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I know that may be an obvious thing to say. But do you know what it has only just occurred to me. After I wrote the the last post about my VBAC attempt I was thinking about the huge amount of pressure I placed on that birth. I didn’t just want a lovely home birth I wanted a birth which rewrote history? A birth so amazing that it wiped out my previous c-sections. Even if I had achieved my home birth and then sunk into my lovely bed would it have been enough? Probably not.
So I had planned my beautiful VBAC. I researched, I talked and I prepared. Risks were investigated and fears allayed. Support was found and a birth pool bought. I knew I was doing the best for myself, my baby and my family. Brilliant! But I overlooked one very important detail, baggage. Partly I think because I didn’t realise quite how much of it I was carrying around.
Birth should be amazing, it should be something that you remember with pride and love. It doesn’t always go to plan and it means different things to each of us. We can try to make our birthing experiences as positive as possible. If we put in the leg work and ensure we are aware of what we want from our births and how we plan to achieve that. Of course that’s no guarantee, but it’s a move in the right direction. But I do wonder if we pile too much responsibility onto birth? If when we make our list of “wants” when planning our births and write something which falls outside of a birth’s job description then we need to stop. A natural birth after a c-section or a water birth after a unassisted birth on the motorway will almost definitely be a healing experience. But if we start expecting birth to eradicate or rewrite history then I think we are setting ourselves up for a fall?
We want our births to gloriously herald the end of a long hard pregnancy. We want them to ceremoniously welcome our new pride and joy. We pin all of the hopes, fears and issues from previous births neatly onto them. Some even hope they will signify a new lease of life for their marriage. Poor poor little birth, it’s just the one event, I don’t think it can or should handle the strain of such expectation. Whilst birth can have far reaching ramifications it can’t automatically absolve you of those issues. It can give it out but it can’t take it back. Like every other aspect of birthing we need to take ownership of these expectations and resolve them in a more controlled way than pinning them all onto poor birth.
If we pretend for a minute that I got my amazing home birth, something I’ve done a few times. What would I be feeling? I would of course be elated and ecstatic. And I would ride that wave of achievement for a while. Then once the hormones and adrenaline subside I think other emotions would flood in. This birth was amazing! It proves that my body can do it! Do you know what, that makes those two c-sections even harder to swallow. I should have been able to experience this three times, not once. And then the if only thought process starts. What if I knew what I know now ten years ago? What if I had said no? No a thousand times over! NO I don’t want that test, scan, monitor.
Do you see? Whatever happened during my third birth, whatever the outcome there would still have been fallout. If I had another birth and it went 100% to plan? There will still be fallout. That is unless I take time to address the birthing issues which I carry with me. My philosophy always used to be “shit happens, move on”. What I didn’t realise until very recently was that shit happened and 80% of me moved on. I thought I was grieving for my perfect birth, and I was, but not this one, or at least not this one alone. I filed away my previous two births in a box marked “not as good as expected”. At the time I didn’t realise the effects they had and would continue to have on me.
So this birth ended in a section, and that hit me. Then the fact that this was in all probability due to my first section hit me. The fact that I then had another needless c-section joined the queue of grievances. Wham! A cascade of disappointments and regrets, suppressed for over a decade fell into my lap. And I buckled under the weight. Who wouldn’t? If I had dealt with my birthing past before then I would still have been bitterly disappointed not to have my VBAC dream come true. but the grief would have stopped there.
Let birth be what it should be. Allow it to be something wonderful, trust it and thank it for allowing you to demonstrate what a wonderful strong woman you are. But please don’t expect it to take on miraculous time travelling, history rewriting powers. You alone can be that amazing, don’t assign your emotional recovery to one life event, it’s just not up to the job.
Thank you for writing this Chloe. As an independent midwife I often work with women planning birth after previous CS or other traumatic delivery (word used advisedly). I want to say this about the need to deal with the “baggage” but feel I don’t have the right to define their reality. They must come to this understanding for themselves.
Every new human being’s arrival is a miracle, even where the birth needs medical help. Birth after trauma can be healing but there are no guarantees. Even the most blissful birth comes after the hurt of previous ones. The hurt and dis-empowerment are best addressed before a subsequent pregnancy or at least during it, making the “baggage” taken into the birth as light as possible, maybe even setting it aside for a while.
This is why I offer a Birth Debriefing Service for anyone who wants to tell their story, review previous birth notes, howl rage shake or otherwise discharge pent up emotions. I make sure they know how to access better qualified psychological support services too. Some who use this go on to become clients. Others not.
read the post and then your comment, sorry if I’m brief but I’m in serious need of a birth debrief… just in case we are local, maybe we could meet? I’m close to Gatwick airport, south of London.
Hijack away, it’s for a good cause
Thank you Liz! I seem to recommend people find an independent midwife and debrief their births almost every day, I think it’s a brilliant way to start processing and healing.
Chloe, what a brainstormer you are… I’m still in the process of digesting your previous post and you kindly jump in with another one, like following my thoughts?
I had been all week going around with the weight of that thought you mentioned in the previous post, the trouble believing or imagining that another section could happen to me? I suppose because I fear it would mean to be through all of it again, no not again, but the same, the same again. the time travel to see it all again, to live through it all again. Is this why we said in the group some months back that some of us wanted a vbac at any cost? because for nothing in this world we would want to be through it all the same again?
