of a necessary evil, something which must be endured in order to gain an end result (a bit like driving through Sharjah).
It starts with the weight-gain. The knowledge that my girth will increase, regardless of what I eat or how many sit-ups I do, is a soul-destroying surety. Add in the depressing fact that as the months tick by, my criteria for a passable outfit will dwindle to whatever I can wrestle myself into.
And nothing bugs me more than reading about these women who claim they didn’t know they were pregnant until the baby unexpectedly slithered out onto the bathroom floor, insisting, ‘I didn’t put on a pound!’ To my mind, this is a gross injustice to the rest of us; I generally know I’m pregnant within days of conception and am thereby forced to endure every drawn-out, nauseous, and uncomfortable minute of the entire nine months.
Of course, like everything, pregnancy comes with some bonuses – overnight I become a one-woman detox unit since the very idea of drinking anything stronger than a Ribena makes me want to lie face down on a cool tiled-floor and wait for the nausea to pass. In addition I tend to win every argument with my husband by triumphantly playing my trump card: ‘but I’m pregnant and I’m going to have to give birth soon – all you have to do is show up!’
But the biggest issue for me is the impending birth itself. An event as inevitable as death and as unavoidable as a photo of Posh Spice in a copy of OK!; no matter which way you look at it there is only one obstacle between my unborn child and this earth, and that is a hard truth to live with.
So why did I willingly go through it five times? Well, I’m convinced that the female brain is hardwired to forget the pain of childbirth, focusing only on the resulting and wonderful little bundle of love they end up with. But surely I’m making a fuss – why else would some women elect to go through childbirth without pain relief? Well, let me put this in perspective; I had four root-canals last year, two at a time. Helped along by a strong anaesthetic, I managed to get through the ordeal without crying like a baby; had I expressed my wish to experience the procedure fully au naturel, I’m sure my dentist would have discreetly made a phone call to the local loony-bin and had me admitted forthwith.
Yet even I have succumbed to the pressure to go the ‘natural’ route. For the birth of my first child, I arrived up to the hospital arrogantly insisting I wanted nothing stronger than a panadol. Eight hours later, defeated, I sobbingly pleaded with the midwife to arrange an epidural. The effect was miraculous and sailed me through the remaining eight hours, right up until the point of pushing, a stage so intensely and unpleasantly unavoidable, no amount of drugs can make it better.
So, to those brave first-time mothers-to-be who disregarded my warning and opted to continue reading this diatribe, I want to add just one more thing: childbirth is agonising, soul-destroying, mania-inducing torture – so would I go through it all again? You betcha – twice over – to have the privilege of sharing my life with the five small people it produced. Agony? Bah, I can’t remember it anyway.