Susan Morrison: Don’t listen to the sisters of smugness

Pain is not acceptable at the dentist, so why should we suffer it at childbirth? Picture; BBC
Pain is not acceptable at the dentist, so why should we suffer it at childbirth? Picture; BBC
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She’s a brand new mum, and she’s very tired, and just a wee bit weepy.

This was my cue to sweep in and do a bit of benevolent baby-snatching. Nothing like a quick cuddle of a newborn, especially when you can give them back.

Mothers and babies take part in a National Childbirth Trust class. Picture; Newscast

Mothers and babies take part in a National Childbirth Trust class. Picture; Newscast

She was upset because her mother and baby group is a seething cauldron of competitive middle class earth mothers, awash with tales of how, thanks to the breathing classes and visualisation techniques, they required virtually no help from the medical profession to have their babies.

My poor friend had a pretty rough time of it delivery-wise, so she’s finishing last.

Childbirth is a battlefield in the Yummy Mummy Wars. It’s the first salvo in a campaign that takes in sugar-free birthday parties, hummus-and-carrot-stick packed lunches, and losing that baby weight in about 20 minutes.

My son is 17. I must get around to shifting those pounds one day.

It’s all basically designed to make other mums feel like a woman who’s been caught running a puppy mill, and it starts Day One.

‘Ohh’, these Sisters of Smugness coo over the buggy, ‘What a lovely baby.’

Then they slide the stiletto between the ribs, ‘Such a pity you needed gas and air / epidural/ caesarean’.

These experts furrow their brows and explain that its possible to do the whole thing with self-hypnosis and relaxation tapes. Pain, you see, can be managed with breathing. Pain relief should be shunned. In fact, those who seek relief are somehow tainted, and that, my poor, tired sister means you.

This is the biggest pile of steaming nappies since Nick Clegg thought being in coalition with the Tories was a survivable thing for the LibDems.

Not all of these Pain Police are actually mothers, but they have seen a programme all about it. Worse, they may be mums, but they were genuinely lucky with their births and then become more judgmental than a Daily Mail reader watching someone park in a disabled space who doesn’t need a wheelchair and looks a bit foreign.

Having a baby is a painful thing for most of us. Let me illuminate. Last time you went to the dentist, was there a horrible moment when she accidentally hit a root? Well, think that, only much, much bigger.

Now, let us imagine that you have decided to have all your teeth removed, but you shun all anaesthetic. Perhaps you don’t want to dribble tea down your shirt for the rest of the day. Those extractions would hurt, and your friends would think you mad and no-one would suggest relaxation tapes.

However, for some reason this sensible view does not appear to be held for women having babies.

For the Smug Sisters this is Motherhood 101, and my young friend feels like an epic fail. It’s no wonder that depression in new mums is on the rise.

The important part starts now

As I get older, of course, my friends’ kids are growing up. And do you know what? I can’t tell the difference between a child who was born at home in super-quick time or a little girl who arrived far too soon and spent her first few months surrounded by the firepower of the NHS, or which one was delivered in a birthing pool with dolphins frolicking about.

What I can tell are kids brought up with love and care, and those who are not.

If you are sitting there waiting for the moment when you meet your baby, remember, how they get here doesn’t matter. It’s what happens next that counts.

Oh, but please don’t ask for dolphins. NHS cutbacks.