If I was to tell you that immediately post birth I was contemplating picketing outside the hospital with a placard that read “Natural Birth = Cruelty to Women”, you might just guess the gist of my birthing experience.
Perhaps that is why it has taken me a while to get back here. Last time I wrote I was adamantly supporting the use of a birth plan and had my sights set on a romantic candle lit evening, birthing a baby. Even though I ended up with nothing of the sort, I should probably say straight out that I still maintain the same theoretical position. Without doubt, had I not employed the invaluable help of a midwife and a birth plan, I would have certainly been given a caesarean.
Even so, I had desperately wished that at this point, nine months on, that I might be one of those women who looked back fondly on their birth experience, regaling stories of softly lit candles and warm baths (despite everything I’m still convinced they exist). Unfortunately, I cannot deny my birthing experience was more of the “Help me- Help me- Greek- martyrdom-tragedy” variety. Fear most certainly was my number one companion and enemy throughout the ordeal.
But I think that all of that is probably a topic for another day when I have the energy to go there. Today, like all good blogging days is about getting back on the writing horse. Even if now post baby it is accompanied by a slight bladder weakness as we get into a trot (let’s face it, I’ve already wet my pants just climbing into the saddle).
You see, mothering is above all from the moment you give birth, well how can I put it?…Humiliating. It starts when your waters break and then appears to simply continue on until you die (are you getting the martyrdom thing now?). Yes, yes, the miracle of birth and all that… but seriously folks, I run out of fingers trying to count the amount of times I’ve wet my pants in public, opened doors not realising I have two rather elongated breasts waving to my toe,s or farted while in line at the supermarket (the later I always try to pass off as someone else, the nipple thing is harder to hide).
Whilst pregnant, the women that go before you smile wryly while watching you rub oil into your belly, waxing lyrical about the joy of carrying a child. WHY DOES NOBODY TELL YOU WHAT IT IS LIKE? I asked my friend this very question after giving birth and she answered simply, “Because it doesn’t seem very helpful. You’re going to have to find out anyway”. Good answer I suppose.
But here’s the thing. The real crux of it. The big taboo. There are some of us who find both birthing and bonding akin. It’s hard, it takes work and half way through you’re wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into.
People say that when a woman gives birth and first meets her baby, love hits her. But the love I share with my daughter started as a little spark that would catch light but moments later go out. I had a really difficult time bringing her into the world and when we first met, I have to say it shocked me. Here was this little girl, my little girl, defenceless and needing me completely. I don’t hide the fact that I didn’t know what to do. Throw me a nephew or two and I could throw them under my arm and run with it. Show me my own newborn and I was useless. I thought for years that I was a natural mother but suddenly, in that moment, when I had to step up and “mother”, I was paralysed with fear.
How would I look after her? How would I give her everything she needed? The day I brought her home from hospital I cried to the Toolman, “I’m so scared I’m going to hurt her”. She was and is the most precious thing in my life and it took some time to realise that I wouldn’t break her. And if I’m honest, it took some time for us to get to know each other; for me to accept that she was mine and that I could look after her. Hey, it’s a work in progress.
Everybody that saw her said things like, “Isn’t she lovely, oh you must be so proud” and at each I smiled and said yes. In reality I was thinking, “Really?”. I remember my mother saying to me at one stage, “Now you know how I feel about you” and I thought at the time, “Right…it’s like that is it?”. Women don’t talk about this.
So here is my advice. My word of warning perhaps. Yep, getting that baby either out of your vagina or your stomach is going to be hard. Like, really hard. I hope it’s beautiful but if we’re talking Greek tragedies, think Troy ok? But you’ll get over that bit, trust me.
Be prepared though ladies for bringing that bundle of joy home. Know that it’s ok for them to cry; that it is their way of communicating with you. Know that they won’t die of hunger; your obsession with producing milk is probably your instincts in overdrive. This isn’t the dark ages, there are options. But absolutely most of all, know that quite simply one day, it will all come together…
For me, a few months after I had given birth, I looked at my daughter and I wasn’t scared to be alone with her. I wasn’t scared of her. I knew that she was mine; that I couldn’t break her and that most of all, I did deserve to be her mother. That day, Bella, my daughter, became my baby girl and I her mother. I looked in the mirror and realised it was me that knew she liked to be swaddled well after it was customary to swaddle a baby; that she liked her feet free so that she could “twizzle” them all day and best of all, that it was only me that could calm her down by singing “Ten Little Ducks”.
Quite simply, one day (and important to note, months after our meeting), I looked at her and the love that washed over me has never left. She waited patiently for her Mama and our love grew and grew and grew some more. And it keeps growing. And I keep loving her. I love her more than life itself. I am so thankful I was chosen to mother her.
Sometimes life is not what you expect it to be and it teaches you funny things. In a few years my adorable munchkin may be reading this and to her I say that one day, you might have a little girl or boy of your own and you might give birth and be smacked right down with love. Or you might not. You might have to wait. And give. And love anyway. And wait. And hope. And when you aren’t expecting it, you’ll see that the love of a child is the sweetest love that seeps from your pores and never leaves. I hope I’m there for that.
Like all good love stories, that between a mother and her baby is a dance. It’s tears of frustration, it’s hysterical laughter. It’s blissful walks in the park and sad glances at scars left behind. It’s fear and responsibility. It’s teaching life lessons. It’s dancing a dance, knowing I don’t really know the steps yet.
Oh, what the hell…to be honest, most days it’s dishes and washing!