Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Confessions, Again


Friends, I read your birth stories.  I do.  And I still am that asshole who doesn’t comment on them, or at least not much.  I mark them “unread” so that I will come back when I can clear my head; I leave them open in my browser for days.

I thought it would be better after the Bean was born and I wasn’t scared anymore.  (And I’m not scared anymore — at least not much.  I would do it again, though I’m not sure that’s in the cards.)  For a little while, when I was still high on survival, it was better.  But now it’s worse again.

I hope someday I’ll be able to read about birth being overwhelmed by feeling that I didn’t do a very good job, that everyone else is better at this than I am, than I could be.  You are so strong and so brave and so capable and beautiful.  I don’t want to feel that you aren’t those things, but the internal comparison is brutal.

Probably being home with a sick, miserable Bean and having been stuck inside all week, thanks to my migraine and his cold and the cold outside, and being smushed by the PMS Monster (which really has been worse since the Bean was born, I think, or maybe it’s just that before he came I could blame the misery on not being knocked up) and the attendant maybe-I-just-wasn’t-meant-to-have-children head-echo isn’t helping, and I should have a little sense of proportion and not hit “post,” but I didn’t want you to think I didn’t care about the stories or about you.

I know I should just get over it, but I can’t.  It occurs to me that maybe part of the reason I can’t seem to get that recovery post written is that I don’t feel all that recovered.

17 thoughts on “Confessions, Again

  1. 😦 Have you talked this out with anyone? I think it must be hard to get over, since you have your little Bean and everyone must assume that because he is well you are well and everything is fine. I find it hard to know what to say to birth stories–they’re interesting, and intense, and I usually have no idea what the right comment is.

  2. I don’t think you ever completely 100% get over it. There will be times (and as time passes, these times will last longer and longer) that the past doesn’t loom over everything and you get to react to things from a relatively IF free view point. Then, there will be times, even years down the road, that everything you’ve gone through will color every interaction. Be kind to yourself. It will gradually get better.

  3. I’m still a little (actually: a lot) pissed off at something that happened at Tater’s birth. And frankly, though I was fortunate enough to have a fairly easy birth with Bug, the week of TERROR AND INCIPIENT BLINDNESS which preceded it was pretty awful. In fact, when people ask me about his birth I always start with “The week before I started getting double vision and by Friday I couldn’t see past my fingertips and was sitting in the ER crying with an asshole doctor who told me I had MS.” And the second time I was walking up and down the hallway literally sobbing as hard as I could.

    I also think it’s easy for someone to be all self-righteous about birth when she has an easy, uncomplicated one. Every little thing makes it different; every night before that the woman didn’t sleep, every day she spent having contractions that went on and on and didn’t do anything, every time she was afraid something bad was going to happen, every time some doctor said something wrong, frightening, or annoying: these wear someone down.

    I don’t think you have to get over it. There were parts that were painful and scary and horrible and frankly not every birth story is a happy one. I hope you feel better about it someday- at least like you did the best you could under the circumstances- and I hope this only because I want you to be able to not beat yourself up about it.

  4. I’m not sure this makes it better, but reading about people’s nursing experiences, even the hard and troubling ones, have always made me want to say, “F*&^ you, at least your baby nurses and I’m still setting and alarm at 1:00 a.m. for a date with the damn pump.” I know that’s not the same, but dang, it hurts. Things are changing for me on that score (now she’s biting me, though, oh joy), but it still freaking hurts to read. I think it will always hurt for me to read about people’s nursing experiences, and to read about people who got pregnant easily. You just don’t get over this s&^% that easily. And no one expects you to.

    You are strong and brave and capable and beautiful, too. For reals, yo.

  5. Lately I have been having a lot of those “there is a reason I can’t have kids” feelings as my depression and anxiety have been in overdrive, leaving me to want to hide in bed all day. Which leads to me feeling like a total shite mama. In the back of my head I know this is untrue…kind of. At the same time, the fact that we worry about it is proof that we care, and therefore can’t be all bad at being mamas. Or at giving birth. Or what-have-you. And there certainly is no time frame for healing, for grieving. But…we can’t change everything about ourselves, either, and what is past, is past. Grieve as you need, but don’t forget that it is really one little speck of time in your life that led to years years ahead of you of joy, pain, laughter…all sorts of amazing things that come with being a parent. HUGS.

  6. Well, I have a Birth Story Confession for you, too. I have never commented on YOUR birth story, and it’s because I’m chronically overwhelmed by the challenge of articulating how much it meant to me. Our outcomes weren’t the same – my four hours of pushing ended with an emergency c-section and a very sick baby – but we had so many other things in common. There were things you wrote about that I’d forgotten, like the arbitrary scolding/reinforcement for doing the exact same damn thing over and over again, but while reading your story I just kept thinking, “yes, yes, oh my gosh, YES.” I too was accused of not trying hard enough. Near the end, the medical team decided it was c-section time and literally gave up and walked away from the bed, even though I wanted to keep pushing, and I was too tired to ask them to come back. Thinking back on it now, it seems I’d lost my ability to speak. Weird. It turned out to be absolutely necessary – both E and I were much sicker than I realized – but at the time, it just felt like one more indictment for how badly I’d screwed up, and no one stuck around to explain what was happening to me.

