2:00am, I couldn’t sleep. I walked into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror. I stared blankly – the room outside the bathroom door was quiet. Everyone was asleep. A thought ran through my mind – who was I now?
I moved my eyes downwards, gazing slowly at the incision below hoping that maybe if I waited long enough the memory would fade away. My fingers grazed along my scar, the bumpy texture like the rollercoaster of emotions stuck in my mind. The purple veins trailing down my thighs. I closed my eyes firmly, a tear rolling down my cheek.
I hadn’t allowed myself to feel. The days and weeks had passed but I had yet to bring myself to face and understand the very place from where my baby had entered this world. Now I was staring blankly. I was marked. Not by choice, but by destiny.
I felt like I had failed, like I was not a real mother, I was not a real woman. My body had let me down. I had let my baby down.
“As the days passed the questions came about the birth. They would ask if I had a natural birth. Each time I heard that, the word “natural” would leave a resonating sting.”
As the days passed the questions came about the birth. They would ask if I had a natural birth. Each time I heard that, the word “natural” would leave a resonating sting. I explained that I didn’t have a vaginal birth and that I had an emergency c-section. They would respond with an, “Oh” and the conversation would dissipate as though there were no more words left to be said. Was I sensing a passive aggressive tone that wasn’t even there?
I hated the way we treated mothers with caesareans, like their story wasn’t valid enough to tell. As though they had taken an easy route but have you met a mother who had a caesarian and watched her disembark from her bed for the first time in an attempt to walk? Her catheter only just pulled out, her stitches cut layers deep – raw and taped back together, her breasts and body letting her down when her instinct is to feed and care for her baby, but she can barely stand let alone joyously hug her child, often missing out on those first few moments of touch. The drugs housing her in a state where she is neither here nor there. This mother cries silently in the middle of the night feeling like she failed, fights her screams and pain as she attempts to get off her bed feeling like her insides are going to tear apart and she struggles with the same lessons and barriers of new motherhood. This mother, is a mother too.
“I hated the way we treated mothers with caesareans, like their story wasn’t valid enough to tell. As though they had taken an easy route.”
I wanted to tell my whole story, but instead I sat silently feeling somewhat defeated and bruised. They won’t understand I told myself as I felt my emotions falling into a deeper state. Do you feel sad? He asked me, gazing cautiously at the postpartum checklist. I passed the test, knowing the right answers to say for every question he delicately asked.
It took time, but I came to accept our path, knowing that my baby was here and any decisions were a part of the course, a part of our journey together. We were bonded, not just because I nurtured my baby inside of me, a little person that only I got to know, but because when we first locked eyes I knew he was relived, no, that he was happy too. “Nice to meet you”, I said. I held his small hand against my chest as the tears rolled down my cheeks. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I kept repeating. I love you and I’ll take care of you always.
This experience has led me to understand that birth is an incredible mystery. Each woman has her own unique story to tell around how she birthed a human into this world. No birth is simple and the best kind of support is to lack judgement, ask and care about your friend, sister, cousins journey. Birth is birth and a woman who labours is a warrior. Show your support by listening even when you don’t understand. Postpartum depression, anxiety and all other related illnesses are real and if you or your friend need help, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. But always, always ask are you okay, how are you because she may be a mother silently suffering.