“It’s not the end of the world,” I kept telling myself. “It’s not the end of the world.”
A few weeks after I gave birth, in those rare quiet moments, I would try to replay in my head the events that led to the birth of my son, reassuring myself it’s not the end of the world that my plan for a natural birth had not panned out. In those brief respites, when I actually had a few minutes to begin to process all that my body and spirit had been through, I felt a strange mix of emotions. Of course, there was relief that he was born healthy and overwhelming joy that he was finally here, but just beyond that, I had an unsettling feeling of sadness and regret that my natural birth had been anything but natural. All my mental and physical preparation, and my hope for a beautiful passage into this world for my son, were met with hours of agonizing labor and an eventual c-section. It was hard to not feel a sense of failure.
Just as quickly as those negative emotions would swell up, I would tamp them down and repeat my mantra: “It’s not the end of the world.” It had happened, and now it was time to move on, I thought. Harsh as it may sound, that was my early way of moving forward from what was, for me, a traumatic childbirth. It started to become a pattern. Whenever my mind would wander and I would think of “the event,” I would quickly change the channel in my brain to something else. It’s a trick I learned in meditation: when you are trying to focus, think of all that is going on in your mind like channels on a TV. To be mindful and present, you just have to tune in to the right channel.
What had been a helpful visual for me in the past, I was now using to the opposite effect to avoid the things I could not deal with. The logical side of me knew I would need to confront it eventually; but for now, I wasn’t ready. My physical scars had healed, but these emotional ones would take a bit longer.
I always expect life to be like the movies. I know it’s naive, but that’s the way things play out in my mind. I fully anticipated that I would be doing something mundane like grocery shopping, and then poof! I would have this epiphany and let the healing begin. Life is never like that, of course – at least not my life.
There was no moment of clarity for me, but I did start taking small steps toward coming to terms with what had happened. When my mind would wander, I would see how long I could “hold my breath” so to speak, and each time I would venture a little bit further. Soon what I was dealing with solely by internal monologue became something I could speak out loud, reliving it with my husband (wine was necessary in this endeavor). As a witness to this experience, it turns out he needed to heal as well.
A little bit later, what was once an intimate conversation became something I could share with a wider audience of friends and family, and even one or two complete strangers, but who’s counting? Further, Mother’s Day I was around a large table eating brunch and exchanging war stories with the others mothers in my family over lots of laughter and one or two mimosas, but again, who’s counting?
It took me some time, but my feelings of sadness and failure have been replaced with a sense of pride. My birth story may not have been what I had planned, that’s for sure, but I’m at peace with it and I have no regrets.
Images by Heather Gallagher Photography