Posted by: emjb | November 24, 2005

I had forgotten

I had forgotten what it feels like to be hostage to your emotions; to walk around raw, without the protective skin you’re used to wearing, the one that presents the image you want it to to the outside world.

After my dad died, it was like this. I felt like there wasn’t one coherent me, just a collection of coping mechanisms and emotions that I kept barely in check. Every now and then, Ilost control of them and they trampled me flat.

Tonight is like that. I don’t even know what I’m crying about, half the time; just a grief I can’t control. A wanting it not to have happened. Pain that it did happen, that I couldn’t stop it, that I couldn’t prevent it. And this time, maybe worse than with my dad, in some ways. I never felt responsible for his death. But I tried so hard–so fucking hard–to have a good birth. It was a statement I wanted to make about women’s bodies, about our possibilities, about overcoming a system that treats us as defective so much of the time. I wanted to be the woman in my family who reclaimed the experience, who proved the truth about the beauty of what birth could be. It was a political decision, a spiritual decision, and it seemed so right.

And I failed. Or my body failed me. I tried so hard, and I failed. I wanted this so badly, and I got the exact opposite–I got worse than a lot of women who never try at all, who walk in wanting to be knocked out and wake up with a baby, who see childbirth as messy and inconvenient.

It’s breaking my heart, that I failed, that I couldn’t do this, that I lost so miserably. All that time reading, and going online, doing research, hiring a doula, taking classes…for what? I feel humiliated, and bitter, and no one can give me answers. Why was my baby too big? Was it something I did? Something I could have prevented? Did the system fail me, or is my body just defective? Or both?

And I look at my baby, and I still cry. I’m afraid I’ll resent him, or just not be able to enjoy him or love him because of all this.

And I think, if I could go back and choose not to have a child, right this second, I might. It’s a horrible thing to say, with my son sleeping in the next room; but when this pain has a hold of me, I want to go back in time and tell myself, don’t put yourself through this. You don’t want this pain.

I know this will pass. I know he is supposed to be here, however he arrived; I wanted a baby for so long, for years we agonized about trying. I was thrilled when we conceived so fast. But I also wanted a birth, a certain kind of birth. Maybe that was selfish of me, maybe it was something I had no right to expect, but I did. I expected it, I trained for it, I fought for it, and I didn’t get it. And now I don’t know how to let it go.

This pain will fade, like the pain over my dad; it will probably make me a better person. Can I say how much I hate that mechanism…that the only way to really grow is to go through a lot of pain? Because that just seems like a fucked-up system to me.

It’s late, and I have to catch a ride to the airport in 7 hours, but crying over my keyboard is the only thing that helps. I’m grateful to have that, and to my readers for understanding. This is the only way I can think of to work this out right now.



  1. Listen. There is no time or place in history in which it has been simple or easy to have a baby. Although the medical system can be abusive, having a baby is dangerous. When medical care is not available, things often go fine, but often mothers die, and babies die, and this has nothing to do with how feminist or patriarchal the society might be. Inbred societies tend not to need c-sections, because those who are too large to be born are selected out. You nourished your baby well, and he grew to the size he was meant to be, and that was too big for your body, and that is not your fault.

    You are allowed to be sad and angry and to feel resentful of your giant boy. The pain might or might not make you a better person. But it’s not like losing your father. Once you are not raw — inside and outside — you will be ok. More than ok.

  2. I can only offer an outsider’s opinion here – you are NOT a failure. You did your best. You were prepared. Unfortunately, some things were out of your control. That wasn’t your fault.

  3. It’s baloney. It is very doubtful that your baby was too big. Or that there is anything wrong with your body. After my first (and awful–clumsy forceps) birth, the doc told me that the problem was my “thick muscle wall”. Total BS. I can’t speak for your birth, but in my case, as in many, the problem was basically that it was not really time yet. Yes, I KNOW the baby was getting bigger each day, but if we had waited just a few days, I know (that is, I know NOW, from my other 3 babies) that my body would have done the job quite well. Once I was hooked up to the pitocin it was a downward spiral. I was stuck in that bed. Which goes against all logical sense. I mean, do we lie on our backs to go potty?

    Anyway, I learned that for ME, the best choice was unassisted birth at home with just my husband. But that is a HUGE responsibility and requires a lot of preparation and planning. Which includes knowing when it is time to transfer to the hospital if necessary. I don’t go around recommending it, even though my unassisted births have been amazing and empowering. If you plan on having another baby, though, you might read some of the info out there by and for Unassisted birthers. I think it is tremendously useful, even if one is planning a hospital birth.

    Take good care.

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