25 January 2012

No Birth Story

This is not a birth story. I don't want to write what happened at the birth of my baby. I would rather forget.

People, I feel betrayed. I spent nine months reading nothing but birth stories. I couldn't wait to write down how I "birthed" my "babe". I read so many books on yoga birth poses, hypnobirthing and "breathing out the baby", and watched documentaries about arse-kicking feminist who give birth in the bathtub in the name female empowerment, and I could not wait to join them. I was obsessed with the many blogs detailing the lives of beautiful ladies birthing on yogaballs whilst muttering affirmations.
I wanted to be like them, and feel at one with the world, finally. This birthing experience was going to kick some arse.

Then I went to hospital, I somehow, I don't know how, gave birth to a 4,65 kilo baby, and I felt violated. Birth, people, was not my moment to experience self-realisation by means of connecting to mother earth in a powerful way. It was not empowering to feel the labour pains. I refuse to call them "waves". They were earth-shatteringly crippling pains that I was sure I'd not be able to handle for longer than 2 seconds. And I am no a wuss. I am built like a solid Germanic horse, and I could not believe my body was letting me down. I had gas, pain relief, and finally, thank you lord, the epidural. In my mind, I'd already failed. The yoga ball remained unused in the corner.

Then it was my moment to shine. Push! Push! I thought I'd experience the magic moment that I'd later remember - like a well of strength I'd be able to draw from for the rest of my life. Instead I thought I was going to die of fear. It is not empowering to be cut open like a christmas turkey and have a quarter pounder ripped out of you. And I don't think I'd say anything different if I'd given birth at home in a bathtub, to a normal-sized child.

And it was over, and she was out. Finally I was going to feel that giant rush of love when that wee wet bundle of joy would be chucked on my abdomen. Matilda was born, her heartrate had dropped and she was thrown in the emergency incubator and doctors were shoving oxygen on her face. I did not feel a rush of love. I felt my heart open wide when I saw her, briefly. I literally felt my heart open, and I heard myself screaming for the baby, I thought she was dead, and in that moment my newly open heart was torn into a million pieces.

Then the baby was fine, but I was bleeding, and medicated, and so, so sick. I felt like a tractor had been parked on me. I couldn't even hold the baby. I did not want to. I did not feel a rush of love. I did not feel empowered. I felt like a failure. And a bad mother. The world had suddenly become a terrifying place.
I felt I had let myself down, and the baby. And I kept looking at her, and urging myself to feel that joy that I'd read so much about, but for me it remained unreachable.

How sad for me that I spent nine months not following my own instincts, and believing that I needed to have not a birth, but a BIRTH EXPERIENCE. It needed to be calm, spiritual, amazing, and my favourite word of all time (not): NATURAL. A natural birth please, for me! I wanted to show it to the naysayers who'd tell me with that evil glint in their eyes that I'd scream for an epidural the second the contractions hit. Which I did (that doesn't make the naysayers any nicer though).
Well screw all that.

I wish that prior to giving birth, someone had told me that it's ok to be terrified, scared, upset. That birth isn't a concept that sits somewhere between yoga and discovering god.

Lucky for me, my friend Erin saved my life when I told her, in tears, that I did not feel a rush of love for my baby at all. I did not feel a huge "bond". I simply felt that the earth had stopped moving. All I could feel was extreme terror that something might happen to her, or me.

Then Erin said: "you didn't meet the baby at birth, and you didn't need to bond with her. You met her when she was in your belly, you bonded with her then, and you already knew her when she came out. You didn't need to fall in love with her. You were already in love with her".

And it was true. And we are ok, now.

PS: This is what a baby looks like just after birth. Not that pretty. Take note, movie makers.


Squiggly Rainbow said...

wow - it is something that has not been spoken about much, the guise that if you haven't had the 'perfect' experience, or the bonding or the 'I can do everything and my baby and I are just peachy'.... It is great that you have a voice and you have expressed these feelings and your experience. I had a slow downward spiral of depression after my first, then my second and then did not bond with my third after fearing he would also be born with special needs as my second had. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, relating to other people's lives can be great - but I know for myself I felt terribly let down that I was doing 'it' right. There is no 'right' - we do need to follow our instincts just as you said! Love to you and Matilda xx

Kirsty said...

Sweet, sweet girl - your mate Erin is a brilliant, brilliant woman.

I'm so very glad you're OK. x

MildlyCrafty said...

Geez, that sounds pretty brutal, I'm sorry it turned out like that for you. My first is due at the end of June and I've read a few stories recently from mothers who were really disappointed or felt like failures because things didn't go the way they were hoping/expecting it to. I hadn't really thought about that possibility before then. So thanks for sharing your experience, it must've been hard to write it. Wishing you and Matilda the best.

NessaKnits said...

God, I love your friend Erin's quote. She is a very wise woman. My daughter (first child) was an epidural and posterior baby and it was god damn awful. The second time around I swore not to have an epidural (and didn't) and despite a mild cut and him being 9 pound 2, it was much better. You do what you need to do on the day of the birth to get through, remembering that it is only one day and there will be plenty of more days of sunshine to follow. And you will fall in love with your baby ... it will be the little things they do that will excite your heart .... Welcome to Motherhood.

Magdalena Franco said...

