17 Jun ‘You will feel instant love, elation and joy as soon as your baby is born.’ And other adages from the birth world
‘You will feel instant love, elation and joy as soon as your baby is born.’ And other adages from the birth world
Last week I attended a long and very uncomfortable posterior labour. The brave and long suffering mum understandably began to doubt herself; the process and her ability to cope. She started to unravel and feel out of control. We all rallied to support her in different ways. The kind midwife assuring her that she could go on, we focused together on breathing with each long, powerful surge and dad tried to motivate his partner with a perspective that is often presented to mums at various stages of pregnancy and birth.
He said ‘just think when the baby is here this will all be forgotten in a rush of instant love, elation and joy’
I thought to myself then as I always do when hear this ‘universal truth’ ‘she might not, I didn’t.’
I didn’t feel any instantaneous love, I felt knackered. I couldn’t quite believe it when the midwife handed my baby to me. I remember clearly thinking ‘Are you serious? I can’t look after a baby I need to go and sleep for 12 hours!’
I felt this way and I had experienced a relatively straight forward, normal birth. I can only imagine what it must feel like for mums who have had difficult or traumatic births.
I guess no matter how birth has gone it is such an unhelpful statement for mothers to hear because there is a very good chance that they may not feel this way and if they do not feel the instant love, joy and elation that is guaranteed in the statement, then they maybe inclined to think that something is wrong with them. They may begin to feel guilty. They may begin to feel anxious at the absence of these feelings.
And these feelings might take hold, might fester in to something else.
I have to confess that being a doula has changed my approach to how I talk about birth. As a hypnobirthing teacher I was rigidly focused on the positive and was thrilled when parents experienced their birth this way. But I could see how devastated parents who didn’t experience this were. Sometimes they felt let down, sometimes they felt they hadn’t done it right, that they were to blame in some way.
I now find myself helping parents plan for the best possible birth but avoiding prophecies such as ‘you will feel instant love, joy and elation’ simply because there is a really good chance that they might not.
For more information about coping after a traumatic or difficult birth experience go to www.traumaticbirthrecovery.com