I thought I’d come to terms with the birth and subsequent breastfeeding woes that I experienced. I thought although I needed to grieve the disappointments that I was ok.
That was until I found myself sitting with 4 wonderful friends the other day, one friend with her beautiful 5 day old baby (yes five day old and she was happily sitting out of the house, in real clothes, and a smile on her face 😵), and we were hearing a bit about her labour experience, which is a favourite past time of mine. I absolutely love hearing how beautiful babes enter this world and all the juicy details, whatever anyone is willing to share I will soak up like a sponge.
However this day I found myself looking down and playing with my son, kissing him and generally distracting myself whilst some emotions bubbled in my belly – sadness, jealousy maybe? Hot tears threatening my eyes and an ache in my being so deep; an uncomfortableness that I find hard to put my finger on related to the discussion of labour, contractions, needing to do a poo but it really being the time to push and having your body take over, an amazing climactic end to a time of pushing, the birth of the placenta and on and on it goes.
It’s amazing, it’s always amazing, all these women’s stories whom I was sitting with had amazing stories.
The birth of my son is inexplicably amazing in how it has changed me, opened me up to love I never knew could be so deep, the joy, the extremity of experience. But my birth experience was sterile and controlled, I never even had a braxton hicks to experience during pregnancy.
The pain began rather than ended with the arrival of my bundle, the searing all engrossing ‘I don’t ever want to move but I have to heal’ pain of having a baby cut out of me. 5 days after the birth we went home from hospital and the walk from the bed to the car and home was enough to send me to bed for the rest of the day. I could never have sat smiling and shared my experience with friends.
I grieve that I missed these things:
– the excitement of not knowing when it will happen
– feeling baby be engaged
– waters breaking
– labour of any sort
– having my body know what to do
– the memories of the first two weeks as I was in such heavy pain medicines I look at photos and don’t remember
On this day with friends I just feel sad. I feel out of place, I don’t feel like I can sit and chat about my birth experience in the way that other mums can sit and divulge their experiences.
I know my experience was amazing for me, I know that it was certainly not the easy way out when you consider the recovery, I say that but yet I still feel like I’ve missed out, that I don’t measure up and that somehow my experience of birth is less valid.
No one has said this to me but I feel it. Coupled with the sadness I feel that breastfeeding didn’t work (& the guilt that I didn’t keep trying even though I know it’s ludicrous to think I would leave the hospital after my mastitis stay still breastfeeding after such ongoing issues- yet as I type that I think to myself that I’m sure others have pushed through and sucked it up), means that I just feel bad, inadequate, like I’m unwilling to go to extraordinary lengths for my baby – why didn’t I try for a breech birth? Why didn’t I keep feeding and just keep taking antibiotics for repetitive mastitis?
Let’s also add on a huge guilt about throwing out around 500ml of colostrum over the first few days whilst I was pumping – no we didn’t store it, we put it in the bin… we did not know you could store it, we were overwhelmed by those days that we didn’t think about that liquid gold going to waste and now sometimes that’s all I can think about during the day. Intrusive thoughts of colostrum regret.
I ask those questions all the time of myself. I can provide answers to those questions in that I chose to trust our doctor, we didn’t want to assume extra risk in the birth of our baby, I had already taken a number of courses on antibiotics over the course of the first 6 weeks and that’s no way to live, I put my body on the line and literally had a baby cut out of me in a calculated choice to assume the risk associated with surgery to reduce risk to my baby.
I know the huge toll on my body associated with c-section recovery. Yet I still sit with a bunch of loving caring women who in no way say anything to diminish my experience and I become quiet and feel sad and full of grief inside.
This mum gig is tough because for me it hasn’t been ‘just’ learning to be a mum, it’s been many feelings of failure and sadness, coupled with anxiety and leading to feeling like I’m not good at this. If I can’t birth or feed in my preferred ways maybe I just don’t have what it takes, that is the root feeling at the depths of these thoughts.
I don’t really know how to manage these feelings, or what I need to do to work through them so that I can move on, so sharing my experience is another step in trying to figure it out.