Firstly, good on you Tina for being honest and open about your feelings and expectations. Your story will give a better understanding and reality check to other first-time expectant mothers.
Secondly, my first birth sucked too if it makes you feel any better. Except mine did involve a yoga ball. Me bouncing completely naked while husband poured water on my lower back to take my mind off the horrendous pain. Humiliating, but I didn't care at that point. And I too didn't bond with this little so called bundle. I was so ill I couldn't hold him and they had to take him away for the night.
So, good on you for sharing and for recording the experience - as bad as it may have been.
P.S. I'm hoping my second time around will be a little friendlier!

Carla said...

I can relate to that damn yoga ball. I remember bouncing on it in a gentle and hopeful way (before things got too bad) thinking: 'I can deal with this! I can totally breathe through this and it will all be fine.' Not quite...I was so optimistic, thinking I had done all the right things. What was scariest to me was realising that none of it actually made any difference; that I had no control over what was happening. So thanks for such a beautifully written post, it made me remember and made me cry, just a little bit. All the best with your new baby love!

katiecrackernuts said...

I didn't birth the children I raised. They came to me by way of an affair and all the hideousness of blended families - but that's another story, and it's all good now, yeah? Anyhoot, if I tell ya how it's gunna be in about 16 years as a parent, you'll be pushing that little one back in. Being a parent doesn't stop being scary - but it's also pretty damn enlightening too. Roll with it. All of it. At the end of the day you are that girl's mum and, by gosh, in her world, you're the best. You're top dog. Enjoy.

dropstitch said...

I thought I was going into motherhood with my eyes open and had heard many stories of how disappointing birth/early days could be, but I think I still believed it would be different for me. I've been feeling cheated too, because I missed out on the experience of giving birth and on the early days of motherhood (I didn't even lay eyes on my baby until she was five days old and then we were kept apart for seven weeks while she was in hospital and I was in another hospital/at home). It's pretty horrible to start out as a mother with so many negative feelings and I am so sick of trying (and trying and trying) to focus on the positives, but at the end of the day I have my baby home now and I really couldn't love her any more than I do and I know she feels close to me, even if we weren't together in the beginning. Your friend's advice is very good and comforting to me too. I still want to cry every time I think about the last few months though! Thanks for sharing :)

Carmel Morris said...

I was wondering about you and how you went and if you were okay.

Congratulations on the birth of Matilda.

Your friend Erin is a very wise woman.

The birth is just the beginning of a much, much bigger adventure. Much love to you and your precious baby girl.

Kate said...

I have a pretty awful birth story for my first born too.
But I rarely tell it to new pregnant Mum's. The few times I've tried they haven't wanted any part of it. Theirs will be as you and I hoped ours would be. I feel like I don't want to shatter their illusions, to be the pessimistic voice. Maybe I should try harder. My home birth turned emergency c-section.
Congratulations to your family Tina. Birth is by no means the full stop. xx

Sally said...

My first two births turned into emergency c-sections... but the first was the worst. I wanted to have the birth experience at the birth centre, I wanted to be natural too. I was shattered after my c-section. I felt like total failure. For a while there I just pretended it hadn't happened. I even checked myself out of the hospital as if I'd had the natural birth. Not a great idea. But hey - it was my way of coping.
I love what Erin said too. I'm going to pass that on because it is so wise and so true.
Be kind to yourself. Some of the best wisdom I've heard since being a mother is in order to care for your child you need to care for yourself. It might well take a couple of years to come to terms with your daughter's birth. It's ok.
Congratulations! I wish you many many happy days together as a family.

Oh yeah - and well done to you for talking about it so soon. I still haven't really written my first born's birth story because it really was traumatic having my dreams and body shattered like that. You're very brave and I admire you greatly. You're a myth buster :)

Loz and Dinny said...

I am sorry that more people do not speak out. I have sat silent as people bang on about how birth should be all spiritual and empowering ... the truth is - I wish more people talked about it just being safe for baby and mother - to maybe have more of a sense of humour about how shit it can be (or not be) ... You are not alone - this Mumma thing is one crazy ride - hold those hands that make you laugh - even through the ugly crying - sounds like you have those hands already.

maybelle said...

Good on you for posting this. I had my daughter a few weeks before you had yours and I too had hopes of a life changing, all natural, hypnobirth. In reality I was induced with a large, posterior baby, was totally smashed by contraction on top of contraction (more like tsunami style than the "waves" I had heard about) and ended up having an emergency c-section. I felt a failure (and still do) but am getting there. I admire your strength in getting through this. Enjoy your Matilda.

Tania said...

I didn't have a yoga ball but I did have a bucket. WHAT THE HELL DID I HAVE A BUCKET FOR???

I thought I felt guilt at having 'failed' after the first. But then things really and truly went wrong with the second. Just before I had the third - the one where most things went right and not wrong, I had a conversation with the nearly four year old Middle Kid. It seemed a ridiculous thing to do at first. As it turns out my hippy independent midwife knew what she was going on about. I told my kid that things didn't go the way I hoped when he was born and in many ways I wasn't there for him and how very, very sorry I was. He looked me in the eyeballs, said "That's ok, Mum" gave me a hug and ran off to jump on the trampoline. And finally, FINALLY, I didn't feel any guilt and I didn't feel like I'd failed anymore.