So we’re coming up to the five month mark since our little girl joined our family earthside and, since she and I are healthy and thriving you might be excused for thinking that I would have no lingering concerns over her arrival. Birth trauma is a bitch, though, if you’ll pardon my language and even the most outwardly straightforward births can leave a new mother with anything from a lingering sadness through to flashbacks, post-natal depression or even psychosis, because what so many people fail to recognise is that birth is not a purely physiological process.
Bringing a baby into the world may happen through a physical process, but that physical process is brought about and supported by emotional and hormonal reactions. Other people* have written far more widely and knowledgeably about the birth process and, as I have no pretension to medical expertise, I’ll leave that to them. No, I’m going to share something more personal. My daughter was born at home, as planned, with kind and caring midwives who had looked after me throughout my pregnancy. I laboured in a pool, birthed her with no medication at all, even gas and air, and my husband supported me through the whole thing. She had nothing to eat but breastmilk.
This is the story I tell to strangers. It’s all true. It’s just not all of the truth. Even now I’m not going to go into exhaustive detail, but she got her shoulder stuck on my pubic bone (shoulder dystocia). She needed resuscitation as she didn’t breathe on her own for ten minutes. Paramedics were called and responded with urgency. We transferred to hospital where I had a haemorrhage and a general anaesthetic. She was given donor milk, hooked up to machines, given a lumbar puncture, roomed away from me for the four most painful nights of my life. She’s fine. I’m fine. But that’s not all that matters.
As mothers we have hopes for our births and our babies. Not every mother’s is the same as mine, but I hoped for calmness, peace, an intimate experience and a babymoon at home in my own bed with my new baby. I laboured for 8 hours, brought forth a 10lb baby with shoulder dystocia and had no pain relief. I worked damn hard for the outcome I wanted and I feel cheated. And sad – so so sad.
I’m not sure what I hope to achieve with this post. It’s not really informative, unless you’re desperately interested in my personal life. I suppose I’m just asking for understanding for any woman who doesn’t seem ecstatic about her birth, perhaps there’s a reason. Be sensitive. What she’s telling you might not be the whole story, so don’t assume. Don’t judge. Despite the outward appearance of calm and happy maternity perhaps she, like me, is dreading bedtime because it means being alone with her thoughts and a long, sleepless night of tears and bitterness. Motherhood is a baptism of fire and it can take a long time to move out of the flames.
*I recommend Sarah Buckley and Ina May Gaskin if you want a beginner’s crash course in birth.