    I hear you on the difficulty of reading other people’s birth stories. My current pregnancy and impending labor has dredged up all kinds of birth-related PTSD, not that it was all that buried to begin with. I don’t know if it ever does get better. It certainly hasn’t for me. Perhaps we just get better at coping with it? At least that sounds slightly more attainable to me.

    Anyway, long ramble to say… thank you for writing YOUR story with such honesty and bravery. It hurt to read, because I know how much it hurt you to acquire it, but it is still the only blogger birth story I’ve come across that bears any resemblance to my own experience. What little healing I have done has been the result of finding connections with other people who have been through a similar nightmare, so thanks for putting yourself out there.

  7. You are strong and brave and beautiful and capable and such a good mother and Dr. Russian is an unrepentent asshat and these things are all true. Still, feelings are feelings, and the facts don’t always mitigate the feelings. I’m sorry that your birth experience was so traumatic. It doesn’t make you lesser or wrong or anything else. It just is what it is.

  8. Your birth story was more terrifying than mine and I still have nightmares about mine. You kicked birth’s ass. And then you kicked breastfeeding’s ass. And you’re still kicking motherhood’s ass. You rock it every day, and don’t you forget it!

  9. Hi! I have never commented on your blog before, although I very much enjoy reading it. Firstly, validation: just because you had a traumatic birth does not mean you are not brave and beautiful and capable and a wonderful parent.

    Furthermore, your birth story cannot be divorced from the woeful lack of understanding and support from your doctor, which obviously you already know. In no way should you just ‘get over it’.

    I had a wonderful birth (even with shoulder dystocia); but I had a skilled and respectful ob and an AMAZING (randomly allocated) midwife without whom I could not have done ANY OF IT. Not to mention my glorious partner. Plus all the other things (short, spontaneous, unmedicated labour, weird chanting, powerful breathing that I had no idea I was capable of, incredible bursts of filthy, offensive language directed at no one, etc etc). Do you see all the ways in which it could have been awful? And I just don’t know if it wasn’t because of me, the baby, the team, the weird chanting, the anything.

    Thus I want to say something, and I don’t mean it to be dismissive of your obvious -and allowed- trauma: but on top of all the random ways in which your birth could have been better or worse, so what if maybe you aren’t good at birth? THAT IS ALSO ALLOWED. I know you are obviously very good at most things you do and that this is very hard to take. But you are allowed to not be good at birth, and this does not make you any less of a mother.

  10. ah, birth. you know how hard mine was and i had a good midwife (not great because of some of the things she said after but good because without her i am 1000% sure i would have had a c section) and a nurse i loved glued to my side for the second part of my pushing fiasco. but i still haven’t found it in me to write about the terrifying parts after he was born and when people comment on my labor/pushing part being hard and how i did well, i keep telling myself i have to finish because that wasn’t the hard part at all in comparison, but i haven’t yet.

    oh, and i love your birth story. it’s absolutely brilliantly written and so compelling and who cares if it isn’t rainbows and unicorns? it’s awesome. you’re awesome. the bean is awesome. you are seriously bionic. and dr russian and the staff around you at that birth? all freaking asshats!

  11. Sweetheart, do not forget, do not EVER FORGET, you were giving birth through an extremely unusual set of lady-parts and the fact you got Bean out through that arrangement AT ALL makes you a hero, a person of extreme bravery and courage, and you did the EXACT POLAR OPPOSITE of not a good job. You did a fantastic job. Not only that, you did it with Dr Russian who I will bitch-slap into next year if I ever meet because she KNEW you had unusual anatomy, being the world’s biggest bottom-for-a-hat. It makes me so sad that you did so well, so bravely, in such trying and horrible circumstances, with people who should have been caring for you being ASSHATS (yes. Yes I will slap Dr Russian. Give me her address), and have come out of it with sad memories and a feeling of failure. I read your birth story and I say, give me the courage and the chance to do things like Bionic – to keep trying when people are being mean and unhelpful, to be so vulnerable and so brave, so honest and determined.

    In the nicest possible way, all these people posting PeaceWarrior I-birthed-a-rainbow-unicorn stories about their birth experiences? Are high. And prettifying it. And it’s not OK, I think, for people who had easy, complication-free births to claim it was due to their skill or awesomeness at the birthing process. It’s a crap-shoot. It’s a crap-shoot even when the woman has normal anatomy. To take that kind of smug credit for having a normal cervix is like taking smug credit for having 20-20 vision or two legs or naturally blonde hair or fabulous tits. Uh, no, it’s luck, pure luck. Genetics. Good food in childhood. Luck.

