As many mothers do, I began my pregnancy journey with expectations of what my pregnancy would look like. I hired a doula, researched EVERYTHING I could find about the birth process, and ultimately decided that I would have a drug-free, natural labor. I wanted to wait until I was in the second stage of labor before transitioning to the hospital so that when I arrived, I would be ready to push with the help of my essential oils, labor tub, and soothing audiobook. Once my baby arrived we would exclusively breastfeed.
Or that’s how I thought it all would go.
My birth story began around 5 in the morning on July 3. I experienced premature rupture of membranes (PROM), meaning that my water broke sans labor pains at 38 weeks and 1 day. The irony is that I asked the OB-GYN not to do cervical checksin order to prevent this very thing. My doula came, and we started the process of trying to naturally induce labor. After 18 plus hours of this, I finally conceded and went to the hospital to be induced.
After a full night of no progress, my OB talked me in to an epidural to see if that would help me along. After another day of laboring with the epidural, I had minimal progress. We got to the point where Baby Cassian’s heart rate was dropping with every contraction and no longer bouncing back. My OB agreed to wait and watch for a while to see if he would improve, but he didn’t. I remember her coming into the room with such a look of sadness. She knew how much I did not want a c-section, and how much I had wanted to do without medication. I finally consented, and as overjoyed as I was to be meeting baby Cassian soon, a part of me was mourned as I was rolled into the OR.
Cassian was born at 8:35 p.m. on July 4, 2018. Amidst all the uncertainties, he absolutely exceeded any expectations I had. He was absolutely perfect.
My stay in the hospital postpartum also fell short of my well-laid plans. Cassian only occasionally managed a successful latch, and to make a long story short, I had a revolving door of lactation consultants coming in and out giving me mixed messages about our ability to breastfeed successfully. I eventually began my transition to exclusively pumping because that seemed the only thing I could hold on to of all my well-laid plans.
I came out of this experience in mourning, and asking myself if I had done things differently, would the results had been the same? I wasn’t able to discuss my birth story without coming to tears, and hearing people tell me, “At least your baby is healthy and that’s all that matters,” only made it worse. It minimized the pain I’d experienced.
I can’t imagine the pain of an infant loss, and I don’t mean to delegitimize the visceral pain of a mom who has lost an infant. I am THRILLED Cassian came out healthy, but I still mourn that his birth was the cascade of medical interventions I had worked so hard to avoid. I felt like less of a mother because of it.
I had experienced Birth Trauma, and I needed to process what happened in order to heal from the trauma.
Tell YOUR Story
Letting go of the expectations I had so carefully nurtured for 9 months took time, tears, and a lot of support. In order to process and let go, I had to speak. I told my birth story and shared my breastfeeding woes with the support group at the La Leche League, via social media, to my husband, and to my friends. With each telling, my story became less painful.
This processing and acceptance of my birth story through progressive retelling is what therapists call a trauma narrative. The belief is that in telling and retelling your story in increasing detail we are able to make sense of our experiences. They become less and less painful with each retelling, and eventually, we are able to let go and move on.
In telling my own story, I realized I was not alone in my struggles. I joined online support groups and read blog posts which exposed me to even more moms who had had experiences that did not live up to their expectations either. There is power in stories. There is healing power, power to reach across the divide, and to boost one another up. That is why we use stories in therapy to help us heal.
If your experience as a mother isn’t as you expected, or if you are having trouble accepting your story, I urge you to reach out and share it. Read stories from others and join a support group, whether that be in person or online. Telling your story will allow you will make progress in your journey to healing.
If you are in need of a therapist in the Columbia, SC area to help you work through pregnancy and postpartum anxiety or depression, or simply process your feelings and emotions about your experience, I encourage you to reach out. I would love to come alongside you in this journey.
Interested in connecting with other mamas? See below for some helpful links.