People have this idea that a woman giving birth does so solely for her baby, and in many ways she does, but how she perceives the experience of birth can have a big impact on how she mothers her babies. A woman might spend years imagining that first moment when she sets eyes on her babies, and if that moment isn’t how she dreams, it can be quite unsettling. With that in mind ………..
Try to imagine this
I went on holiday recently. I saved up for years to be able to afford it, I was so excited! I planned to go to a beautiful private spot and soak up the sun with a cocktail and a good book. I wanted to really let down my hair and relax and then come home rejuvenated and ready to face another year. It didn’t go to plan.
The plane was delayed by 14hrs and I missed the connecting flight. The air hostess spilled scalding hot coffee on me and burnt my leg. The airline lost my baggage. The 5 star hotel had given our room to someone else because we arrived so late and we ended up in a cockroach infested hovel with no air conditioning. To top it off, I got food poisoning and spent the rest of my holiday hanging over a toilet.
My friend said to me:
“At least you had a break, you’re home and alive now anyway. Focus on the year ahead, you can have another holiday.”
I spent many years planning my family and I anticipated the birth of my child with much excitement. I wanted to have an all natural birth if possible, because I knew that was best for myself and my baby.
I went to the hospital nearby because the glossy ads showed it to be a bright clean venue with the feel of a hotel rather than a hospital room. At 39w I was pressured into an induction because they said my baby was huge according to ultrasound. I was forced to stay on the bed despite having been assured I would have access to a birth pool. The monitors they pressed into my stomach hurt and disrupted free movement causing the contractions to be far more painful. Despite repeatedly stressing that I didn’t want vaginal exams there were too many to count and by multiple people I didn’t know. My labour “failed to progress” so an emergency caesarean was recommended. The epidural didn’t work properly so I was given a general anaesthetic. I woke up in recovery many hours after the birth of my baby, cold, shaken and alone. No one would tell me where my baby was or if she was ok. The pain was unimaginable.
I struggled to breastfeed because the incision hurt so much, it became badly infected. I found out that my baby was actually very small, much smaller than I was told, and all of that had been unnecessary.
My friend said to me:
“at least you got a healthy baby, that’s all that matters. Focus on the future, you can have another baby and next time just book in for a caesarean and do away with the fuss”.
I was overjoyed to finally have my baby in my arms but I wanted to be a good mother to her. I’d wanted to welcome her myself, feed her myself, carry her easily, bathe and dress her easily, but instead I was drugged to the eyeballs and I don’t remember anything about her first days. I still can’t look at the photos from that time because they make me cry.
Stop minimising the pain of mothers. If a woman tells you she is grieving over her birth tell her that you are sorry she was traumatised. Make her a cup of tea and a sandwich. Healthy babies are really important, but healthy babies need healthy mothers. They are an inseparable dyad, one is not more important than the other and it’s time that society recognised the importance of healthy, content mothers.
“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”
Barbara Katz Rothman