“My Vagina Is A Rosebud.”
I can still hear those words now, echoing round my head.
Four years have done nothing to dim the recollection of hearing that unearthly voice with its slow, deliberate pronunciation, booming out insistently over the sound of the motorway traffic, rendering my husband and I speechless.
the voice repeated, slowly and insistently.
It all started when I met up with a school friend during pregnancy number one.
I had recently started sharing my good news.
“Now, I know how cynical you are, but give this suggestion a chance,”
This friend is no passing acquaintance.
She is one of those friends you can call after a year, catch up on life and find it as easy to talk as if we were still sixteen years old and bored between lessons. She had her first baby earlier that year and was keen to pass on some wisdom on how to manage labour.
I was all ears.
“I am going to lend you a book. You will hate it, but I want you to read it anyway. All of it. And at least TRY not to judge. I think it will help you with labour.”
This was a strong recommendation indeed.
True, this friend is far more into the hippy things in life than I am, but she is extremely intelligent, well-read and knows her way around psychology.
I gave her my word.
I would read this mystery book, cover to cover, and do my best to combat whatever scorn she seemed certain it would provoke.
The book was duly handed over.
By this point I was curious to see what could merit such an introduction.
the title announced.
I nearly choked.
Clocking her eyeballing me very closely and remembering my heartfelt promise of thirty seconds earlier that I would not judge, I tried to rearrange my scornful expression into something more open-minded.
“Anything that helps can only be a good thing, right?”
I tried for a chirpy tone.
She looked unconvinced.
The book duly travelled across the country back home with me. I sat down one weekend as promised and read it from cover to cover.
I don’t recall many of the details, although I do remember rolling my eyes guiltily as though my friend might be able to see me.
To give the book credit where it’s due, it introduced one useful concept that stayed with me. The idea that fear works against the process of labour and therefore in order to progress, it is wise to have strategies for staying calm.
That made sense to me physiologically.
The adrenaline of the fight or flight response would not help the contractions of my uterus, so I needed to make sure I did not feel scared.
I’m not sure that any of the methods suggested in the book sounded reassuring to me, but I did at least like the theory.
Having promised this knowledgeable friend that I would be open-minded, I enthusiastically seized upon the CD that was included with the book. I triumphantly waved it under long-suffering husband’s nose as we started a drive across the country to someone’s wedding.
“So, I know you will think this sounds ridiculous, but apparently listening to this CD is going to give me some helpful coping strategies for labour,”
I informed him as we set off.
he said, or something equally non-committal.
“So since you are going to be the birth partner, I thought we should listen to it together.”
I took his silence as his happy agreement that this was a fabulous idea.
We had already been to antenatal classes and learnt various relaxation techniques for labour.
He had listened as he was informed that I may scream, shout and swear at him, hurt him, and require feeding/watering/massage for many, many hours. He had assumed the practice positions to best provide effective massage as demonstrated by our instructor, and participated in group discussions about our expectations.
He was a well-trained birth partner-to-be.
How bad could a hypnobirthing CD be?
I left it an hour or so into the journey and then turned off the radio. We waited expectantly in the eerie silence left by the absence of the loud music.
Eventually this odd, other-worldly voice started reciting things quietly but firmly.
I turned the volume up.
I confess I cannot remember the first few phrases she repeated. They did not leave quite the same impression.
(For the sake of accuracy in my story-telling, I did try to find this out. However the book has been long since returned, complete with CD, and a quick Google search did not readily reveal the transcript of said CD. I am afraid the other incantations may have to remain lost in the sands of time)
It didn’t take long until the creepy voice began reciting that unforgettable phrase.
A looooong, awkward silence, other than the sounds of the traffic.
Long-suffering husband kept his eyes on the road ahead, his face remaining a mask.
I kept my eyes on the road also.
Neither of us said a word.
I was aware that he was waiting to see how I would react.
My husband and I were effectively involved in a game of chicken, each waiting for the other to cave and speak.
I KNEW with utter certainty that he wanted to laugh, but was trying to avoid the accusation of being unsupportive if I was taking it seriously.
I was doing my best to relax and give in to the power of suggestion.
I fervently wished I could imagine it being in any way useful to visualise my rosebud vagina.
I was literally clamping my mouth shut and willing myself to believe.
I was desperately earnest in my desire to benefit from my friend’s advice.
“When the time comes, my cervix will open gently, one petal at a time.”
I couldn’t take any more.
My vagina is a fricking WHAT?
I lost it.
I shouted at it the CD, called it names, asked it what it was on, laughed at it, and finally admitted that with all the best intentions in the world, this CD was not going to help me.
Long-suffering husband finally dropped the poker face, laughed, and confessed to being monumentally relieved that there would be no chanting those words with me on the big day.
Apologies to anyone who has used that technique and found it effective – that particular visualisation was not for me.
I do confess that I DID feel very calm throughout three very different labours (two of them at home) and as a bonus, I discovered a magical phrase guaranteed to take the stress out of any situation.
Honestly, ANY situation.
“My vagina is a rosebud.”
(And do let me know how you get on)