Monday 26 September 2016

Feeling Raw After the Birth

It's been exactly one month since I felt those early contractions which hinted that the baby might finally be on the way. The physical pain of labour is long gone, I can now sit without wincing and walk down the street without looking like John Wayne. There was a point where I really didn't think I would ever move normally again. But here I am, four weeks after the birth and I feel human again.

Emotionally, however, I'm not quite there yet. After my first birth, I didn't have any emotional healing to do. I felt amazing and powerful and like I had nailed womanhood. I don't feel those things this time. Instead, I feel disappointed, upset and disempowered. I feel like I was robbed of something I really wanted. I know how beautiful birth can be and it hurts me to think of how different this birth looked.

Most days I am ok. Most days I don't spend much time thinking about the birth. And when it crosses my mind, I tell myself that I tried my best and that I did the best I could in a bad situation. I tell myself that I made the best choices I could with the information I had at the time. On those days, I look down at the baby in my arms and know that she is worth anything the world throws at me.

But on darker days, when I haven't slept, when the baby is unsettled, when I find the unused home birth box behind the sofa and have to return it to the midwife so that a more successful woman can make use of it, I still feel hurt. On those days I find myself tearful, wondering why things went so wrong. I replay it all in my mind, wondering what I could have done differently.

I think back to the Friday afternoon. I was sat in the living room with my mum and I was telling her that I'd have to go for monitoring at the hospital on Monday if I was still pregnant. Oh, don't do that, she said, you know your own baby, if you think everything is ok, it is. If only I had listened to her. Sometimes mums just know, don't they?

I wish more than anything that I had delayed monitoring for a couple of days, that I had given myself a little bit longer to go into labour before I let myself end up in hospital. Maybe, if I'd done that, I'd have ended up with another baby born at home.  I'm sure it would still have been a more difficult labour than my first because of the position of the baby, but I know it would have been easier at home. I'd have felt more in control, safer and better supported.

There are so many things I would do differently if I could. And whilst on good days I can think oh well, it is what it is, on bad days, these thoughts go round and round in my head. The things I should have done differently, that feeling of helplessness, the stress of having to keep fighting whilst in labour.

And then there's always the feeling that I'm being ridiculous. That yes, my birth didn't go to plan, but it's hardly a traumatic story, is it? I have friends who have had emergency sections, forceps deliveries and large tears. I have friends who thought they were going to die. And here I am crying because I didn't get to give birth at home.

But I can't help how I feel. All I can do is try to process it and move on. And for the first two weeks after the birth I talked about it endlessly. I asked Laurie a million questions about what happened, I wrote it down, I talked to friends. And that helped, I felt better, I do feel better, it's just the occasional bad day now. The days when I'm overtired and over emotional, on those days it's hard to ignore the disappointment I feel inside.

On those days, it all still feels very raw. After all, I might never do any of this again. That might be the final chapter of my story. Those feelings of strength and pride after my first birth feel like a distant memory. Now when I think about birth I remember feeling scared and helpless and weak. I am trying hard to focus on my first birth, to remember those feelings and how amazing birth can be. I want to be able to feel excited for other people planning home births instead of just feeling jealous that mine didn't work out. There's nothing I hate more than feeling jealous of other people.

This morning I took my unused home birth box and dropped it off at the doctors so my midwife can use it again. She can pass it along to another woman planning her home birth. I really hope she gets to use it. That she gets to meet her baby for the first time in the comfort of her own home, away from the bright lights of the delivery ward. I hope she gets to take a bath, put on clean pyjamas and snuggle up in bed with her brand new family. I hope she gets the birth she wants so badly, because all women deserve that, don't they?

Now I've gotten rid of the big pile of home birth things from the corner of my living room, I hope I won't be reminded about the birth quite so much. I hope I will go back to thinking that I did ok. I hope I can believe that I did the best I could and I hope I can feel proud of myself for the birth I did have.

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