Birth Guilt

As the date crawls closer to Jacks 1st birthday I have been thinking about the fact that I have yet to chronicle my birth story, this is unusual for me as I have always written about the important moments in my life, long before I began sharing them on Home Slice.

The main impetus behind my procrastination is that I have a lot of unresolved feelings about Jacks birth, they are fading as time passes, but they still linger a bit. I was in active labor for 50 hours and in the end had to deliver via c-section, not due to any fetal distress, but due to the size of the baby versus the size of my pelvis. Like so many women, I was very keen on having a natural birth, and have felt that not being able to deliver him naturally was a failure on my part. I felt guilty in the first days after his birth, and was worried that I was not going to bond with him properly due to his surgical beginning.

I did not feel, what I perceived other mothers felt; an intense and euphoric love at first sight, greater than any love they had ever felt. I felt love and extreme protectiveness towards him, but I also felt exhaustion and trauma from the physical distress of 50 hours of labor followed by major surgery, as well as a lingering darkness that took a while to fade. The intense, heart transcending love did come, as I got to know him. It has grown steadily, blooming in to all of the things I thought “I was supposed to be feeling,” but it was gradual. This may be due to the birth, or the fact that we had some negative postpartum experiences, or it could have been postpartum depression that took me a while to identify, or simply my personality, what ever the cause, my lack of “correct” emotion was another thing that I felt guilty about.

I hate that I took all the knowledge I had gained and my desires about birth, and used them as yet another way that to judge and measure myself, another opportunity to feel I had fallen short. I doubt that my Grandmother who bore 7 children was wracked with guilt and disappointment after her births, because they did not transpire according to her birth plan. She was probably just grateful to have a healthy child, and never even thought to analyze her birth in the same way that we modern Mamas do.

I think all of the birthing options that we have these days are important, and I am proud to be part of a generation of women who are educating themselves and taking control of their labors and their bodies, by making informed choices. However I don’t like the culture of judgement and guilt that seems to coincide with it. In choosing one path as right for ourselves and our families, we should not feel the need to condemn the other paths, and people who chose them.  And if we are unable to control the situation (hello, labor) we should not waste time and energy condemning ourselves and feeling guilty for things that we could not help. I know this in theory, but it’s hard not to feel badly, it’s hard not to review all of the steps and wonder what I could have done differently. I sat teary eyed in my 2 month post-natal appointment wishing for an answer as to why my labor ended in a c-section, to which the midwives response was that he was simply to large for me. It is hard not to get a twinge of jealousy over births that went the way I wanted mine to, hard not to feel fear and confusion in thinking about the future and what a second birth would be like for me, what choices would I have the second time around?

Almost a year of motherhood has tempered my feelings of inadequacy, and guilt primarily because I don’t have as much time as I used to, to obsess over everything. Motherhood is a fantastic antidote to vanity. But also because I love my Son more than life, and now I know, that his birth did not, or could not have affected that in any way. I want to write down my story, because good or bad, perfect or not, it’s mine. I hope that in doing so I can release the lingering guilt and doubt that still creeps in. I hope I, along with any of you that have been judging your own births as inadequate can be gentler on ourselves, and stop being so strident in our decisions, especially ones that are beyond control.

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7 Comments

  1. thanks lu. you know i am right there with you on so much of this. ❤

    Reply
  2. I think you should write it because I know many women who had a similar experience and who would benefit from knowing they’re not the only ones to have had a different birth experience from the one they had imagined. At the end of the day, we’re lucky we have medicine on our side these days and a mother’s love is the fiercest kind, no matter how long it takes to make itself felt.

    Reply
  3. So brave of you to share this. I’m new to your blog… can’t wait to read more. xo.

    Reply
  4. Thanks guys, for your support it means a lot. I have talked to so many Mothers that get emotional and upset over the way their births unfolded. It’s unfortunate and I think it makes everyone feel better to discus it openly. xoxoxo L

    Reply
  5. So glad you wrote this, Lou. I especially like the part about the culture of judgment and guilt — every woman has a unique path to giving birth and there’s no “right or wrong” way, it’s just whatever mother and baby need at that time. Thank you for being open and sharing such an intimate part of your life.

    Reply
    • ” every woman has a unique path to giving birth and there’s no “right or wrong” way, it’s just whatever mother and baby need at that time.” – What a lovely and truthful way to state that. Thanks;)

      Reply
  6. you know I get it. and i honestly think I love Luciana more for what each of us went through and how brave and strong she was through the whole thing. nice talking to you today:)

    Reply

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