I feel like I was lied to about natural childbirth. I know, I know, no one ACTUALLY lied to me, they were all just speaking from their own experiences….but somehow, for me, what I chose to listen to, to latch on to, to accept as truth, misguided me into thinking that the process of labor would be easier than it actually was. I felt betrayed when I got into it, and realized that no amount of relaxation techniques, breathing exercises or calling it “pressure” instead of “pain” would make this insane level of pain go away.
I read Ina May Gaskin’s book ‘Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth’, which was filled with all these ‘positive’ birth stories in which no one ever mentioned the pain. They talked about the intensity, the pressure, the depth of the transition – and I think they purposefully avoided the word pain. And maybe these women really didn’t experience pain, which is just fine for them, but reading their stories made me think that I could be one of them, I could have one of those miraculous childbirths without much pain.
Other things that made me think that maybe I could beat the odds and have a labor that was not excruciatingly painful:
-a doula friend who said she “loved labor”
-another doula who taught the pain management class I took, who said that if you put both of her labors back to back, and stretched them out to last two months, it would not be as painful as the toothache she recently had
-a friend who told me that she’s had headaches that were worse than her labor pain
-being present at my sister’s labor, in which she did seem to be in pain, but not that much pain – and immediately after the baby was born she said ‘Let’s have another one’
-a friend who had a four hour labor, and whose partner told me that he had heard that women who get Mayan Abdominal massage during late pregnancy have shorter labors (I got Mayan Abdominal massage)
-the pain management class I took, in which the holding of an ice cube for a minute or two was pretty easy, and I felt over-confident afterwards about my ability to handle pain
I prepared for labor in every way imaginable, and was almost cocky about my ability to handle it….pre-natal yoga, pre-natal bellydance, chiropractic sessions to open my pelvis, acupuncture, massage, Mayan abdominal massage, watsu water therapy, all the birth-prep classes, ‘birthing from within’, hypnobirthing, swimming lessons to build endurance…….you name it, any birth-prep thing you can think of, I probably did it.
But when I got into it, right from the start I hated it, I hated the pain, I wanted the pain to go away, I tried the techniques and the pain was still there. And the thing that made me so ashamed, the thing that I am still holding onto, the shame of it, was when the contractions were right on top of one another (about 18 hours in), I could only hear one thing: the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor, and somehow I associated the heartbeat with the contractions, and I wanted it to stop – even if my baby died, I didn’t care, I just wanted it to stop. Which of course was stupid – looking back on it, I know it was stupid, even if the baby died I would still have to push her out……and when I finally got past that point, and I did push her out, and they handed me this perfect, beautiful miracle, and she looked up at me with those wide eyes, I felt like she knew….like she knew that I was willing to give up on her and let her die --- I felt so ashamed for that, felt like ‘how could I ever have thought about giving up on you, I would never, ever ever give up on you, I would do anything for you baby’….but I felt like she knew me, and that she was disappointed in me. “Mom, how could you do that to me? You should have induced labor sooner, I was really hungry inside, I wanted to get out sooner, to get to your breastmilk….and how could you think about giving up on me? Mom how could you do that? Don’t you know that I’m depending on you? I NEED you mama! How could you ever give up on me??”
All that, I read in her first look…..and it was that shame, that horrible feeling of shame, that has brought me to tears every time I think about labor, about giving birth to her.
I wish I didn’t feel this way about my labor. I love my daughter so much. Every time I look at her little face, watch her chest going up and down with each breath, see her little hands moving, I just feel such overwhelming love and joy……I am so lucky to have her. How could I have ever felt like giving up? How could I have been so horrible as to wish that she would die instead of me? If I had to die to bring her out of me, then yes, I would do it. NOW I say that. But how could I not have felt that way at the time? What kind of horrible person would wish that her child would die instead of her? I have no justification for that. But I didn’t KNOW her then….I only knew that there was a baby inside me, she wasn’t a real person to me yet……still, it doesn’t justify feeling like I did during labor. And when I held her, when I looked into her eyes, oh I was so ashamed for thinking that thought during labor.
Am I the only one that has had this experience in labor? I don’t feel any symptoms of post-partum depression, I just don’t want to think about my labor because it makes me cry to remember how I let her down by thinking that I didn’t care if she died. Because I DO care, and I would never ever ever let that happen…… I hate it that I had that thought during labor.