Being mumma enough… It’s more than just a “healthy baby”

As a mumma who grieves her births & a mumma who frequently discusses birth I often hear the phrase “but you have a healthy baby”. I know that when it is said it is usually from a place of genuine good intention. I know that the person saying it means well. I know that what that person has said is true.

And yet every single time I hear this phrase I cringe. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up in stiff defensiveness. My heart races with anxiety & my head hangs in shame.

Every time I hear it I think of how the inverse or oppositional implication of this comment is that I don’t matter. That mummas don’t matter. That as long as the baby comes out fine with ten tiny fingers & ten tiny toes, the soul of the woman who sacrificed herself physically & emotionally for that child to come earthside has no value.

That it doesn’t matter what choices she made, the efforts she went to, the research she conducted, the team she had to support her (or not as the case may be). As long as the baby is ok then it is assumed that by default the mumma will be to.

What the world needs to realise is that sometimes the mumma is not ok. The world needs to realise that being mumma enough is more than just having a healthy baby.

The world needs to realise that the bouncing healthy beautiful baby nestled in her breast may in fact be a stark daily reminder of the struggles, physical & emotional, that she endured.

The world needs to realise that birth is just as much of an experience as a process. It is a physiological, emotional, spiritual & defining process of many women’s feminity. Some would even argue sexuality. The world needs to understand that a woman will carry her birthing experiences with her to the grave. And just like every other major life event or potential trauma the impact of these experiences on her are ongoing.

Do we say to a rape victim “oh at least you weren’t killed”? No. Do we say to the blind “oh but at least you can hear”? No. Do we tell any person who has suffered a significant physical or emotional loss to just be thankful for what they’ve got?

So why then do we say to a mother who has just birthed her babe that her feelings have no place? Why do we tell her to suck it up & move on. Just be grateful that you have a healthy baby. Don’t worry that your vagina didn’t work. Don’t worry that you feel physically & emotionally broken. Don’t worry about the relationship you have with your husband. Don’t stress, the doctors knew what they were doing.

Sigh…

As a mumma of two it goes without saying that I am keenly aware that the work of a mother. I also view the experience of motherhood as one of unconditional love & self-sacrifice. Yet although motherhood changes us, gives us new opportunities to love & experience deeper than we ever thought imaginable does it not also reify who we are? Are our core values not made stronger through our tiger like defence of our young?

Being mumma enough both transcends & reiterate our very persons. It means that we are true to ourselves. That we set fierce & couragous examples for our sons & daughters.

I believe being mumma enough is about all this & more. It is about being authentic. It is about owning our experiences. It is about recognising our fallibility. It is about acknowledging that we do have feelings about our birth, parenting, sexuality, friendship, family & life in general. It is about saying “I matter”.

Being mumma enough is about more than just a healthy baby.

The implications of purely focussing on a healthy baby are that the mumma’s feelings are marginalised. This can & does lead to depression & trauma.

What was unexpected, negative, traumatic, physically difficult or soul destroying varies from person to person. It shouldn’t & doesn’t matter what your thoughts on another mumma’s birth. What matters is how she feels. Was she respected, was she listened to, was she empowered? Did she have choices?

Furthermore, if we only focus on a healthy baby we risk not identifying the lack of support or systemic failings that resulted in the mumma feeling that her birth experience was negative. Instead these issues are swept under the carpet. We gloss over the health “professionals” who act sometimes barbarically, raping & pillaging women’s bodies & souls like Vikings. Instead they are absolved, given green light nay even viewed with an air of saint-hood as they act in a “God-like” fashion to “save” lives.

So what are the implications of recognising that birth matters? What are the implications of recognising that mummas matter? Put simply healthy babies & healthy mummas.

Being mumma enough is about more than just a healthy baby.

 

It is time for fear & courage- a manifesto against mummy-wars

It is time to stop the fighting. It is time to be fear & courage at the same time.

It is time to recognise that as parents all of us generally do the best we can with what we can for our bodies, our babies & our families.

Yes there are the bleeding obvious exceptions but when we set those issues, neglect & abuse, aside, these “mummy/ mama/ mommy/ mumma- wars” have to stop.

We need to be able to just sit in each other’s presence. We need to be here now. We need to inhale the diversity & exhale the disdain. We need to take the chance not to change each other but to learn & discover.

We need to recognise that every one of us is on our own life’s journey. The decisions & choices we make will only ever be truly ours. Our paths are all different but at the same time united. We will never be able to walk in another’s shoes but we can walk along side in peace.

It’s time we started acting respectfully. It’s time we were peaceful.

It’s time we stopped the mean girls high school behaviour of comparing birth stories, denigrating women who have chosen to birth in a way different to our own, dismissed those who have suffered trauma by saying “oh well at least you have a healthy baby”, battled over breast vs bottle, bjorn vs ergo, CIO, self-settle, rice-cereal, bed-sharing, publicly shaming other mothers on Facebook…… URGH enough already!

It is time for fear & courage.

It is time for us as women set the example for our daughters so they can grow up articulate, responsive & intuitive.

Let us be brave enough to say “I did the best I could then but now I know better”. Let us be fearful enough to admit we don’t know it all, we can’t do it all. Let us be courageous enough to ask for help. Let us be strong enough to to stop defending ourselves & look beyond our immediate line of sight.