I need to put the birth experience I’ve had back where it belongs and not carry this heavy baggage with me all the time! yes Chloe, I needed you to write it so that I can clearly see it :’-) this baggage mines my way right now and I need to put it away.
Somehow after this post I feel it makes sense that I haven’t managed to get pregnant again yet. Deal with the past and then move forward, I need a new way to look at a possible comoing pregnancy, I need to certify I have the right support so that my hopes and dreams can have a chance, and then I need to face it new, to look at a birth and a pregnancy and a baby as it should be, each unique.
May i get pregnant when I’m ready.
Thank you Chloe.
Aah Valentina I love your comments thank you
Sending lovely fluffy warm pregnancy vibes!
Chloe thank you so very much for this post. It is such important information. We specialize in healing from traumatic birth & have always recommended processing a previous birth before birthing again as it’s too much pressure for this baby and this birth to have to ‘make up’ for the previous birth. We share with women that we don’t ‘birth in a vaccuum’, we take who we are, & whatever we have not processed, with us. Thank you for articulating so clearly the reasons why it matters so much. If we can support you in your own healing journey please let us know
Melissa, thank you so much for reading. It’s such a compliment to hear from a specialist in the field that I have managed to convey what I wanted to say clearly. It’s not always clear in my mind! Thank you also for the offer of support, will go and snoop around your website
Wise words, Chloe, and so true. As someone who achieved a birth that, to borrow your phrase, ‘rewrote history’ – (private hospital, drug free VBAC of a 5.76kg (12lb 11oz) second gorgeous daughter) I was still on the delivery bed when I began (re) experiencing the pangs of regret for how my first daughter’s birth should have been. I remember being surprised by this, somewhat naively thinking that a VBAC would somehow erase those emotions, but instead it actually intensified them – albeit for a brief period, thankfully. I am more at peace with it these days, choosing to see the CS as part of my life journey that taught me a lot about myself and enabled me to meet some amazing people, but I think that there will always be a bit of wistful “If only …”
I will be adding your words to my bookmark list, with the intention of sharing your insight and wisdom with others on this journey. Thank you.
Thank you so much Anne. Wow 12lbs, you really did show them, I love it! You’re right the c-sections are part of who we are, that feels like a good or a bad thing depending on how you’re feeling? I’m learning to tolerate them, maybe one day I’ll learn to love them. Please do share, the more the merrier
Chloe, thanks for your reply to our comment I realised that I typed in our blog link incorrectly (typing late at night while breastfeeding will do that!), and wanted to give you the correct link. Our blog is called “The Truth About Traumatic Birth – what you need to know on the healing journey” , and the link is : http://birthtraumatruths.wordpress.com Our website is http://www.birthtalk.org I posted a link to this blogpost of yours tonight on our Facebook page, and in the short time since it went up (close to midnight our time), it’s already had 3 comments, 4 likes, and 3 shares – you have struck a chord with your honesty and clarity of thought. Again – thank you
Wow that’s great, thank YOU for sharing it! Have bookmarked your sites and liked your Facebook page, planning to save for the middle of the night feed
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! You are living my birth experiences and future birth expectations!!! I have had 2 c-sections and would ideally love to have a natural birth one day but i am also carrying baggage for my first 2 births. I don’t feel alone anymore as i know there is someone else in my shoes. Thank you so much!!!
Thank you for reading, I hope you get your natural birth one day
It’s nice to have made people feel less alone, it has made me feel less alone in the process. Multi tasking at it’s best!
Wow – what a beautiful, deeply personal and revealing read. Thank you for writing this and sharing your very personal thoughts and experience. I have shared this on my FB page – I hope you don’t mind! I think your message is really important. Women often talk about a birth being healing for them – but perhaps it really is the journey they have already taken and the work done that has allowed them to experience that healing. I believe there is so much hiding within our birth experiences that we don’t always unpack and look at. So many opportunities to learn, grow and heal ourselves – even years later. Wishing you all the best for your healing journey xx
Thank you so much for reading and thank you for sharing, the more the merrier
Most days I think I’m out the other side of the process, now on to help others!
And I think you’re right, healing births are often owe a lot to the work done in preparation. But you might not notice, it’s when you don’t do that prep that you notice?
Since you published this post it has had quite a bit of attention in our community – we a support group for women who have birthed by CS and (typically) found it traumatic. Many of our members come to us because they are planning their next birth and realise, in this process, that they need to unpack their previous birth’s worth of baggage – you really hit the nail on the head here so perfectly.
I wondered if I might be able to publish this post in our newsletter – it is distributed to our members via email and handed out in hard copy version at our monthly coffee mornings… Please feel free to email me at email@example.com and check us out on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CARES.SthAus. (Please don’t be freaked by my recent reference to a girl crush on you – I just find your posts really resonate with my own thoughts on birth, LOL.)
Thank you so much for this blog – it is a wonderful way for women to know that they are not alone and nor are they crazy for wanting to question the system, their experiences within it and to hope for more for themselves and their babies.
Thank you so much, you’ve made my day, drowning in hospital stats and policies today and needed the lift! Will email you
[...] a secret no one will tell you. My dear friend, and fellow blogger, Chloe, wrote about this recently. For those of us who have had traumatic births, we sometimes place a lot of [...]