    Strength and courage only really exist IN THE FACE OF PAIN AND FEAR. If you’re not in pain, not scared, not in a bad bleak place and struggling, what in effing eff is strong and brave about what you’re doing? Easy happy joy-and-loveliness without pain-relief laughed-as-baby-crowned yada yada mothers are not braver, or better at giving birth (what did they do, practice? What did they practice WITH?). They’re LUCKY. Which is wonderful and lovely and great cause of rejoicing, of course. But they weren’t better at giving birth than you. They’ve not been tested like you have. They ran a marathon and did well. You ran it with weights on your ankles and a rucksack holding Asshat doctors being asshats upsetting you and failing to support you and going out of her ASSHAT way to make you feel bad about your efforts – I mean, had she completely forgotten that you had two cervixes and vaginas and they clearly and obviously weren’t going to work like the singular sort? I mean, REALLY – and you STILL ran the entire marathon and finished with beautiful healthy son in your arms.

    It’s sane and normal and right and proper to grieve because your labour was traumatic, because it was, and I am so sorry it was, and it needn’t have been, which makes me hopping mad on your behalf. But whatever else you grieve over, remember, you were never LESSER than anyone else you’ve read about. You too were strong and brave and capable and beautiful. More so, because you had a harder job to do than most, and you did it.

    Your labour wins you a Purple Heart. And despite that, you feel you could take on another, you know, go for the oak leaves. You are a triumph. BECAUSE you struggled and suffered and won through anyway. Not despite that.

  12. You got terrible birth support. If it had been good, you’d likely feel differently. You experienced an external factor (poor birth support) and ascribed blame to an internal factor (I’m bad at birth, I failed.) it is a normal psychological phenomenon and oddly is protective in some way. If you have the sense that you have/had control and failed in some way that is safer than the fear inducing idea that the people who were supposed to take care of you failed you. At any rate what you experienced is a trauma and one you are told you are supposed to ignore bc of the good outcome. This is a somewhat common predicament for women with healthy babies but less than ideal births. EMDR can be really, really helpful in a case like this. This is something that I offer to women who’ve had a difficult birth and are still having a hard time with it months/years later. Find someone who has a lot of experience and who has used it for other similar clients. EMDR sounds wacky on first pass but is a well researched protocol that can work in a way talk therapy doesn’t. Also, I had a difficult birth that WASN’T traumatic in large part bc of the team I lucked into having. Not character, luck.

  13. And now your post has been in my reader perpetually checked “mark unread” because I’ve been trying to figure out what to say. Ditto to all of the fabulous statements above.
    There seems to be some myth out there that it’s always and everywhere possible to have the most perfect 100% “natural” birth with sunshine and rainbows and a perpetual smile. But I think most of the folks who believe that are folks who got lucky in various ways. You do all of the preparation that you can (like picking out this particular hospital as opposed to other ones). But then you just get what you get–in terms of how easy/hard your labor is, which docs or nurses happen to be there, etc. You worked incredibly hard to bring Mr Bean into the world, and that is an amazing feat. And you did it despite incredibly unhelpful doctors. And…ummm…screaming seems a completely appropriat response to being in EXCRUTIATING pain.

  14. I’m sorry it took me so long to comment on such a beautiful and honest post. In part, I guess, because what can I say that hasn’t already been said? I have the pleasure of knowing you live and in person, and that amazing bean of yours. I know you brought him into this world nowhere near the way you would have chosen. But you’re such a rockstar mama and he’s such an amazing kid already that I hope one day the memory of his birth pales in comparison to those things. Until then…lots of love and hugs to you (and maybe some beer and chocolate too).

  15. You are not alone. The birth of my twins sucked and scared the total crap out of me, and I didn’t even get to labor, I was just whisked off for an emergency C section. They are six now, but I still get anxious and depressed a little every year around their birthday. I chose to have my daughter with a different OB practice and to have her in a totally different hospital because I didn’t want her birth to bring even the slightest bit of memory back.

    Thank you for being brave enough to post this. I have never shared how I really felt about their birth, because after all, I got two live, healthy babies to take home and I felt guilty enough about that. I hope that letting it all hang out helps with your recovery. I know it doesn’t help to hold it in 🙂

  16. I think that having regret and anxiety about your birth AFTER the fact is almost as scary and debilitating as having an imperfect (or in your case, terrifying) birth. I realized that I needed to DEAL with my birth trauma before I could move past it. And I did something totally out of character, I saw a therapist. And do you know what she said to me? She said “I’m so sorry. What that doctor did to you was WRONG and you didn’t deserve it.” And that simple statement simultaneously broke me down and allowed me to finally build back up. And so, even though I’m a random, nameless (sorta) reader, I will in turn say to you:

    Mama, I’m so sorry that doctor treated you the way she did. You didn’t deserve that and it wasn’t your fault.

    (probably would mean more if I could say I was Oak, MD but I do what I can.)

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