“You forget it all once the baby is born”. This phrase has always amazed me. It sounded so surreal that it made the whole childbirth thing in my eyes even more magical. I had heard of birth stories where everything had happened quite smoothly and then there were those stories that had a more traumatic touch. However, what all of them had in common was the fact that mothers resumed their birth experience with this one sentence. For me, it was definitely reassuring to know that meeting my baby would create emotions of such strength, making them able to erase all memories associated to labour pain or whatever else that could happen during childbirth.
I slowly understood that this did not count for me
Sadly, the moment my son was born, I slowly understood that this did not count for me. With his birth, the most beautiful time of my life began. Most beautiful, because I finally got to meet the little creature which had been growing in my body for the past nine months. Most beautiful, because I finally experienced what it really meant to be a mother. Unfortunately, it was also the physically most painful phase of my life, starting with the episiotomy. When the midwife put my son on my chest, I was full of beautiful emotions but there was this strong pain which I hadn’t expected to endure. I thought it’ll go away but it didn’t.
It was in the middle of the night and I asked my man to share the news with our closest family members. Once our baby and my man had left for the NICU, I remember calling my brother. I was high on emotions but totally overwhelmed by everything that had happened. Still sleepy, he passed the phone to his wife whose first birth experience had been similar to mine. Her words were like balm for my soul and I realised that it would take more than just looking at my baby to overcome this event.
When I woke up the next day, reality did indeed kick in. Although I wasn’t thinking about everything that had happened in the past two days, my body did remember. I felt like if a truck had run over me. My legs were sore from the leg contractions. My arms featured deep red marks where the blood pressure machine had been squeezing it over and over again. For a couple of days, I felt cold shivers in the areas of my body where the epidural had worked. However, the worst was the cut of the episiotomy. It was so painful that small movements such as rolling from side to another or simply standing up were almost impossible…and sitting; there was no way that I could sit.
This was real pain
This was real pain. Although I was suddenly a mother, my body still belonged to me and the pain I was feeling did not go away, no matter how much I hugged and kissed my baby. I was ordered to stay in bed in order to heal, making the whole part even harder because yeah, the only thing I wanted to do as a new mother was take care of my baby.
It’s not that I hadn’t heard about childbed. I had read about it, had talked to other mothers and collected some products to ease possible discomfort, but the level of pain that I was feeling was much stronger than I ever would had expected. No one had prepared me for that. No birth preparation class. No fellow mothers. No one.
Every time I asked the midwifes and nurses about how long the healing process would take they just replied “it’ll take time but eventually you’ll feel better”. In those moments I pictured a bunch of grand-mothers, telling me that “time heals all wounds” while laughing and making grimaces. However, as grand-mothers are mostly right, after a couple of days I could already imagine giving birth again (crazy, right ?) and two weeks later, once the pain had weakened even more and I was finally able to get into a seated position without feeling like a very old lady. The dark phase was over.
Grieving takes time
So I thought but this was only my body. It turned out that the mark that this birth experience had left on my body was much softer compared to the scar that it seemed to have left on my mind. Although I decided for myself to be done with it, I realised slowly that it would take more than just that to process what had happened. Hearing of smooth birth stories confronted me with topics such as failure of my own and the big why; whether I wanted or not. It works for others, why didn’t it work for me ? The funny thing was that it was not the long labour that I had a hard time digesting (my man and I did actually laugh about just short time afterwards) but the fact that my baby had left for the NICU and my first seven days with him had been overshadowed by me being in pain. I felt as if someone had stolen the magical moment that a mother is promised when giving birth to her child. This moment which is kept alive thanks to the myth that tells us that we’ll forget everything once we see our baby. I didn’t have that moment and knew that I would never get it back. I was in grief, but I couldn’t do anything else than accept it and be patient, because again, grand-mothers are right, grieving takes time.
Talking with fellow mothers did help a lot and made me realise that most of them had more to their stories than the simple “baby and mother are doing well” which is so often communicated once a baby is born. In fact, it actually showed that even smooth birth stories can have a quite traumatic side to them. However, with being such intimate and personal memories, often the details are kept aside, in particular from first-time-mothers-to-be. Why should we scare them, right ?
I would love to keep the myth of “you’ll forget it all once you see your baby” alive but unfortunately I am unable to do so. I haven’t forgotten any of what happened. Although I became a mother my body and mind continued to be my own, feeling all the pain that I went through and acknowledging those memories for what they are; a part of my, well, our story because that’s what my man told me in a key moment: “I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. This experience is you, it’s us. It’s our story and to be honest, I love it!”. Well and this story which made us become a family does definitely outweigh all the pain, making me want to do it all over again 😉