We have a secret in our culture . . . and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.
-Laura Stavoe Harm
To the doctor that says “Your baby is getting too big and your hips are too small. We need to induce” I say FAT SQUISHES. To the mama that has been laboring for 18 hours and is under pressure to have a cesarean, I pray someone is there to whisper “Don’t let your body be on their clock.” And when a mother is told she doesn’t have “enough milk,” I hope a friend will share how she built up her supply.
Dealing with disappointment is a major challenge for new mamas. Most mamas need someone to have a little faith in them. Or permission to have faith in themselves. Probably both. Fortunately, women everywhere are speaking out against the idea that every birth needs to play out like an ER episode. Moms, midwives and lactation consultants encouraging us to trust our bodies once again. But amidst these attempts there are people caught in the middle.
Mamas whose hips really are too small
Or who have labored to the point of exhaustion and really do need an emergency c-section, or – like a friend of mine – who pumped like crazy when her infant couldn’t latch and was willing to beg, borrow or steal to get additional breastmilk donations.
Mamas who are no less strong, or committed, or loving because things didn’t go according to plan and who did not “make up” an excuse not to have a natural birth, breastfeed, et cetera. More and more I am noticing bruised hearts that hang back around their crunchy friends because of their “failures,” when what they need is love and acceptance.
Compared To Many Stories, It’s Just A Speedbump
But right now I am in month eight of an ongoing struggle to breastfeed my son (he is exclusively breastfed, but never wants to eat, and sometimes it hurts so bad I hold my breath and count.) In addition to the tongue tie he had corrected at five months, we recently discovered he also has a Class IV Maxillary Tie. The membrane between his upper lip and gum is like a tight rubber band that prevents him from being able to latch properly (It’s more common that most people think!). It could also affect his speech and dental development, so we’re taking him to New York next week to have it surgically revised.
I water-birthed two babies. I’ve breastfed for 38 months straight. I fully embrace the notion that my body is capable and wise, yet this experience has made me much more aware that there are other stories, too . . . women who did not feel empowered by their birth, or whose milk supply dried up, or who wish they could make a different choice. Mothers who saved their babies lives by allowing an emergency c-section but don’t talk about it because their crunchy friends will assume it was really “unnecessary.”
In spreading the word that our bodies are strong and wise, how can we also help women walk the difficult road from crushing disappointment to saying “I didn’t get the pregnancy I wanted, and I certainly didn’t get the birth I wanted, but I got the children I dreamed of.”
If you’re wondering where I got that quote, it came from Maureen, who weaves the beautiful story of her journey, saying”
“I prayed and bargained and hoped against hope that we would make it to 38 weeks. I kept up the visualization, but after every subsequent visit to the labor and delivery floor, every new plunge of the needle, every time I hooked myself up to the home contraction monitor, I grieved for what I was losing. I knew I would not have a peaceful drug free birth. I had lost the pregnancy I wanted, but I still had my babies, and for that I was grateful with every fiber of my being. I clung so hard to that fact that I didn’t allow myself to feel much else.
You can read the rest of her story here.
I guess what I’m saying is that all moms face disappointment. Usually we help each other grieve and move on. But sometimes, in our effort overcome the mountain of “cant’s” thrown out by the medical community and media regarding birth and breastfeeding, we accidentally create an environment that is unfriendly to moms struggling with disappointments in these areas. That’s why lately I’ve been asking myself how we can celebrate the strength and wisdom of our bodies while also validating those who have walked a more difficult road.
Do you have a story to tell, an idea for encouraging moms, or just something to say about this topic? Tell me below!