Let me begin by saying this isn’t about spreading a fear of birth, this is about talking about experiences. That everything isn’t always what it seems. Wonderful outward appearances don’t always mirror what the actual reality is for the participant. I had no idea that my experience was so common. It happens in home births, unassisted births, and hospital births.
No one talks about it, though. It’s like there’s a stigma attached to having negative emotions in regards to an ideal birth.
I chose to give birth in a hospital. That’s the only place my beloved midwife can legally attend births. She hand picked the nurses who were in the room with me. Everyone was respectful, nothing was done against my wishes, and I wasn’t talked into anything. My husband was my rock, my doula was my strength, my midwife was my faith. Lights were kept dim, talk was at a low murmur. Words were always encouraging, conversation light. I was respected and supported in every way a birthing woman could want.
This is what was seen in the birth photography, what was read in my birth story, what others expressed to me when I asked them about their perspective of the birth.
But I felt nothing but betrayal. Anger, pain, distress, and bitterness. I couldn’t talk about the whole thing without crying for weeks. It took me longer to be able to think about it without wanting to cry.
I felt betrayed by my body. The enormous, ferocious pain I experienced during the pushing stage was beyond my wildest imagination. It blew me away because it was not what I had been expecting. Ella’s birth was an almost euphoric experience. Pushing gave me relief from pain and was something I looked forward to. Believe it or not, I actually enjoyed her birth experience. I was not prepared, in any way, for the vicious, bone shattering pain that ripped through my body and actually intensified as I pushed.
It really messed with my mind and emotions to choose to inflict such incredible pain upon myself. There’s more to it than that, but I can’t find the words to delve into it. I’ve been angry, sad, overwhelmed, hurt, gasping, and a myriad of other emotions off and on for the past year.
I had no idea that such emotions could be tied into a normal, natural birth. I had always assigned those reactions to unwanted medicalized births. Never, ever to a “perfect” hospital birth.
I’ve nit picked my birth over and over again. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to alleviate the pain. I did nothing wrong. For those of you who are knowledgeable about birth, perhaps not pushing on my back would have relieved pain, perhaps not. Unfortunately, pushing on my back is how I was able to progress with Miles. I have some physical deformities that caused him to get stuck no matter what position I tried, until I reluctantly tried sit ups while pushing. That is what got him out without forceps, a vacuum or an episiotomy.
I’ve been healing, bit by bit. I can’t lay my finger on any one specific event, but rather it’s been a compiling of small happenings here and there. I cried with my doula a week after Miles’ birth. I wrote and wrote and wrote for myself, expressing my emotions and treating them as valid. I talked about what I experienced with friends and was shocked to discover I wasn’t a ungrateful freak, but rather one of many who was working through a similar flood of emotions.
Most recently, I emailed a small circle of friends and asked them to come over the night of Miles’ birthday. To talk to me and listen to me while I verbally talked through Miles’ birth. To cry with and receive validation from women who had been at my birth and who had also worked through similar emotions.
Sending the email and hearing back from them all saying that they would come was exactly what I needed to work through the last lump of pain. Healing and soothing emotions have replaced senses of betrayal and anger. So much so, that I emailed them all back 10 days later saying that I was all right. I didn’t need to cry and I was healing well. I’m sure that more emotions will surface and need to be sifted through when I am pregnant again, but that is in the future. It is not now.
Right now? I am okay. No, I am more than okay. I am at peace.