Oh, how badly I wanted a natural birth process. After relying on the medical world to conceive a child, of which I am beyond grateful, I wanted to feel ‘normal’ and that I could do it, my body could do what it was ‘supposed to.’
(Note: Our baby was conceived via IVF/ICSI after a very long journey)
Unfortunately, this was not to be, and after an induced 31 hour labour, which included three lots of gels, my waters being broken, an epidural and the syntocin drip, it ended in a caesarean section. It was the opposite of what I had hoped for, it was in a hospital, included most interventions known to man, and our beautiful baby girl ended up being cut out of me. I had told myself, and others, that I was prepared for whatever was to come our way, and that I was open to all processes, and I honestly did not realise how much I had my heart set on a natural birth, and how disappointed I was that this did not occur.
For three days following her birth I got on with it; feeding, not sleeping, nappies, feeding, healing and feeding, and in all fairness was too wrapped up in my love for our baby to really process my own thoughts and feelings for myself. It was not until I got home that it hit me. I spent the better part of the afternoon and evening crying, and grieving for the process I so desperately wanted, and dealt with the disappointment I had in myself.
I questioned why I couldn’t do it, told myself I was weak, and felt like I had let myself, my husband and everyone down. I felt as though I was inadequate.
We all feel this way at times.
Even with the work I do, I am not immune to self-doubt, to self-limiting beliefs and to just feeling really shitty about a situation. I work on these pieces for myself regularly, know how they play out, and I recognise triggers and stressors that inflame them. I am able to use the logical part of me to work this out and set myself back on the right track. This was not one of those times. With the hormones, lack of sleep (about 7 hours from Saturday morning until Thursday afternoon), huge change in my life, pain, pharmaceutical intake, focusing on our girl, and not being able to cuddle my fur-babies logic really did go flying out the window.
On the one hand I am just so incredibly grateful to have the most beautiful gift ever, but on the other hand I still felt ripped off with the whole conception to birth process. This in turn, made me angry at myself for not just being grateful. We thought this would never happen. I know the pain that we felt during that journey, and I still have friends struggling in this space. So why wasn’t I just happy beyond belief? I spend a lot of time with myself, and others focusing on gratitude and yet at this time I couldn’t practice it, and it was being overridden by my thinking of “it isn’t fair.”
The other struggle playing out in my head was why did I care so much about how she came into this world? Birth is birth. The fact that her head was positioned in a way that made it impossible for her to move through my pelvis does not say anything apart from simply that. Why then had I assigned feelings of inadequacy to this? Why did I feel as though I was weak? I spent 31 hours in labour, 8 of those hours with intense contractions, how is that weak?
At the end of the day, I made decisions based on our little girl’s and my own health. I put aside what I had wanted for a healthy delivery. I went through processes I was hoping not to have to experience to ensure our baby was safe. That is not weak. That is strength.
My take away messages from this experience of being so devastated and disappointed that Thursday afternoon are:
– Lack of sleep and hormones can break even the strongest mind. If you are struggling with sleep, do something about it. If we are sick we go to the doctor, so if you are not sleeping go and see a naturopath, a dietician, a trainer, a counsellor or a doctor, depending on the root cause.
– Stop letting society define my norms. We are told natural is best, and there is definitely judgement (even if it is just my own) placed on non-natural processes in regards to birth. Similar with how bottle-feeding mums feel with the “breast is best” mantra we are bombarded with. But my life, is mine, it is only experienced by me, and so I make the decisions that I live with. Simple.
– I am allowed to feel this. I say this so often, which is probably why it shocked me that I was not walking my talk, nor did I recognise that I was shutting my feelings down. I am allowed to feel ‘ripped off’ and disappointed and that it wasn’t fair. By trying to shut those feelings out, they were just laying dormant, and as to be expected they all came exploding out at once. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. It doesn’t mean wallow around and keep yourself in a particular emotion for a period of time, rather feel it, then deal with it. We choose our emotions. So choose it, feel it, reflect/learn/grow/deal with it, then move forward.
– I am grateful. Just because I was also feeling other emotions, does not mean I was not also (and am) extremely grateful. It doesn’t need to be the case of one or the other, I can feel more than one emotion at once. Situations are often complex and bring about a vast range of emotions, and one does not make the other less than; feeling disappointed does not make me less grateful for this miracle.
– I am strong. I went through a five year fertility roller coaster, faced my needle fear head on by being an IVF/ICSI warrior, grew a human life in me for nine months, laboured for 31 hours, was cut in half with a caesarean section, and then met the needs of a new born, including feeding round the clock. How did I ever question my strength? If I ever go back into that space of self-doubt I will be sure to come back and read this section!
– Self-care is key. Even in times of stress and change (and a severe lack of sleep) it is important to take some time for yourself. Reading in the bath for 20minutes (timed between feeds of course), putting a record on and just soaking up the music, spending 15 minutes journaling and writing in a gratitude diary are all things I have done in the last week since being home. Next week I will add in some mindful walking in the fresh air. If I had not spent this time for myself, unwinding, focusing on my needs and digging into this emotional turmoil I had experienced I would still be feeling discontent, disappointment, pain, and the imbalance of my emotions. In order to take care of others, I first need to take care of me (between feeds haha).
– Vulnerability is important. Trying to hold it in, presenting myself as ‘strong’ does not do anything for me, or anyone else. Sharing my feelings and inner thoughts with my husband helped me to start to reflect and refocus my head space. Sharing this with friends made me feel better through the connection and common ground that the few also shared. That connection, the realising you are not alone and the community it creates is important. Finally, sharing it here is amplifying that last piece, and hopefully it may help one other person realise they are not alone, or give someone the connection to reach out, or maybe it gives a reader an idea of something they can do.
We all experience time of emotional upheaval, stress, immense change that mess with our equilibrium, our wants, dreams and emotions. This is normal. This is what makes us human.
Feel it. Reflect on it. Learn from it. Deal with it.
I am also sure that this will be brought back to my attention at different stages of this new phase in my life, and I will be better prepared to experience it all.
Mel H x
Note: I apologise for grammatical and spelling errors, and a lack of real cohesive flow with this blog. I am playing the “I have a two week old baby” card here ok!