Why I won’t watch birth videos

“Choo Choo Cha Cha,” my brother Tom and I said through giggles to my Nanna Betty. She laughed in reply and then sung us lullabies. As the eldest (five years old) I was on the top of the bright red bunk. While my Nanna’s singing eased me into sleep, in the room down the hall my mother was giving birth to my baby brother Jack.

My parents love to tell the story about how we made train sounds because that’s what we thought mummy was doing while she panted through labour. They also love to reminisce about how Tom and I had jumped into their bed the next day and lay on either side of our newest family member, turning his head around so that it seemed he was facing us, “he’s looking at me”, “no, he’s looking at me”.

My mum had three natural home births. When she went into labour with me, my dad went next door and took the neighbour’s shower curtain to protect the bed sheets. After the birth my parents had to freeze the placenta until garbage collection day to make sure the dog wouldn’t get it. My mum tells me I was a mild birth and this makes me think, “God, I hope my baby takes after me”.

Twice now I’ve dreamt I’m in labour and both times my late Nanna Betty has been there: taking care of me and making me feel protected. Even though I’m a little scared about this popping-a-baby-out situation, in general I’m feeling pretty calm and good about the whole thing. And this is why I refuse to watch pregnancy videos.

At first it was by accident. We were at birth class and told to go nearby for lunch to either Maccas or the hospital cafeteria. Pfft, yeah right!! What’s the point of having your baby in Newtown if you can’t make the most of the surrounding cafes? And if you’ve ever been to Parramatta Road’s Deus Ex Machina you’d know their coffee and chicken sandwiches should be prioritised over punctuality. After lunch hubby and I walked into a room of shell-shocked people staring at the credits on a TV screen. “Shall we replay it for them?” someone asked the room. Eyes cast down. Message clear: no one wanted to relive that again.

A friend of mine has sung the praises of the UK factual TV series One Born Every Minute. It’s a show where each episode a woman has a baby – apparently the final outcome is always positive because the baby lives – but factual TV is still dramatic TV so of course there has to be drama of some kind happening. I watched four minutes of a young girl groaning her way through a contraction when I decided that maybe having an image of a stranger in pain ingrained into my mind isn’t going to guarantee that I will have a more successful labour.

“I just want to be informed,” my friend said. But does being “informed” really help when it comes to the lead up to childbirth? The same friend has spoken a few times now about her fear of labour. “Just admit you’d rather a caesarean,” she said to me. But honestly I can’t say I would. I realise that if things go wrong I will need one and that’s okay but given the choice I’d rather not.

Maybe ignorance is bliss. I’ve read about the stages of labour, the biology of how the baby comes out, what could go wrong and why, but really what more do I need to know? Is constant exposure to video footage of strangers in labour going to give me a more positive birth experience? Because at the moment childbirth to me is my mother lying on the neighbour’s shower curtain, a soothing grandma, a few funny train sounds with a worthwhile ending – a baby in your arms. And it’s these thoughts and feelings I plan to channel over the next few weeks in the lead up to what is most likely to be one of the most painful and intense events of my life.


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