It is time for us as mothers set the example for our sons so that they don’t ever doubt a woman’s strength or fortitude. Let us be courageous enough so that our sons can see that strength lies in vulnerability. That generosity of spirit occurs when you share your world, your knowledge without judgement.

Let us be enough. It is time for us to be enough together. It is time for fear & courage.

Jealousy is a curse- how to deal?

On a daily basis I try to come to terms with my grief about the births of my children.

I fear it may never leave me. I hope with all my heart that the heaviness of the grief I feel will decrease over time. I hope that one day I can leave my tattered suitcases behind. But until that day comes I struggle. I just don’t know how to deal.

I try to be enough. I smile, say it is ok, pass on my well wishes to other mummas who have suceeded where I “failed”. I avoid the topic of conversation with my husband. I deal out well meaning & sought after “birthy” advice like a crack dealer with a filthy habit. Friends seek me out for information on VBACs, GD, induction, pregnancy complaints, care providers…… The list is truly endless. I love being asked for information, relish the sense of importance & even have a nickname “The Walking Encyclopedia”.

I share & give my knowledge freely. Too freely perhaps because every time I pass on my information, my passion, my obsession, my research, my commitments to myself & my babies… Well a little piece of me dies inside

And then there are the times that I hear or read of a mumma, friend or otherwise, who succeeds. Who pushes her baby(ies) out vaginally without any intervention. Who VBACs. Who births a footling breech in the manner I could not.

A little bit more of me crumbles. I become more & more fear. I struggle to be courage.

And so my big question. How to deal?

I’ve learnt to be more moderate in my advice. I only give it when asked. I never offer specifics unless I know the land ahead is welcoming & wanting. I’ve learnt to try to distance my experiences from those of others. But still I am only human. I am courage & fear at the same time.

I question everything. What I did or didn’t do in bringing my children earthside. Whether or not I want another child purely for the birthing experience. How I would cope emotionally if I had another child & it was another surgical birth. How people view me. How I view myself. My validity & capability as a mother.

I question how to deal….

How to deal with my “lot” in life. How to deal with the perceptions of others, the requests of others, my innate drive to please people, how to balance my passion for all things birthy & temper my jealousy of those who triumph where I could not.

I question, I ask & I seek. And finally I share.

I unpack my suitcases here & hope that in knowing other women feel exactly the same I will one day be able to deal.

A letter to myself & every other mumma who desperately wanted to birth their baby naturally but didn’t

To the woman who holds her children closer to her heart every minute of every day yet mourns their births,

You are courage & fear at the same time.

You made the decisions you had to for so many reasons. Because you feared the consequences of not getting cut open & having your children lifted out of your abdomen. Because you feared your child being harmed in any way shape or form. Because you learnt from past experience or because you didn’t learn at all, it was your first time & you trusted the “professionals”. Because you wanted to be the first one to hold your baby. Because you wanted to see your child be born. You “consented” because the stakes were too high, the medical system was unable to adequately support you & you had no other option.

You are no less of a woman for birthing your beautiful children differently.

Deep down you know this. Deep down you know that what you did took courage.  That saying “yes” to full abdominal surgery, laying your own life on the operating table for your child, took guts. It took guts to set aside your ego which was so desperate for a vaginal birth after a caesarean. It took guts to say “yes”.

Yet despite knowing this your entire being aches. Your biological imprint screams that it didn’t get the chance to do what mother nature intended. You long so deeply for what you feel was “ripped” from you. You doubt what you did. You question every intimate detail of your births. The “what ifs” play on & on.

You crave validation & search for it in all things birthy. Or perhaps you bury your feelings deep inside & ignore the grief that you carry behind you like a couple of invisible yet heavy, tattered suitcases. Either way it surfaces. Perhaps regularly, perhaps only subconsciously. Perhaps whenever you hear of another mumma, friend or stranger, who succeeds where you “failed”. Perhaps whenever you look down at your scar in the shower. That deep heavy grief is always there. Those suitcases are always there.

And still you hear voices, friends, family strangers. Well meaning or otherwise, say to you “but you have two healthy babies”. This only serves to isolate your grief further. To push your emotions further to the fringes where less people “get” what you are going on about. To make you further doubt your decisions.

You need permission to acknowledge your grief & the fact that it may never leave you.

You need to know that you made the right decision. You need validation that you advocated enough for yourself, that you researched enough, that you had the appropriate birth team. That there really was no other option.

You need to know that you are enough.

You. Are. Enough.

What you did was amazing. It was a miracle. You nurtured, nourished & grew two wise little souls inside of you prior to bringing them earthside.

You. Are. Enough.

What you did has inspired others. What you did will serve as an inspiration to your children. What you did has shaped your motherhood & opened up your eyes to a deeper love that you never knew existed.

You. Are. Enough.

The choices you made are what has taken you step by step on your journey to where you are today. You would not be the mother you currently are. You would not have the friends you have in your world. You would not be inspired by them, your partner, your family & your children in the same way that you are.

You. Are. Enough.

Be kind to yourself. Know that time will help you heal & find more peace. In the meantime be strong enough to continue to feel courage & fear at the same time. Be enough in yourself. Live in the moment & learn to let go of those tattered suitcases.

I wish you lots of love, light & blessings. May your journey be peaceful & may the moments of happiness cast a happy shadow over those tattered suitcases. Who knows, maybe just maybe one day you will be able to leave them behind.

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