Scared To Death Of Giving Birth? A Tokophobe Tells Her Story

Turns out I am not the only woman who has always found the idea of giving birth pretty terrifying; actress Helen Mirren, who has also never had children, admits to a similar fear.

Jessie Hewitson tells her story in The Guardian:

Jessie HewitsonJessie Hewitson, who has an extreme fear of giving birth, is now pregnant herself.

Photograph: Sarah Lee

I’m lying in hospital, shaking with fear. There are no familiar faces, only doctors and midwives hovering above me, their mouths moving silently. The contractions keep coming, and I’m horribly confused. How can I be in labour when I would never have allowed myself to get pregnant?

Welcome to my subconscious, which regularly reminds me of my terror of childbirth. The nightmares started in my teens, when I decided I could never cope with giving birth; the pain would be intolerable. Since then, the merest glimpse of a heavily pregnant woman has filled me with searing panic – my hands shake, my heart races.

I had grown used to the idea that I would not have children. But when friend after friend started a family, seeing them with their babies led to a brief suspension of terror, and six months ago I got pregnant. At first, it didn’t seem too worrying – after all, I had the best part of a year to go – but the anxiety has grown and grown.

Her story, by yesterday, had drawn — not surprisingly — more than 187 comments and comments were closed off.

I didn’t (which I normally would) even read them, as I’m not sure there would have been much compassion in that pile ‘o opinions.

There are certainly few more divisive issues than women who choose to have children and those of us who do not. For people who want kids, and they remain an overwhelming majority, those of us who don’t, for any reason, can seem like mutants. How can we not?

There is no rational way to explain why being pregnant, and/or giving birth, might seem frightening when for so many women, certainly those who are infertile, it remains their fondest wish.

The truth is that women, even in places like the U.S. and Britain, do occasionally die in childbirth. Every woman I know who has given birth has said it’s never what she expected and certainly a time of total surrender to the forces of your body and the child’s — let alone a medically invasive/managed procedure in lawsuit-averse American hospitals.

Here’s something really scary to think about, a post on a stunning rise in California’s maternal mortality — mothers dying in childbirth or shortly thereafter — from fellow True/Slant writer April Peveteaux.


One usung hero, who remains the patron saint of labor — Ignaz Semmelweiss, a Hungarian physician who, in 1847, discovered the cause of puerperal fever, which killed tremendous numbers of mothers at the time as doctors moved — their hands unwashed — from one surgery to a laboring woman to help her deliver.

As We Lose 'Lost' and 'Ugly Betty', TV's 22 Best-Ever Female Characters

Playing through
Image by ewen and donabel via Flickr

As “Lost” is about to start its final season February 2, I’m going to miss Kate, its feisty and ferocious character who’s dominated many of the show’s story lines. I’ve loved her complexity and ferociousness and, as a fellow Canadian, loved the fact she’s not one more scrawny Hollywood blond, but a graduate in international relations from the University of British Columbia, happier in real life changing the oil on big rigs than modeling, both jobs she did to pay her college tuition.

Here are some of the women I’ve loved, laughed at and cried with over the years.

Here’s a site listing 30 more, and another with their top 10. Interestingly, a survey of 2,378 on-line readers found that 70.7 percent of respondents tartly replied they don’t look to TV for role models, just entertainment.

My picks:

C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, on The West Wing the Aaron Sorkin drama that ran from 1999 to 2006. Tall, gangly, smart as hell, C.J. was a great mix of tough and tender, funny as hell in her role as director of White House communications.

Mary Richards, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, which ran on CBS from 1970 to 1977, a major first with a woman who wasn’t married or desperate to marry. At the time, Mary was a role model, all eager excitement about having a career and living on her own in the big city.

Lucy Ricardo, the star of “I Love Lucy”, played by Lucille Ball. She and her husband, Desi Arnaz, formed a production company, Desilu Productions, responsible for many of the hit television series of the 1960s and 1970s.

