The end of the pregnancy journey

.........supporting a mum-to-be as she gets ready to give birth.

When you first announce that you're pregnant, particularly as a first time mum, you will undoubtedly at some point have a queue of well-meaning friends lining up to regale you with their birth stories. I can remember a pleasant picnic in the park, sat (somewhat uncomfortably as I was eight months pregnant) on a picnic blanket, listening to my lovely friends trying to outdo each other as to how terrible their childbirth experience had been. This conversation, intended originally to reassure me about my upcoming labour, had turned into a talking therapy session filled with intimate revelations and hysterical laughter, which left me less than reassured! But this sharing of the experience, this ability to laugh and cry and listen with others is how women have been coping with the aftermath of birth for centuries and no doubt next time a friend tells me she's pregnant I will have an irresistible urge to share with her a blow by blow account of my three day labour with my eldest son...

From when that blue line appears on the pregnancy test, giving birth becomes the ultimate goal, and as your pregnancy progresses the idea becomes more and more real. It is a very peculiar thing to be so excited about an event that you know will bring with it pain and discomfort, nudity in front of relative strangers and up close and personal examination of your intimate areas by several different people. It is also seen as an experience that will shape the rest of your life and alter the way you see yourself as a woman - but should it? Although childbirth is a universal experience, it is also a very personal one. We can aim to control the environment in which we give birth, we can carefully write our birth plan and we can attend courses and read books, but in the end our experience will be what it will and we need to accept the experience we are given. Whether you begged for an epidural ten minutes in or hypnobirthed your way serenely through thirty hours of labour, it says nothing about your ability to love and care for the little person you have grown inside you for nine months and no one has the right to judge you, nor should you judge yourself.

So how can we best support a mum to be who is at the end of her pregnancy journey and getting ready to give birth? Putting aside all the practical things that you may not be closely involved in unless you are her birth partner (the classes, the preparation, the hospital bag and so on) it is a lovely idea to let her know you are thinking about her. Maybe send a little gift just for her, some relaxing bath bubbles or a box of chocolates. Maybe pop round for a cuppa and ask her how she is feeling about giving birth and give her the opportunity to express any worries or take her out for a large slice of cake and talk about anything and everything except babies. It is a really exciting time for friends and family as well as mum-to-be and a lovely opportunity to share some special time before junior arrives and the fun begins!