This article was first published in La Leche League GB ‘Breastfeeding Matters’ magazine, number 185, September/October 2011.
When I was pregnant I was asked whether I would breast or bottle-feeding. This puzzled me because there was never a question, to me breastfeeding is simply how you feed your baby. Luckily, I come from a family who support breastfeeding, including my Nanna who fed twins at a time it was ‘normal’ to bottle-feed, my Aunty who fed her children until they naturally weaned, and my mother who breastfed me and my brothers. I therefore felt supported in embarking on feeding my own baby. Continue reading Mothering Through Breastfeeding: Part One, birth to ten months→
I shall never know whether within such a peaceful, familiar environment we would ever have achieved a natural birth; I can only say the chances would have been much higher. Instead, I missed the birth of my son and the first hours of his life. I still carry within me unresolved birth trauma, which at unguarded moments suddenly pulls at my heart strings, with it a feeling of inadequacy when I hear of natural birth or see it on the TV.
I live with this failure, not helped by some women who believe you cannot truly bond with your baby if you have had a caesarean. I defy this belief in the strongest possible terms; it is narrow-minded, judgemental, cruel and totally untrue. From the moment I saw my child I loved him unconditionally without end, our bonding blossoming. I know this to be the case of many other women too. Admittedly, caesareans can impact hugely on bonding and postnatal recovery, but they don’t per se, or habitually. To write off all women who have had caesareans is wrong, even more so in an age when caesarean rates are increasing.
Perhaps it is this extreme belief that natural birth is the only way which sets so many women up for massive disappointment and failure, like it did me. Just like failure to breastfeed can. Women need to be made aware that having a caesarean is a real possibility, so they can plan and prepare adequately for this, emotionally and physically. Also, hospitals should make caesarean births far more mother-and-child friendly than they are, allowing the experience to be as natural as possible within the confines of the artificial environment of theatre. For instance, mother’s should be allowed to hold their baby skin-to-skin as soon as possible. Continue reading Postscript to Ewan’s birth story: Part Two→
Writing and sharing Ewan’s birth story has been cathartic; helping me come to terms with the experience and accept the loss I suffered of not being able to birth Ewan naturally. The response from my family, friends and now the blog community has been amazing, which is why I have decided to add a postscript, as final points to this series of writings.
So many people have shared with me, in person, on Facebook and on my blog, their own experiences of giving birth. All these contributions are to be celebrated, because it sparks a much needed conversation about this often neglected area of many women’s lives, the birth of their children. These comments have illustrated to me the suffering, indignity and lack of control so many women feel when giving birth in hospital. Hearing their stories adds rage as well as sadness to my own experience, knowing many women suffer similar, or worse, treatment than I did. It also clarifies my own thinking on this subject, of which I share a few salient, final points below.
Intellect versus instinct
Our intellect can be a hindrance when giving birth. I wrestled with mine when in labour, thinking about what I’d read, what I’d heard, letting these thoughts interrupt the birthing process. In the end I let this intellectual chatter go, turning inwards into another level, one I had never ventured into before. My body believed in myself, was sure and certain, even if my intellect wasn’t. This physical being took over, directing me to follow my instincts, switching off from the invasive, artificial world surrounding me. It simply knew what to do and how to do it. I completely switched off from my intellectual brain. Continue reading Postscript to Ewan’s birth story: Part One→
Like all new mums I was desperate to show my baby his new home. Six days after Ewan was born, we returned home. The landscape shined with brightness from the sun, viewing it as if seen for the first time. The past seven days felt like a year. The house appeared somehow different. I wept in the car. What was the meaning to all this? I stood holding my tiny son in the garden, bewildered and sleep deprived, yet the proudest mum on the planet.
Our son was home. Our new life as a family of three could begin.
Back at home, any frustration or tiredness was totally offset by the wonder of having Ewan with me. We both grew and developed hugely in those early weeks. Ewan grew into a beautiful, healthy little boy. I became a confident mother, slowly beginning to trust and unearth my mothering instincts which had been pushed deep within me through cultural conditioning. Brainwashed by society our instincts lie dormant. My son taught me to believe in them again.
Reflecting, I realised my beliefs were naive. Being fit, healthy, emotionally and physically prepared for labour does not guarantee a natural birth. There are so many more factors at work. First I learnt to accept Ewan’s birth as it was. Then I began searching for anwers, writing as a form of Catharsis as a way of dealing with my grief, loss for the birth that never was. Continue reading Part Seven: Returning home, time to reflect and question→