This is not my usual blog post and I’ve deliberated for some time now as to whether or not I should write this. I came to the conclusion that keeping all these thoughts and feelings bottled up wasn’t good for me. I’ve tried talking about how I feel and it’s just been brushed under the carpet. I think there’s a lot of pressure on women to be happy once we’ve given birth, but considering what our bodies have just done and the surge of hormones flooding our systems it’s a wonder any of us make it out of the house let alone walk around with smiles on our face.
I had grand ideas for the birth of my son. It would be natural, no drugs, no induction, a nice peaceful water birth, I’d put my practiced ujjayi breath into good use and my tens machine would get me through the contractions. I knew it would hurt, and that didn’t phase me at all. It was being in charge of a baby that my pregnant self worried about, as well as being able to breastfeed successfully as I so badly wanted to do it. Not the labour, that was just one day. But my labour is the one thing that still haunts me. It terrifies me that if I have another child it will be the same and I’ll have to go through it again. I know many women have had traumatic births, and mine might not be classed as traumatic, but it’s left a scar. I have told people how I feel traumatised by my birth only to be told that the only thing that matters is that both Rex and I are ok. I know that ultimately, that is all that matters, but sometimes I just want to sit and cry and have someone tell me that it’s ok to feel this way. That it’s ok to feel lost and confused, to feel disappointed and let down. It’s ok that I haven’t dealt with it very well. Also, I don’t want to talk about my birth and have it compared, like it’s some sort of competition between women, what happened to me versus what happened to another.
I don’t think any woman’s births should be compared, we’re all different. How does one measure the pain they experienced against someone else? The emotions? You hear all these horror stories about birth and when you try and talk about yours you often get someone relaying their story instead, or telling you what happened to the lady that lives down their street. I don’t want to talk about birth this way, like its a competition between mothers. Not that their experience is any less important than mine, but I wanted my voice to be heard. I want to get all these pent up emotions out and not feel like I’m being compared or judged because I’m still struggling with it, almost 5 months later.
My labour was induced with oxytocin because there was meconium in my waters. I don’t want to go into the finite details so I’ll just cover the lowlights… The babies heart rate had to be monitored, which, as a labouring mother, when the machine keeps going off and you can’t hear your baby anymore just causes a lot of anxiety! It surely can’t have been good for me, or my baby, to have felt so anxious at this point. The next low point was asking for pain relief, something I never originally wanted. Having forgotten everything I read about which drugs do what I opted for pethidine, which only helps between contractions. When you have oxytocin, there is no ‘between’ contractions. So I was given a drug that I don’t believe gave me any pain relief but instead made it impossible for me to communicate or breathe effectively and made me feel like I’d lost all control over the situation and my body. My husband kept telling me I looked like I was in less pain now so it must be working, I think I just couldn’t get across to him how I felt anymore. At this point I felt lost, lost in this room of people, who were all there to help me deliver my baby. They were all there for us yet I didn’t feel like I had any influence over what was happening. I just wanted it to be over. I remember asking if they could push him back in and cut him out as I didn’t feel like I was able to do it anymore. (This I can now laugh at!). This whole scenario was a million miles away from my plans to have a natural, drug free, water birth. And I know things don’t always go to plan and I expected that it wouldn’t, I just didn’t expect this. I didn’t expect to feel so utterly out of control. I felt claustrophobic in my own body, I couldn’t get enough air, I couldn’t breathe properly and I don’t know how you’re supposed to labour effectively when you can’t even control your own breath. The first thing I said to my mum after the birth was ‘that was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do’. I don’t think I was referring to the actual birth, or the pain. I was talking about the labour.
It saddens me to this day that I didn’t get to do things on my terms. That I didn’t experience a natural labour, that I was anxiously listening to my baby’s heartbeat even though I knew deep down that he was ok, that my tens machine and my own body couldn’t keep up with the pain of my contractions due to induction, that in a moment of weakness I opted to have pethidine and that I was forced to give birth laying on a bed rather than standing up where I felt most comfortable and more in control. This is what I want to sit and cry about. This is what I’m worried might happen again should I have another child. This is what I don’t want you, reader, to judge me on, or compare to yours/your wives/your sisters/your friends birth story. For we are all individual. Our birth experiences are that, they are our own, individual experiences. They should not be judged or compared. If someone you know tells you they feel traumatised by their birth, please don’t just brush it under the carpet with a sweeping statement. Get them a cuppa, some tissues, maybe even some cake, and then listen. Listen without judgment, without comparison but with empathy. For we are all different and our experiences impact us all in very different ways. If just listening to their story can help them work through their feelings and start to come to terms with their experience just imagine how much lighter they will feel afterwards. It’s hard enough being a new mother without carrying around a mixed bag of emotions about the way your baby came into this world. And without having to put on a brave face and pretend that you’re OK every time someone welcomes your tiny person into their world.
If you’re family or a friend and you’re reading this, please don’t beat yourself up that you didn’t realise that I was struggling and needed an ear and a shoulder. Sometimes it’s hard to admit to yourself that you’re struggling and even harder to admit to others.
I already feel like a huge weight has been lifted just posting this and knowing that someone will read it. So, thanks for reading!