I vividly remember my husband Malcolm’s face after I delivered our two sons – an emotional mix of joy, awe and overwhelming pride in what I’d just done.
It was irrelevant to him that first time round we were in an operating theatre after I’d had a spinal anaesthetic and a forceps delivery, and the second time he was crouched at the side of a birthing pool, after I’d given birth naturally, without any intervention.
All he cared about was I was ok, our babies were healthy, and we were a family.
I imagine footballer Harry Kane felt the same after his fiancé Kate gave birth to their daughter Vivienne last week, without pain relief and using hypnobirthing techniques.
Overwhelmed with happiness but also proud beyond measure of Kate, who had, to put it bluntly, just managed to get a little human out of her you-know-where all by herself. No mean feat.
Kane was immediately slapped down and subjected to a vitriolic backl, mainly from women who felt that in sharing his pride in his fiance’s pain-free childbirth experience, he was judging women who choose, or need, pain relief and intervention.
He was forced to defend himself, but the truth is when was the last time you heard a man criticise a woman for how she gave birth? For me, personally, never. Any dads I know think their other half is incredible, a warrior, irrespective of how their child was born. They celebrate her, rather than judge.
And yet you’ve only to log onto any mum’s forum, or hang around a baby yoga class long enough to hear other women judgingly dissect another woman’s delivery.
I’ve been on both sides of the birthing experience, and believe me, mothers can’t win. You’re damned if you’ve help and drugs, you’re damned if you don’t.
After a fast labour with my first son Ruadhán, now three, I arrived at hospital 9cm dilated and moo-ing like a cow.
Too late for any serious pain relief but with the end in sight (or so I thought) I was happy to try gas and air, and the birthing pool, using breathing techniques I’d learned at my ante-natal class.
Several hours later – including two of pushing – I was exhausted, in agony and asked for help.
Within ten minutes I was in theatre having a spinal anaesthetic and an episiotomy so a forceps delivery could be performed.
Ruadhan weighed 9lb 1oz and had set up camp high in the birth canal. It was little wonder I’d needed help and I felt no sense of failure, only relief he was healthy and pride I’d remained calm throughout quite a tough first experience of childbirth.
Until, that is, I was on the round of post-natal baby groups in the weeks after his birth.
‘What a shame,’ one fellow new mum coo-ed, as we shared our birth stories over coffee and cake. ‘You were so close to a ‘good’ birth and then needed all that intervention.’
Another nodded patronisingly, relating how she’d had a home birth surrounded by candles, just a doula in attendance.
Their comments stung and took some of the shine off my pride in myself.
In labour with my second son Donnacha last year, again, I opted for gas and air, and the birthing pool, telling the midwife I’d see how things went.
Contractions hurt like hell (anyone who says they don’t is lying) but I coped, and as I approached the pushing stage I decided to come off the gas and air, preferring to keep a clear head and just use my breathing techniques to manage the pain.
Donnacha, now eleven months old, was born in the water, weighing a whopping 9lb 4.5oz, and yes I felt very proud of myself, just as I had when Ruadhan was born, despite their births being so different.
Most women I knew were delighted I’d managed to have a natural delivery but I still received some snippy comments including ‘there’s nothing wrong with needing pain relief you know’ and ‘did you get a medal on your way out of the labour ward?’
Seriously, why is there so much judgement when it comes to childbirth? Why do we use it as a stick to beat other women with?
One good thing to come out of the Harry Kane debacle has been the #SoProud movement with women sharing their diverse birth experiences, making the point there is no right or wrong way to give birth.
Wouldn’t it be better to just be proud of each other and celebrate what is an incredible physical feat, no matter how you do it or how much help you have or don’t have.
Ladies, is it time to #bemorelikeHarry