Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Unexpected


There are so many emotions going into a pregnancy.  Excitement for this new person, worry about the unknown, love and awe for the life inside of you, and expectation for something wonderful.

I teach natural childbirth.  I believe in the process and the joy of it.  I have to or I would not bother.  And yet, sometimes things go wrong.

In class we talk about avoiding complications, staying healthy, communicating with your birth team and a million other things.  In essence we try to control all of the factors that we can.  We talk about choosing a care provider, a birth place, practicing relaxation, letting go of any birth fears or mental or emotional barriers that could cause a birth to be more painful or problematic.  But when the day is over, you just can't control everything.

The unexpected sometimes happens.  People make all the right choices and all the right preparations and  a birth can go haywire.  A mom can have a beautiful natural birth and then struggle seemingly endlessly with breastfeeding.  And, even though I teach normality and how rare these things happen, they do sometimes happen.

Having a few students lately whose experiences have been unexpected has made me think.  I wonder if the difference I am trying to make is worth it.  I wonder if talking endlessly about the joys and the wonder of natural childbirth and then having a mom who can not have one, makes her experience worse than it would have been if she had known nothing.

Maybe a mother would be happier with her experience if she really didn't know better.   Maybe a woman is better off if she expects a horrifying experience and then gets one.  At least she was not disappointed.  Maybe a mother is better off if she doesn't really care if breastfeeding works out.  At least she won't beat herself up when things get hard.

But I can not seem to let myself believe such things.

I know it can be wonderful, life changing, powerful and transformative.  I know it in my core.  I know it matters to women.  That is why it hurts so badly to see things go wrong.


I hope that these mamas that I am watching struggle with disappointment and pain and unexpected problems recover.  I hope that it molds them into stronger and better mothers.  I hope I can learn from them and their experiences.

Maybe I need to not just teach women to let go of their control in labor, maybe I need to realize that I can't control their experience either. 

4 comments:

Fire said...

Thank you for the insight. I think that my experience was great for having more knowledge and I would think the same if something wrong happened. Thank you for teaching and being there for all of us that want to know more and be able to control more of what happens when possible.

Lyndsey said...

I think that would be a hard balance. You are right that you cant control situations, but never give up on your passion. There will always be disappointments, but the success stories are truly amazing!

Sarah C said...

Thanks ladies- it has been a day!

Michelle said...

Hi. I know this is an old post. I am reading on your blog tonight in preparation for the birth of my third baby in April, and just wanted to comment. I had an unexpected first birth. In some way, it was completely as I planned. I had a home water birth, with midwives, vaginally with a small tear and some pitocin after to help with bleeding. In other ways, it was completely different than what I had planned, and rather tramautic for me. I had read scores of books, prepared, taken a Bradley class, done my relaxation practice, exercised, ate well, etc... I entered into this with very little fear. I had an idea of how labor would go. My idea did not involve my water breaking a few days before my 37 week mark, or a labor that truly did not have any breaks between contractions. Not even a 5 or 10 second one--but rather one wave crashing on top of another with no break in sight. It was only 2.5 hours of that before baby was born, and only two or three pushes. But truly, in that 2.5 hours, I thought I was going to die. I lost my focus and concentration, and felt like I was being run over. And then breastfeeding! Yikes. I struggled so much for a full eight weeks. Nipple shields and poor latch. Tears and pain. Honestly, I think that the fact that I was GBS+ caused my water to break a bit early, and that baby girl was not quite ready to come out. I think that contributed to my struggle with breastfeeding and also to the extreme fussiness of my daughter those first months.

I felt I had done something wrong. I expienced grief and shame over the birth--wishing I had stayed in control. Wishing I had been better prepared to deal with labor. Feeling broken and like I had failed my iinfant daughter as well by not having the peaceful, joyful birth I hoped for. And yet, now, 8 years later, I can say I am glad I knew about home birth, my body, and natural choices.. I am glad I prepared how I did. I am glad I had a healing hospital birth with my second--an even shorter labor, but with 10-30 second breaks between contractions. I think the knowledge is worth it, but I also think that we have to acknowledge that some things are out of our control. Life isn't a formula, where certain inouts equal certain outputs. Neither is parenting. We have to accept that even while we do our very best to prepare, that life happens, and we have to be peacefully prepared to meet whatever turns our birth may take. That is the piece I was missing before, that I have learned since.

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