Disclaimer: Pregnant mamas, perhaps you should not read this. And if you do, don’t take it to heart.
I have a confession to make, and it took me years and hearing other women (mostly of my age group) say it before I could admit it to myself. I have an unhealthy phobia for childbirth. Yes, you read that right. I am afraid of giving birth…even till date.
When I got pregnant the first time, one of my numerous mommas took delight in coaching me about childbirth. She enjoyed sharing the finer details of contractions and the act of a pushing. The tears, the pain, the attitudes of the nurses, the doctors, she had all the secrets and so she should have, considering she was in that position six times, birthing singletons.
At a time, my biological mom told her to stop making me afraid of the process, but she insisted that it was for my own good, if I went in there knowing what to expect. She went on to encourage me not to cry, no matter the level of pain I was in…else, I would be a drama queen every time I stepped into the labour ward.
So, that Saturday morning, when my water broke, I was prepared for the worst day of my life. At first, I didn’t feel any pain but I was so expecting it, and gritting my teeth in preparation. I went to the hospital, still no pain, until a stern nurse decided to do the legendary pelvic examination.
Geez!!!! Not only was the process invasive, it was as painful as heck. It’s making my thighs twitch, just remembering it. It literally opened the vista to a new level of pain like I had never known.
Lying on my left side, I gritted my way teeth through the contractions, and kept tapping my thigh. I was tempted to stand up and dance around the ward, but the nurses wouldn’t have none of that, so I lay down through the pain, all the while my mind re-echoed the voice of the momma who told me not to cry during labour, talk less of shout. While I wasn’t doing it outwardly, my inside was on fire. It was crying like a mad woman! The voice inside my head was too loud that, at times, I had to close my eyes to any more sensory input from my fellow moms-to-be, who were in different stages of labour.
The only time I lost it was when it was actually time for the babies to come out, and I noticed that a cleaner was looking at me one kain. Ladies, I focused all my anger and pain at that time on the woman, and asked her why she was looking at me like a “witch?” She had retorted that she was not a witch oh and did she send me message? Wrong move, because, I was in so much pain, I didn’t even care that she was older than I was, I was ready with a comeback
The nurses calmed me down, by making her leave the birthing ward. Minutes after she left, I had my babies; the pain dulled, but then my heart was heavy with worry about the health of the twins.
Years later, when I got pregnant again, from the day the pregnancy was confirmed till another Saturday morning, when I gave birth to them, I was preoccupied with the thoughts of childbirth. I wondered if I would be able to endure the pain. The pain was a lot better the second time in reality, but my anxiety level was worse. Oh, the build up to that day was downright scary. I just thought about different ways, I could avoid the whole childbirth shenanigan but there was no help for it.
I only got to know about the fact my fear of childbirth is actually a condition recently; from my chat with a doctor friend and Dr Google provided more details about the condition called Tocophobia
And compared to my experience, there are some other mommas’ experiences, which will make you think, how the heck can someone bear all of that and still come out laughing and even want to try again for another baby. Women are strong…very strong.
But that’s not the worst of the phobia, some women’s phobia for childbirth get so bad that they don’t want to get pregnant at all. I mean, they purposely avoid pregnancy, not because they have any fertility issues, but because of the fear of having to go through childbirth.
There are a few women like that around; one of them is notable actress, Helen Mirren, who is her 70s. She doesn’t have a child and isn’t desirous of one. All thanks to an educational child birth video she watched as a teenager.
Mirren told an Australian television show that her fear began as a 13-year-old when she saw a graphic video.
“I swear it traumatizes me to this day,” said Mirren. “I haven’t had children and now I can’t look at anything to do with childbirth. It absolutely disgusts me.”
Another lady, Tolu developed the fear of childbirth after an aunt of hers shared the trauma of a third degree tear after she had her first child. Tolu was barely ten years old then.
It got compounded when she came across the photo of a woman giving birth. Tolu revealed the more she learnt about childbirth as she grew older, with lots more of her aunties giving birth, her own elder sisters having babies, and friends too, the more afraid of childbirth she actually became.
Apart from the actual act of giving birth, she is also afraid of her body being ruined. She’s afraid of having an aneurysm and dying. It’s so bad that she’s even afraid that when she gets married, her husband won’t be attracted to her anymore after giving birth. She’s just afraid that she won’t be the same after the childbirth.
In her case, Tolu wants to have children but just not go through the childbirth experience. Thank God for her, that’s a real possibility in this day and age.
Helen Mirren and Tolu’s phobia is referred to as Primary Tocophobia, because it stems from a traumatic childhood or adolescence experience.
However, many women also suffer from secondary tocophobia, which tends to develop post-pregnancy. And they are hesitant to speak up as they feel that people do not understand, or that they aren’t giving them reassurance or guidance.
One of the main reasons this phobia is so under the radar is because most women who suffer from it either try to avoid it altogether or feel like there is no one else who feels the same way.
Thankfully, there is a growing number of resources available to women who suffer from both primary and secondary tocophobia, such as cognitive behaviour therapy and perinatal loss groups, all of these in the Western world but we are not even talking about it in our own clime.
Because over here, the mind-set is, how can a woman be afraid of childbirth? That’s similar to a fish developing water phobia, how’s it to survive?
We also have to deal with a deeply rooted mentality that giving birth is the peak of a woman’s very existence, thus making our society the perfect place to have l0ts of women walking around with this phobia, going through one childbirth after another…and hating every moment of it.
The only way to help these women, who happen to be around us a lot more than we think, is by talking about and raising awareness of the condition. This is the first step towards achieving the proper support that is needed by these women.
Whether you suffer from tocophobia or not, spreading awareness about it will begin to generate a conversation. This conversation allows individuals like me, who had not previously known of this condition, to educate ourselves on the topic. More specifically, education will give individuals the knowledge necessary to approach the topic with sensitivity, and to give the right type of supported that is needed.
Doing so will hopefully give women who had previously been afraid to come forward the courage and ease to talk about why they feel this way, as well as the hope that the stigma surrounding this condition will eventually be erased completely.
Ladies, stop wo-Manning up and share your truths. Childbirth hurts, some of us can bear it and go for an encore, and some just can’t deal. It’s just the way it is.
Does childbirth remove from your womanliness? Nah!!!
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