I wrote this for childbirth as a response to Rudyard Kipling’s poem of the same name If – a didactic poem for young men. I wrote it whilst I was pregnant with my daughter. I had already expereinced two births and come up against the challenges of an oppressive maternity system, anxious relatives putting their fear onto me and the impatience that is everywhere in childbirth. This was my reworking of a favourite childhood poem for pregnant women:
If, for Childbirth
If you can keep your faith when all about you
Are losing theirs. Instilling fear in you;
If you can trust your body’s ability to birth — when loved ones doubt you
And know that this is what your body’s meant to do.
If you can plan a due month not a due date,
Remember babies come in their own organic time
So that at your 41-week appointment
You do not feel pressurised, ‘overdue’, or ‘past your prime’.
If you can wait and not grow tired of waiting
For a posterior cervix stubborn to dilate
And despite two sleepless nights of cramps, frustrating,
Avoid a negative or fearful mental state.
And if, you finally transfer in, and are inspected
And find you still have many hours left to go
Can you find the trust and strength to still be patient
And to epidurals and syntocinon, say ‘No’.
If you can close your eyes and turning inward,
Surrender to that mighty force inside
As it throes you to the edge of your existence
And let perception, bone and sinew open wide.
If you can follow your instinct into positions
Which enable good descent and pelvic space
You’ll have no need for ventouse or obstetricians
To mar the crowning of your baby’s head and face.
If you can forget all your expectations,
As your newborn crosses worlds with searching gaze
And guide that soul with joyful exclamations
To your naked warm embrace with heart ablaze.
Then through those long nights you’ll have ventured
Through many obstacles, from without as from within
To birth in Power and Joy and Trust, your precious baby
To birth a mother, forged, ready to begin.
By Nadia Raafat