Women Are Their Own Worst Enemies

So, we are the gentle gender, are we? Ask anyone what sets us women apart from men, and the answers will include that we are innately more caring and compassionate, that we have higher EQ and that there is a tender, persuasive side to us. Yeah, right.

I’m up in arms about this because in my line of work as a midwife, and pregnancy and parenting advisor, I have seen from close up how it is precisely we women who undermine one another’s self-confidence and add to the inevitable anxiety that women seem naturally to choose as a sort of default setting.

Take labour and birth, for example. How often have you been told that birth is beautiful and totally do-able? Did your mother, your sister, your best friend, concentrate on the amazing emotion and power that having a baby unleashed in her, or did she tell you about pain and the challenges of bringing children into this world. I suppose you have heard about many agonising 48 hour labours – but, I bet you were not told that was from the first little twinge (possibly even of false labour) right until the end of the birth itself, and that not all of this time was filled with contractions.

More to the point, please tell me if you have ever been told that of an average 12 hours of true labour (as most first labours take), far more than half of that time had NO contractions – in other words, no pain.

Not because of an epidural or pain relief, but because Mother Nature is infinitely kind. Labour builds gradually and you “grow” into it. To start with, contractions are only about 20 seconds and not very strong; and they might be as far apart as 30 or 45 minutes. They gradually become longer and stronger, but are never more than 60–90 seconds each, and that is only right at the end. Even then there is a minute off between contractions for you to rest and regain your energy to push baby out. If you do the maths, you might end up with around four hours of actual labour contractions (read pain), not in a straight set, but interrupted! Show me the woman who can’t manage that!

However, my real point is, why don’t we tell our sisters this good news? Maybe we fear that we won’t be admired for what we have gone through? I have sympathy for that, but tell me, if you had been told that, instead of about this fearsome 48-hour labour, wouldn’t you possibly have felt better about birth? Instead the anxiety and fear become self-fulfilling prophecies, as they in fact increase the perception of pain!

There are countless similar examples of how women are their own worst enemies – let’s resolve together that to warrant the reputation we have as the gentle gender, this will be no more!