We’ve all had that moment: a pregnant friend asks you about labor + delivery and you freeze. What am I supposed to say? Do I tell her the truth? The whole truth? Because there are things that happen during birth that are not for the faint of heart. But really, what do you say?
First you have to understand why your friend is asking. She is asking about your birthing experience as a way to inform her expectations about what she’s going to experience when her turn comes. She’s anxious and curious and is hoping you can calm her nerves or reveal some big secret that she’s supposed to be in on. And you want to calm her and not scare her, but you also want to be honest and truthful and honor your experience. So, what’s a friend to do?

Here are some phrases to use when speaking about your experience that can empower a pregnant friend.

“My body impressed me.”

Delivery, whether it’s vaginal or cesarean, is the ultimate display of some of the crazy things women’s bodies are capable of. Rallying the energy to push when you’ve been awake for 48 hours straight and are sustained by only ice chips (okay, maybe a couple crackers too, when the nurse wasn’t looking).
Enduring major abdominal surgery and then rushing through recovery as quickly as possible so you can hold your baby. Withstanding pain beyond what you thought you could manage. Your body does some impressive stuff during labor and delivery, not to mention its awesomeness during pregnancy—acknowledging that will help your friend trust that her body is capable and amazing as well.

“I had choices.”

First, I want to acknowledge that this may not feel true for you initially. Depending on the circumstances of your labor and delivery experience, your gut response may be that you feel you did not have a choice in how things unfolded. This is the painful reality for many women. But I encourage you to dig deeper into that experience to find somewhere that you did have a choice during the process. You may not have had a choice about having an emergency c-section, but perhaps you did get to advocate for yourself and were able to hold your baby in the recovery room. You may not have had a choice about what position you labored in, but you did get to request immediate skin to skin. There were points at which you had the power and you got to make the decision. Finding these instances and focusing on them can be extremely healing for you and extremely empowering for your friend.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I did it.”

You’re allowed to be proud of yourself. You brought a baby into this world. You did an extraordinary thing. And it was not at all easy. It’s okay to say that—saying anything else would be a lie. But don’t dwell on the hard part. Focus on the “I did it” part. You made it through some physically and emotionally painful stuff, and that’s an accomplishment to recognize and acknowledge. That’s the scary and wonderful thing about labor—it won’t end until it’s over. You don’t get to back out in the middle. Once it starts, it finishes, and there’s no getting off the ride. You can 100% honestly promise your friend that it will be hard, but she too will make it through. So to answer the original question—what do you tell your friend? You tell her the whole truth. That it was a life-changing, earth-shaking, soul moving experience. One that was totally unlike what you expected. One that you could never have imagined until you were in the moment. And one that you will forever be grateful for because it made you a mom and brought you your baby.