In our culture, it is common for women to feel nervous and even fearful of childbirth. We’ve all heard the scary horror stories from other people about their babies’ births. Something that people aren’t as willing to share is how much of a turd toddlerhood can be. Don’t get me wrong. I love and adore my crazy toddler. But he is the true definition of a sour patch kid. Sour one moment and then sweet the next. He keeps me on my toes almost every minute of every day.
When I think about the day I gave birth to him, I think, “Psssshhh, that’s child’s play compared to what this kid puts me through on the regular.” Why aren’t more people acknowledging that, yes, childbirth can be tough, but wrangling a toddler isn’t much easier? This is just my personal experience, but some mothers might agree. Here is why I believe childbirth is easier than parenting a toddler.
1. Giving birth is a short period of time compared to motherhood.
Laboring and giving birth to a baby usually takes a day, maybe three days tops. It’s such a short timeframe compared to what lies ahead. Yes, childbirth can be intense at certain points, but it is temporary in the grand scheme. When it comes to motherhood, this is the rest. of. your. life. And parenting a toddler is years long. The “terrible two’s” are certainly a challenge and don’t even get me started with threenagers. I try to remind myself that this, too, is just a phase that will not last forever, but it’s a heck of a lot longer than childbirth! (And, honestly, thank goodness. Because these are the years we will one day look back on and wish our babies stayed little.)
2. You get a break between contractions.
Contractions only last about one minute or 90 seconds at a time once you reach active labor. As a doula, I tell my clients often, “You can do anything for 90 seconds.” After those 90 seconds, you get a small break to catch your breath and prepare for the next wave. However, with toddlers . . . they can go on and on for hours. They can be relentless little tyrants that make you feel like you’re losing your mind. There are no breaks during a toddler’s tantrums or meltdowns, and the breaks you are looking for (naptime and bedtime) might be hours away. You might recognize that you’re using the same slow breathing techniques to keep yourself calm during a toddler tantrum as you used when you were in labor. 😉
3. There are classes to prepare for childbirth.
There is a lot of hype around childbirth, which is great because people are encouraged to prepare for labor and delivery! By taking classes, you become more knowledgeable about the whole process and can learn what to expect. There are also lots of different types of childbirth classes available. You can take a Hypnobabies class, a Birth Boot Camp class, Bradley Classes, and so much more. It’s great because your instructor will walk you through all the labor and birth stages, explain your options, and help you have the best experience possible.
It is more common for people to prepare for birth than expecting parents to prepare for parenthood. There aren’t any classes you can take that walk you through all the parenting milestones of what to expect, your options as your baby grows, and how to survive early parenthood. Nope. No one tries to prepare you for toddlerhood. There’s no Baby Boot Camp for this kind of crazy. You just have to wing it and hope that whatever you do works.
4. You have a trained professional with you.
Childbirth is easier than parenting a toddler because, during labor, you have a trained and specialized professional with you at all times. With just a press of a button, your labor and delivery nurse comes right over, or your doctor comes right into your room. Or, if you’re having a birth center birth or home birth, all you have to do is text or call your midwife, and she will be fully there for you prenatally and throughout your entire birth. They are all there to reassure you that you’re doing great, the baby is healthy, and everything is normal and safe.
When it comes to parenting a toddler, your pediatrician’s office will only take your phone calls . . . but they will call you back when they can. You’re left to strangers on the internet for advice and other mom friends. Unfortunately, there isn’t a button you can press to have someone help you reason with a whiny toddler.
5. There is no doula for motherhood.
For your labor and delivery, you can hire a doula to help you physically with position changes, massage you, and do counter pressure to help you feel more comfortable; emotionally when hormones are high and if things are not going according to your birth plan; and provide you with information so that you can make the best choices for you and your baby.
Unless you’re extremely wealthy, you can’t have a doula to assist you with your toddler. All you have is your mom (if you’re lucky) or your mother-in-law (if you’re not lucky, jk), and sometimes they aren’t that helpful and can get on your nerves after a while. You could hire a nanny, but a nanny will not be bringing you water, helping you with calm breathing, and massaging you when the tantrums are intense and your child is up at 2 a.m.
6. Who picks up the mess? You do.
When you’re in labor, all other people—like your nurse, your doula, your partner, and your doctor—will pick up your mess. All you have to do is focus on having a baby, which is a major job! When you have a toddler, you’re picking up your mess and picking up after your tiny human, too, who can make the biggest mess in five minutes, which is almost impressive. Unless you have a housekeeper coming over every day, more than likely, you will be putting away the same ten things a million times a day. Read here to teach your child how to pick up after themselves!
7. There are no epidurals for motherhood.
And lastly, there are always pain-relieving drugs that can make your childbirth experience more comfortable. You can rest and nap and hopefully soon push out a baby into your arms! With motherhood, taking drugs is not recommended or looked highly upon. But at least there’s wine? 😉
These are all of the reasons why, from my experience, childbirth is easier than parenting a toddler. I know that childbirth can be scary because it’s the unknown. But remember that you have support from your medical team, can become educated with classes, hire an advocate if you can’t advocate for yourself, and so much more. And once you have that sweet baby in your arms, soak it up. Suddenly, you will look up and see that your baby is no longer a baby and now a self-proclaimed independent little toddler. They are tough, but they are worth it. 🙂