I was a woman who did it all right, and whom some would say got everything I wanted in labor and birth. I had taken intensive private classes, read all the books I was supposed to, wrote a birth plan, hired a doula, had a supportive doctor and labor team (my nurses were awesome).
What was my first thought after giving birth to my daughter?
It took me a long time to understand that this sense of failure was a result of my expectation of what labor would look and feel like. I imagined that my natural labor would be this calm, quiet, spa-like scenario (and some of it was).
But towards the end, it was screaming, whining, crying for an epidural while my back felt like it was breaking in two.
Oh no, that’s not what natural labor is supposed to be like.
Or is it?
Do you think I was coping with contractions while I did that?
Does it make you uncomfortable that natural labor could look like that at the end?
Is it something you hope you won’t have to do?
Because I had not seen a lot of labors other than the televised crazy ones or idealized natural versions, I had not asked myself those questions.
I looked at my newly born daughter and was relieved the pain was over and was sad for how weak I was. I hated myself. I did not expect to react to labor the way I did, leaving me to feel defeated and ashamed.
That mistrust of my abilities emanated into my relationship with my daughter, my partner, and my family. It affected how I mothered and how I saw myself as a mother. I had not prepared for all the vast possibilities of what birth could be. Yeah, sure, I knew about interventions and what I wanted to avoid. Yet spiritually, I was afloat on a river without a paddle. A birth can be calm and peaceful, that is absolutely true. I’ve realized over the years, especially after discovering Birthing From Within, is that disappointment and even trauma can happen not because of the unexpected event or feeling, but how prepared you are to cope with it, if it happens. If we only prepare for a calm birth, what happens when we haven’t prepared for what we will do, if it’s not?
I now know that was what it took to bring my baby here. The process of opening myself further than I ever had before, physically and emotionally, was more intense than anything I had ever experienced. I did not know that this was a part of my initiation into motherhood. Those last few hours felt like a failure, but it was me being powerful, doing what I needed to do because I loved my child. A part of me was dying, but another part was being born, as a newborn mother.