Birth is Not Therapy
Guest blog-Chloe Bayfield (http://chloebayfield.com/)
March 2, 2012
I know that may be an obvious thing to say. But do you know what it has only just occurred to me. After I wrote the the last post about my VBAC attempt I was thinking about the huge amount of pressure I placed on that birth. I didn’t just want a lovely home birth I wanted a birth which rewrote history? A birth so amazing that it wiped out my previous c-sections. Even if I had achieved my home birth and then sunk into my lovely bed would it have been enough? Probably not.
So I had planned my beautiful VBAC. I researched, I talked and I prepared. Risks were investigated and fears allayed. Support was found and a birth pool bought. I knew I was doing the best for myself, my baby and my family. Brilliant! But I overlooked one very important detail, baggage. Partly I think because I didn’t realise quite how much of it I was carrying around.
Birth should be amazing, it should be something that you remember with pride and love. It doesn’t always go to plan and it means different things to each of us. We can try to make our birthing experiences as positive as possible. If we put in the leg work and ensure we are aware of what we want from our births and how we plan to achieve that. Of course that’s no guarantee, but it’s a move in the right direction. But I do wonder if we pile too much responsibility onto birth? If when we make our list of “wants” when planning our births and write something which falls outside of a birth’s job description then we need to stop. A natural birth after a c-section or a water birth after a unassisted birth on the motorway will almost definitely be a healing experience. But if we start expecting birth to eradicate or rewrite history then I think we are setting ourselves up for a fall?
We want our births to gloriously herald the end of a long hard pregnancy. We want them to ceremoniously welcome our new pride and joy. We pin all of the hopes, fears and issues from previous births neatly onto them. Some even hope they will signify a new lease of life for their marriage. Poor poor little birth, it’s just the one event, I don’t think it can or should handle the strain of such expectation. Whilst birth can have far reaching ramifications it can’t automatically absolve you of those issues. It can give it out but it can’t take it back. Like every other aspect of birthing we need to take ownership of these expectations and resolve them in a more controlled way than pinning them all onto poor birth.
If we pretend for a minute that I got my amazing home birth, something I’ve done a few times. What would I be feeling? I would of course be elated and ecstatic. And I would ride that wave of achievement for a while. Then once the hormones and adrenaline subside I think other emotions would flood in. This birth was amazing! It proves that my body can do it! Do you know what, that makes those two c-sections even harder to swallow. I should have been able to experience this three times, not once. And then the if only thought process starts. What if I knew what I know now ten years ago? What if I had said no? No a thousand times over! NO I don’t want that test, scan, monitor.
Do you see? Whatever happened during my third birth, whatever the outcome there would still have been fallout. If I had another birth and it went 100% to plan? There will still be fallout. That is unless I take time to address the birthing issues which I carry with me. My philosophy always used to be “shit happens, move on”. What I didn’t realise until very recently was that shit happened and 80% of me moved on. I thought I was grieving for my perfect birth, and I was, but not this one, or at least not this one alone. I filed away my previous two births in a box marked “not as good as expected”. At the time I didn’t realise the effects they had and would continue to have on me.
So this birth ended in a section, and that hit me. Then the fact that this was in all probability due to my first section hit me. The fact that I then had another needless c-section joined the queue of grievances. Wham! A cascade of disappointments and regrets, suppressed for over a decade fell into my lap. And I buckled under the weight. Who wouldn’t? If I had dealt with my birthing past before then I would still have been bitterly disappointed not to have my VBAC dream come true. but the grief would have stopped there.
Let birth be what it should be. Allow it to be something wonderful, trust it and thank it for allowing you to demonstrate what a wonderful strong woman you are. But please don’t expect it to take on miraculous time travelling, history rewriting powers. You alone can be that amazing, don’t assign your emotional recovery to one life event, it’s just not up to the job.
Chloes blog can be found at http://chloebayfield.com/