You tried very very hard after many months of preparation. You read a lot of Ina May Gaskin. You listened to hundreds of hours of birth story podcasts. You took a hypnobirthing course and practiced diligently. You took classes in childbirthing and pain management.
You massaged your perineum every night for ten minutes.
You ate many, many, many dates.
You did all of that, and you felt ready, and you failed.
But it’s okay.
It’s okay that you didn’t push through the pain. It’s okay that you weren’t strong enough to rise above it, that you didn’t channel your inner goddess, harness the natural power of your womanhood, give in to the natural sensations of childbirth, tap into your ancient mammalian instincts and birth like a cat or a monkey.
Your inner monkey needed an epidural.
And it’s okay that the pain was so great, for so long, that you gave up on the natural birth you wanted.
It’s okay that you arrived at the hospital screaming. That you begged for that epidural, and when you got it, you napped for two hours, right there in active labor.
And then you woke up and it was time to push, even though you couldn’t feel those “rushes” of “pressure” that you’d trained yourself not to call contractions, but which, in practice, had been too excruciating to bear.
It’s okay that you gave birth on your back instead of squatting.
Because you know what? He is perfect. And as you held his tiny body to your chest the first time, time stood still and everything changed.
It’s okay to feel embarrassment or not-good-enough when you see stories of those who were successful at what you tried, and failed, to do.
You read those words:
she let her body do what it was designed to do
she trusted herself and her baby
she breathed through the pressure
she gave her baby the gift of coming into this world unmedicated and peacefully
And it’s okay to remember what it was really like, for you, and that you truly felt you were dying, and that you did not give up on what you’d worked so hard for on a whim, or because you were weak, or because you are not enough of a warrior mama.
It did not feel like pressure for you.
You read the other words:
all birth is natural birth
modern medicine is a godsend; do you want a ‘natural’ root canal?
there’s too much pressure put on women to endure great pain
a healthy baby is all that matters
And yes, that all makes sense intellectually, and that’s what you’d tell another woman in the same situation.
But telling yourself to stop feeling your feelings is, you have to admit, spectacularly unhelpful. And you have felt, over the past 18 months, a tiny but present sense of failure, and as much as you try to look beyond or around it, it’s still there.
1. lack of success
Yes, you failed.
It’s really okay to say you failed at the natural birth you wanted.
It’s okay to tell people that you went to a hospital and got an epidural because it hurt too much, instead of trying to rationalize or explain your decision.
Every day, your son fails, over and over again. He tries to put his shoes on and fails. He tries to peel an orange and fails. He tries to tell you what he wants, but he’s eighteen months old and his mouth won’t form the words and he just: fails. And you encourage him to try again, but you also want him to know that failure is normal, and part of being human and trying big things, and should not be cause for shame.
And just as you allow him to fail, you need to allow yourself to fail and still be okay.
Because your son came into this world, and he is perfect. You failed at what you set out to achieve, but you did not fail at birthing a beautiful, resilient, sassy, curious little person.