(You can read Part I and Part II of Oskar’s birth story here…)
I want to tell you something really important. I want to tell you that you don’t need to feel any shame over your births. You don’t need to feel guilty. You don’t need to be embarrassed.
It is a heavy burden to carry, particularly if you don’t feel like you can share it. I felt foolish for even voicing it aloud because I’d had a “good” first birth – everyone expected me to be thrilled with how it had gone. The fact that I felt like I had fantastically failed was very confusing; I couldn’t explain it rationally.
Venture into the online message boards and you’ll discover you are not the only one. For some, it becomes an actual post-traumatic stress disorder and requires professional help to walk through. But for a huge number of us, it’s less severe but still very damaging.
So can I tell you straight? If we were sitting together I would probably get uncomfortably close to you at this point and take hold of your hand so that you couldn’t miss how passionately I believe this:
You didn’t fail at birth.
You did not fail. Whether you had the perfect-on-paper birth but inside you’re reeling from shock and the weight on unmet expectations. Or maybe it just all went wrong from the first minute, with intervention after intervention, your body bruised and broken by the time your newborn arrived.
You did not fail. Whether you breathed that baby out in quiet serenity, or you screamed and cursed and cried as you pushed. Whether you did it without a single medication or you took as much as they would give you within minutes of starting. Whether it was at home or at the hospital or in the car in between.
You did not fail. Whether you birthed a healthy chubby baby or one who was very sick or, oh dear heart, one who never took a breath in this world.
You did not fail. You are an incredible creation, one that sustained life for nine months inside you, nurtured a tiny being into existence, and then you bought that being into the world. And it wasn’t what you thought it would be. And you might have needed a lot of help.
And still. You did not fail. Take this truth and hold onto it tightly until it leaves an imprint on your palms. You did a miraculous thing this day. You partnered with the Creator of all things to bring one more creation into being.
Shame is crippling and guilt is a heavy burden. Can I help you lay them down today? Or if that feels like too great a step, let me carry them for a moment so that you can simply take a breath.
You are a great mama, exactly the right mama for your little ones. You will never be perfect but there is grace enough for every moment to come. And that grace flows back as well as forwards. Let it wash over your memories of the birth. Let grace flow through them and above them and around them until they are rinsed of any remaining hurt or disappointment. See it for what it was, good and bad together, and choose to accept it all with a heart unburdened by pain.
You did all that you could, and that is all that is ever required of you. You did not fail. You are enough.
Sending you so much love on this motherhood journey, dear friend.