My story: the final chapter
I think the biggest thing I learned about my birth experience is this…and this will be super helpful to anyone feeling awkward about their own experience. How you feel about your birth is NOT determined by what kind of birth you had. And I’m talking about the facts of the birth.
What will determine how you feel about your experience most of all is your EXPECTATIONS going into it. What you feel about yourself, your baby, the birth, the doctors, midwives, etc. will affect how you feel about your birth both during labor and after it. I realize now that my experience wasn’t the worst someone could have, if you look strictly at what happened. But because I went into it thinking certain things, my expectations were deflated rather quickly.
I had a friend die in childbirth in 2010. After I heard the news and what happened to her, my thoughts regarding my own birth became rather twisted. I started retelling the story like it was not that bad, and tried to convince myself that it could have been worse. This is not good either. I met with Penny right after my friend died and told her about this. She said, “whoh whoh whoh….just because your friend died, doesn’t change what happened to you. Yes you can be grateful you are alive, but don’t downplay your feelings towards your own situation.”
I sometimes would also hear of another Mom giving birth and having a terrible experience. Immediately I would think, “what is my problem? what am I complaining about?” but as much as I would think that, I would still have all the other negative traumatic thoughts about it. I share this to help you too. Don’t get into the comparison game with your birth. What happened to someone else doesn’t make yours better or worse, happier or sadder.
I’ll end with this. About a month after my counseling sessions were over, I still was struggling with a few weird thoughts. I had this weird feeling that something was stolen from me. Maybe stolen is not a good choice of a word. I had a perfect idea of what my birth would be, complications arose, mistakes were made, and my ideal birth was “like a rug being swept from under my feet.” It’s honestly hard to describe, but it plagued my thoughts for weeks. And then it hit me. (and this is hard to talk about but it really connected the dots for me.)
When I was 18, I was raped…in my own home, my own room, my own bed. I was a virgin and at the time, had believed I was saving myself for marriage. I grew up being taught that you shared that experience with your husband on your wedding night and for my whole life, that was my dream. I spent long hours daydreaming about who I’d marry, my wedding day, and of course, the wedding night. I had LOTS of expectations and emotions surrounding this as you can imagine.
I’m not saying that if you’ve had sex before, then being raped isn’t as bad, but for me it was very devastating. I felt like he had stolen something from me that I would never be able to reclaim or get back, even if he was punished and brought to justice. (and he was) I had done all that I could through high school to stay away from the boys (this sounds kinda silly, I know) I focused on school, church, and activities. I didn’t want to waste time dating. I thought it was stupid. After all, I wasn’t gonna sleep with the guy so what’s the point of dating?
I got great counseling after this happened and was surrounded by very loving and supportive friends and family. It took a while to work through it but my commitment was to do just that, get through it. I didn’t want to feel like a victim for the rest of my life. I’ll never feel happy that it happened (because that would be strange) but I’m not devastated anymore.
Anyway….I looked forward to that one night with my husband just like I looked forward to my perfect birth experience. This goes back to what I was saying about my expectations. I created this ideal situation in my head attaching emotions to it and creating quite the story.
I didn’t just get assaulted that night physically but I no longer had my “romantic story of a perfect wedding night”. My values were shaken, my ideals were questioned, my beliefs were tested. I viewed many things differently for a while. Similar to that, since my birth, I’ve struggled with this.
For example, I ate very healthy, exercised 6 days a week, and took care of my health very seriously. I do this because I know the value of what these habits create. Sometimes you don’t see the benefits externally or immediately, but they are still there. However, I had a deep seeded belief that because I did these things and they were such a huge benefit to my health, then that meant I would have a non-complicated perfect birth. Follow me here…
I obviously didn’t get the birth I wanted so this challenged my beliefs. I didn’t go back to eating healthy and exercising. I really struggled with eating bad and not taking care of myself.
You can change a belief one of 2 ways.
2.) Emotional involvement
The more repetition, the less emotions required. The higher the emotional involvement, the less repetition needed. Example, a guy eats unhealthy his whole life. He lives off fast food and pop. At 42, he has a heart attack. (this is an highly emotional experience) He survives the heart attack and immediately changes his habits to become healthier. He didn’t need 28 days to make a new habit. He had an emotional experience and that was all it took.
Ok, back to my story. Giving birth is a very emotional thing….or can be. For me, it was intense.
It significantly altered my core beliefs. I thought there was no point in eating healthy or exercising anymore. A lot of good it did me right? (wrong) If I did all that hard work and still had a terrible traumatic birth, then what the hell was the point? What value did it have if it didn’t even help me when I needed it the most?
Wow. How could I think this way? It is amazing to me that because of this one day, I had made so many shifts in my thinking. And I didn’t even realize it for months.
Through counseling, I was able to process all of this and work my way back to my core values. I’m back at the gym and working out (with no flashbacks). Back to eating healthy. And back to thinking good thoughts! I’m happy. I’m even happy about my birth. I even feel proud of that day. I can tell the story now and not be angry.
I’ve come a long way from stuffing my feelings and trying to forget about the birth. Now I can see that day for what it really was, the most wonderful and exhilarating day of my entire life.