Let’s be real, giving birth is a big deal

So last week, my headline read ‘Hongera Vivian, you’ve proved giving birth is no big deal’, a rather disingenuous header for an article that praised Ms Cheruiyot for going through childbirth – the biggest deal ever – and then becoming a world champion.

Let’s keep it real: Pregnancy is an assault on the female form. It changes your body in ways no man could ever imagine. You are pushed, pulled and prodded in every direction, by the end of which, you may as well have been hit by the standard gauge railway. And then, when you peel yourself off the track – five, maybe ten seconds after delivering a human being into the world via your birth canal – you stand up never to lay down again because for the first three months with a new baby, sleep becomes a rumour. A malicious, unfounded rumour.

A year post-delivery, you are only just beginning to feel yourself again. If you had a natural birth, your privates are finally beginning to behave as they should. Your pelvic bone doesn’t feel dislocated anymore. Your bladder holds urine until such a time as you choose to empty it. Your back doesn’t crack every time you bend over. You finally feel yourself again. Your normal self – not your 10,000-metre world champion self.

It is safe to say therefore, that Ms Cheruiyot expended a superwoman amount of energy to return to form in Championships-winning fashion. She is a bona fide ‘shero’, along with all the other women who don’t let childbirth hold them back from being great.

I say all this because I received a barrage of congratulatory messages – having done nothing as heroic as winning gold for my country – for putting women in their place. Telling them how it is, if you will, on account of giving birth being no big deal.

I’ve been accosted by men talking about, ‘Y’know, you women really take advantage of that thing, eh? Just because you’ve given birth doesn’t mean you can cut corners’, which on the face of it, would appear to be a fair assessment of the facts.

Here’s the ‘thing’ though: Carrying babies, delivering and raising them, is hands down, the hardest job in the world. Corporate shenanigans pale in comparison to the demands of childbirth and its attendant responsibilities. So when a woman redresses the balance to make sure that the devolved unit – her family – is allocated adequate resources in terms of both time and energy, it cannot in all fairness be described as ‘cutting corners’. It is simply a restructuring to streamline workflow and ensure that every area of her life is operating at maximum efficiency.

Any mother will tell you that finding that elusive work/life balance is probably outside the realm of possibility. So when you see a working mum excelling at the highest level – like our Vivian – really, the only appropriate response is to stand up and applaud. Her success is by no means by accident. It is a deliberate pursuit. And she has sacrificed the majority of her own pleasures to battle it out in a field skewed towards players who don’t have the added responsibility of family.