You are pregnant, and have a desire to give birth without intervention. You want to bring your baby into the world in the most natural way possible. You don’t want a medal. You don’t do this to be better than anyone else. It is something that is important to you, for whatever reason. You may feel that interventions can lead to more interventions which can be risky for both you and your baby. You may be an earth-mother kind of woman who feels a natural birth will lead to a better bond with your baby, or you might be like me, a pretty mainstream, non-athletic mom who simply wants to feel childbirth, pain and all.
You plan. You research. You find Hypnobabies, the Bradley Method or another birthing style. You take classes. You read birth story after birth story. You talk with your OB or Midwife. You hire a doula. You explain to your husband that unless you call out the word “flugelhorn,” you do not want an epidural, no matter how much you may beg for it.
Your friends think you are off your rocker.
They want to help you, so they say, “Don’t get your hopes up.” And “Things may not go according to plan.” Or my favorite, “A healthy baby is all that matters.” You resist the urge to scream at them saying, “I KNOW ALL OF THIS!! THAT DOESN’T MEAN I DON’T HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW I WOULD LIKE THINGS TO GO!!” You know things are beyond your control. You know that anything could happen during birth. You know that ultimately, you want to have a healthy, happy baby. You know this, but that doesn’t mean you give up on your ideals. An attitude like this would never fly in any other aspect of life. If you wanted to run a marathon or climb a mountain, no friend would tell you that the terrain is rough and you may not finish, but all that matters is you don’t die. If you wanted to start a business, no one would tell you that roughly 50% of businesses fail within the first few years and not to get your hopes up about being successful. No one would dare say such things to you. Yet they feel perfectly comfortable “protecting” you from “failure” by shooting down your birth desires. You deal with this well meaning but off putting attitude almost anytime you mention you want a drug free birth. But, you persevere because even though you know it isn’t a 100% guarantee, you want to do all you can to ensure you have the birth you envision.
Slowly but surely, and for one reason or another, your plans begin to unravel. Your baby is breech, you are far enough past your due date that you need an induction, your water breaks but labor doesn’t begin. Whatever happens, you end up with Pitocin, you scream FLUGELHORN and receive an epidural, and/or you have a c-section.
No matter what the reasons, the outcome was the same: you’re plans for a natural birth crashed and burned.
Your baby is born healthy, and you are ecstatic. You are looking at this beautiful being and are filled with awe, but you are sad. You didn’t get the birth you wanted. I want you to know, it is okay to feel sad. You can be completely grateful for a healthy baby and sad that the birth took an unexpected turn. The two feelings are not mutually exclusive.
Most people will not understand. Most people will again say, “All that matters is a healthy baby.” You know that a healthy baby matters most. And you love your baby more than anyone else in the world does. You would never sacrifice their health for an experience. But the experience you wanted did not happen, and you can take a moment to grieve. Find a group of like-minded people who will help you process this. Give grace to your friends and family who do not get it and question your feelings. They mean well. But it will take time to heal.
You are allowed to mourn the birth you thought you would have.
Sometimes, things we attempt simply do not work out, whether it be a job, a house, a relationship, conception, breastfeeding or even a birth experience. No matter how hard we try, or how bad we want something, ultimately, we are not in control of most things. And that sucks, but it’s okay. You will be okay. You are going to be a great mom and as the days and weeks go on, you’ll find yourself loving this child more than you thought capable. This one moment does not define you as a mother. You are a strong, smart, amazing woman, and your feelings are valid, but they will not consume you. You will get over this. Things will get better. In the meantime, you have permission to mourn.
A mom who has been there