Christina Yang, played by Canadian actress Sandra Oh, on ABC’s hit Grey’s Anatomy. How many women characters anywhere get to be this stubborn, driven and so frequently emotionally tone-deaf? If you’ve ever met a successful surgeon, you’ll know there’s some truth in her portrayal. And Chandra Wilson, playing Dr. Bailey, whose marriage blows up thanks to her devotion to her career; many ambitious women can identify with her struggles to juggle family and work.

Cagney & Lacey, played by Tyne Daley and Sharon Gless, 1982-1988, in the cop drama series of the same name. Every cop show — every iteration of Law & Order — owes a debt of thanks to this show, the first TV drama to star two women.

Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrara, on Ugly Betty. A TV star who isn’t rail-thin? That’s news in itself. Betty’s work ethic could light a continent. So could her heart. Are you as persuaded as someone I know she’s going to end up marrying Daniel?

Dana Scully of The X-Files, played by Gillian Anderson, 1993-2002. Who didn’t want to be Scully, all cool rationality in the face of her partner Fox Mulder’s obsessiveness?

The women of ABC’s hit drama “Lost”: Kate, played by Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly, Junyin Kim as Sun,  and Juliet, the cool, blond doctor, played by Elizabeth Mitchell.

Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh, aka The Closer, played by Kyra Sedgwick.

Patty Hewes, Damages, played by Glenn Close, on the FX cable channel.

Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen. TV’s first single mom by choice. How many television characters have ever provoked a Vice-Presidential response?

Stacey London, playing herself, in TLC’s reality show for the fashion-challenged What Not To Wear. Sue me, I love this show. As someone who finds shopping overwhelming and often just annoying, I enjoy watching her help women look their best.

The women of NBC’s hospital-based drama ER, which ran from September 1994 to April 2009: Linda Cardellini as Samantha Taggart, Alex Kingston as the widowed Dr. Corday, Nurse Abby Lockhart — prickly and determined to become, as she did, a physician.

Detective Jane Tennison in the British series Prime Suspect, played by Helen Mirren for 15 years. Chain-smoking, driven, compelling.

Lindsay Weir, Freaks and Geeks, 1999-2000, a short-lived but well-loved drama/comedy about life in high school. The role was played by Linda Cardellini, who later showed up as Samantha Taggart in ER, yet another prickly, complicated woman, a rare species on television at any time.

Lt. Uhura, played by Michelle Nichols, in the original 1960s Star Trek. Nyotu Uhura was the ship’s communications officer, a smart, professional black woman as a central character on a network television show, NBC, at a time when racial segregation still existed. The original show first aired in 1966 and only ran for three seasons and is the television show with the most spin-offs ever. Live long and prosper!

Who gets your vote?

Ilneya Mironov – aka Helen Mirren — Returns To Her Russian Roots In Role As Tolstoy's Wife

British actress Helen Mirren poses 20 May 2007...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

She’s one of my favorite actresses — who knew she was descended from Russian aristocracy? Now Helen Mirren is starring in a film about Tolstoy’s wife.

Reports The Telegraph:

“In ‘The Last Station’, the Oscar-winning actress portrays the impassioned Sofya, Tolstoy’s wife of 48 years and the mother of his 13 children, who becomes involved in a ferocious tug of war with the zealous Chertkov over Tolstoy’s estate and legacy which Chertkov believed should be bestowed upon the Russian people while Sofya was determined it should pass to his family.

While they battle, Tolstoy, played by Christopher Plummer, makes a dramatic flight from his home to the tiny rail station at Astapovo, where, too ill to continue, he believes he is dying alone, while more than one hundred newspapermen camp outside awaiting hourly reports on his condition.

Mirren, 64, whose family was thrown off their country estate by the Bolsheviks in 1917, felt an immediate affinity with Sofya. “It’s in my blood,” she said. “My great great grandmother was a Russian countess and one side of my family was Russian aristocracy; the other was English working-class, so I’m a good contradiction.

“This is one of the great women’s roles in film. Sofya is a wonderfully tempestuous and passionate person.” Adapted from Jay Parini’s historical novel, the movie version of ‘The Last Station’ has been in the works for almost two decades.”