Reclaiming what was lost in birth
It’s her second birth, and she’s chosen a homebirth. She’s excited to experience birth as a connected family event. She trained her body and mind and brought a great level of commitment and love to her impending birth. She has done all the right things to prepare.
The day dawns, and she labours. There is enormous love in the room, with people who are all playing a vital role in holding that space. Her partner holds her, kisses her, and reminds her of how amazing she is. Her midwife enters the scene and kisses her forehead. Such intimacy can be felt from such a normal and spontaneous act.
She looks like a goddess, so inward, powerful, and held in the centre of a loving circle.
The waves surge, and she moans – holding her centre – sitting completely in her power. She is feeling the bearing down sensations and then says to her midwife, something feels different in her vagina. The midwife leans over and feels a foot.
Everything changes at that moment.
An ambulance is called, and she is taken to the hospital. She holds her space. She goes inward and retains her calm and centre. She must prevent her body from doing what it wants to do. She must resist the power, pull back – hold on. She arrives and they take her into a deep dream state, which prevents her from seeing her baby born. Her loving partner waits outside. It has all taken a different path – a long way from her vision. Much has been lost, but not the baby. All is well with her daughter; she has landed with a hearty cry.
Sometimes birth takes us on a path a long way from the heartfelt vision of what can be, to what is possible for women to experience in their primal, raw greatness. We know this in our DNA. At a deep level, there are many hopes and dreams for what we hope to discover about ourselves by walking into this mystery called birth.
The reality can be a long way from this vision, and something gets lost. We say to those women, “but you’ve got a healthy baby.”
The woman knows this to be true, but it does not soothe her troubled heart, at least not yet. She needs to grieve what was lost. The lost hopes and dreams. Something inside of her tells her – all is not well – and that something is called grief.
When I debriefed the woman in this story – what do you think her greatest grief was?
The transfer to the hospital? The caesarean?
No – it was her grief at not having been the one to welcome her baby, to hold her baby. Sadly, the same thing had happened with her first birth, the separation of mother and baby right at the point of birth.
She spoke of her feelings, and I helped her to label the grief, and encouraged her to give it voice, to acknowledge what was lost. As I listened to her, I saw many mothers’ stories in her story, and I have learned to respect the journey of birthing in its entirety and where it can take us.
I have learned that no birth journey is ever in vain. It contains a well of feelings that lead to the awakening of the mother spirit and it is in the struggle that she awakens. I call her a beast because the ‘mother’ is unrelenting in her need to love and protect that baby – it is a force that needs to be awakened.
This struggle to get our babies here safely, means that a mother will do whatever necessary to get through the birth. She must because she cannot get off the bus. There is no escaping what must happen. She must awaken to her resilience, her power, her stamina, her love, her anger, her selflessness. It is all waiting to be released – because that is what her baby will require of her.
That is called the mother spirit.
What if the birth was designed to do this? If the inherent struggle serves a powerful purpose to wake us up? To help us to realise that we are far greater and bigger than we ever thought, even when we collapse in exhaustion and want to get off the bus. There is no turning back from the mother. Once you know you have life inside of you, you are always the mother, even if that life expires before the mother’s life.
In our debrief, after acknowledging what was lost, I asked the birthing mother, “what have you been like with your new baby?” She told me she never wants to put her daughter down. She is constantly wanting to hold her, even when others suggest she should rest. I pointed out to her, that maybe she was reclaiming what was lost, and that she should tell them to just let her be. She felt that truth and I suspect she will be mothering her way. She will be immune to the noise of other people telling her what she should do or be as a mother. She will not worry about the weight of her baby, whether she is in a good sleep routine, or is she getting enough tummy time. She will look at those around her and smile and nod and do it her way. She has fully stepped into her big beastly mother spirit, unapologetically and powerfully. She will not be swayed or made to feel less than enough for the mother she wants to be.
Could it be, her two births have served her well?
I often say, time and time and time again, it is not the type of birth that matters, whether your baby comes through the vagina or belly, whether you ended up needing help or not, it is what gets awakened in the mother. It is the grief, the relief, the joy, the fear, the shock, the awe, the intensity, and every other emotion in the bag of birth, that holds the key to her awakening. When women try to process their birth afterward, and we suggest she has got a healthy baby and she should feel lucky; we may actually be locking her grief inside of her, without voice, without release, without the opportunity for that grief to morph into wisdom, compassion, understanding, and ultimately her mother spirit. Instead, we put guilt on her, shame at not being grateful – and yet she knows something has been lost, and she grieves.
So how about we stop turning birth into an Olympic sport to be judged or compared? How about we stop telling women how they should feel?
How about we listen and let her voice be heard. Then watch lovingly and patiently at what gets awakened in her – and celebrate the enormity of this?
And that is all I want to say about that – I’d rather just listen. 😊
Signing off with love and admiration for all that you do as parents,
P.S. I would like to know more about the father spirit, and the awakening of men in this space of fatherhood. What gets lost and needs to be reclaimed?