I have something to tell you. I was traumatised by my birth experience with my daughter, Matilda. Why am I telling you this? Because in hindsight, I think I could have helped myself, prenatally, by being more open to what may happen. And postpartum, by finding ways, early on, to accept my birth and heal myself.
During my pregnancy, I was pretty hell bent on a ‘natural’, med free birth. I felt that I just 'knew' I could do it that way, in the birth pool at home. However, Mother Nature handed me something different and, while it’s taken time, I now accept that.
You often hear people say that childbirth was incredible and they'll never forget it. You will hear stories about how empowering it was, how the baby arrived without pain relief, and so on. And I truly support the validity of their births and the birthing women's emotions. However, mine was quite the opposite, and I feel that this needs to be said, for my own health, and for all of those parents that may have gone through something similar.
It was incredibly difficult to be in pain for so long, realizing that my body ‘wasn't working for me’. My body was cut open, my legs and feet were swollen to huge proportions, and I had a catheter for a month because they cut too deep and nicked my bladder. This all stripped me down to feeling more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt, while trying to hold it together, as I had my newborn baby to look after. I've since learned an incredible amount - about myself, birth, healing and parenthood, and, in a way, I'm grateful for the whole experience. In my work as a pre and postnatal exercise specialist, I now realize how deeply families are affected by birth - it can shake your foundations of confidence and grounding, leaving your mind to question, “Why? What if… Maybe if I’d done or said this or that..” I didn't see it at the time, but what I needed to do was ground down and connect with my body, draw on ways to quiet and calm my busy mind, and truly take the time to help myself heal.
It turns out Matilda’s head was not in a good position to come out, naturally, and that's why she stayed inside my belly for so long. I tried having Matilda at home for four days, and am thankful to the hospital staff for allowing me to continue to attempt labour at the hospital, for the entire day, before going into the operating theatre. A chiropractor told me recently that if she did come out vaginally, she may have had neck compression and physical areas to work through. That makes me feel better, knowing that the C-Section was the best option. I now see that sometimes there is absolutely no other way to get the baby safely out.
"People say that you fall in love when you first see your baby. It is hard to admit this, but I didn't. I did feel that intense love a month after she was born though."
People say that you fall in love when you first see your baby. It is hard to admit this, but I didn’t. I did feel that intense love a month after she was born though, when I went to the hospital and had the catheter removed. I remember feeling like my heart was swelling. It was then I could properly begin healing, to try and put the hospital visits behind me and focus on my beautiful little girl.
A Caesarean Section is a major operation and it's important to take it easy afterwards (as easy as can be with a newborn and possibly more children to look after.) It’s also valuable to bond with your scar, especially if you have regrets or intense feelings about your delivery. I don’t know about you but I cried when I first saw my scar. How do I ‘bond’ with my scar, I hear you say? You can start by placing your hands over it, closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths. Notice what comes up emotionally. Then, perhaps repeat in your mind or out loud the Mantra, ‘I am enough, I did enough, I accept my birth’. Of course, this is not a one time practice, but something that can be repeated daily.
People have often said to me, “as long as you're both ok now, that's all that matters”. That's kind of true. What I have learned through my struggles, over the last couple of years, is that mum and baby (and partners) can all be significantly affected by a difficult birth. So please don’t be afraid to speak up, to acknowledge your truth and say, “actually yeah, that was tough, please can I get some help?” as early as possible. I didn’t address all these deep feelings in the moment, and I now realize that I was suffering from PTSD. For a long time, I was (and maybe still am) grieving the type of birth I thought I could have or was “entitled” to. I had visualized the start to parenthood as being incredibly magical, and it was actually unbelievably difficult. Personally, I needed to mull it over, to feel sad and not mask how I felt. I felt let down by my body. Isn’t that terribly sad? I wish no woman to feel that about herself. BUT here’s the truth - my body is still amazing and my birth was still a birth. I know that now. It's just sad that I didn't offer myself more love or compassion sooner.
Lucy is a yoga teacher, pre and postnatal exercise specialist, and baby massage teacher. After working at a top London gym, Lucy went freelance to run her own business in 2012 and moved to the seaside (Hove) in 2013. She is hugely passionate about teaching, and how yoga helps people to improve physical and emotional health, as well as baby massage — for the same reasons. She lives and works in Hove, England.
Find more about Lucy and her classes at www.liftpersonal-training.co.uk