On Enjoying the Win…
by lisha epperson
I’ve been thinking lately about a trend in the world of childbirth. Perfection. Current thinking has new mothers and mothers-to-be wrapped in a quilt of confusion called perfection. This quest for the perfect birth distorts a mothers vision for the blessings in front of her and will ultimately lead to dissatisfaction and guilt. The collective cry is for a “perfect’ birth. The new standard has been set and it includes a medication free, doula supported, home birth complete with lactation specialist at hand. I was the original infertile girl birth junkie. I support birth workers and am a postpartum doula so it’s not about my lack of support for women or faith in their bodies to perform a natural function. I come to the table as a woman who struggled to conceive and carry a child. I think my perspective is unique, valid and one that might take the pressure off women to be “perfect” when it comes to birth. So let’s be clear ” if you walk away from the game healthy…with a healthy babe in arms”…Well… lady, you’ve won!
I loved watching “The Business of Being Born” and other documentaries on the benefits of natural birth. The information presented was powerful…necessary. I felt empowered by the beauty and strength of women and the options in childbirth presented. However, the transmission of this information gets warbled for some reason and women are hearing a message very different from its original intent. Because of my reproductive history I was given a first class seat on the c-section train. Still, watching these documentaries and being a woman at this particular point in American birth culture – I felt bad about it. I wanted another ticket when I should have just been grateful to be on the train. My number one concern and goal of faith was having a living baby. Period. But knowing how I would have to deliver him made me feel sad. And so began the mommy guilt surrounding my son’s birth – and it didn’t end there. My son was born premature at 34 weeks. At 5 lbs 1 oz he was a good size but he couldn’t latch properly and I was given poor information on breastfeeding from a member of the nicu team. (another post,I know) I struggled to develop a sufficient supply despite visits with lactation consultants. Our nursing relationship lasted 5 months and I felt guilty about this – the collective societal whisper “you have to nurse…for at least a year or two or three…” twisting its way through my psyche.
No. It isn’t just me and my formerly infertile girl insecurities. As a postpartum doula I get to see the effects of this overt conditioning. Women struggling with breastfeeding and embarrassed to use formula. We all know breast is best but even a lactation consultant will tell you to first “feed the baby”. Women often need help to get nursing off to a good start. I am aware it takes work and that you shouldn’t just give up the moment an obstacle presents itself – but when you get to the point of having done all you can…well, I want women to forgive themselves. I watch as they gaze down, subconsciously refusing eye contact when they “reveal” a c-section birth. The c-section rate in this country is high and it is true that the procedure is often misused but many times – C-SECTIONS save lives. The look of defeat and regret is disheartening. At a time when women should be rejoicing they are instead tasting the bitter tea blend of guilt and remorse. Motherhood is hard. Childbirth is a natural process but it not a process that is exempt from complications or imperfections. I don’t think it can be blamed solely on postpartum hormones. These women are feeling the shame of not having had a media imposed perfect birth and are missing the beauty and inherent perfection of the simple gift of life.
Ade’, my mid-life surprise, is now 2 years old. He was arranging and rearranging colorful wooden magnets on the refrigerator as I busied myself in the kitchen. Chopping, slicing,checking email, washing dishes,sorting mail,cleaning… I was BUSY – but I caught a glimpse of him and all of his terrific 2-year-oldness and remembered our first months together – all the sorrow packed guilt I felt. I recognized how I had let the enemy in. He was not happy about our clear triumph over infertility and swept in to tarnish our victory. With him it always starts with a lie and he used an old one – the lie of perfection. But God prevailed as He always does. In the midst of our nursing struggles I heard the Lord say to me “no judgement”. With tears in my eyes I whispered that sweet, God-given pardon in my son’s ear. There was no judgement for him and none for me. No condemnation. God honored our efforts. I had presented my prayer for help to Him and He responded.
This moment marked a paradigm shift in our relationship. We were free. I was grateful and God remained good. I’m still a birth junkie but now, more a lover and supporter of women than details of a birth.
Dear mother’s give your children..your very lives to God. Ask Him to bless and cover your efforts and keep it moving. Many women are blessed to have a completely natural birth and those who simply need access to services and information to attain it should have it. But lets not choke the life out of the blessing by smothering it with the perfection quilt. If you are healthy and are graced to hold a healthy child in your arms – my sweet friend – you are blessed and you have won! Your perfect birth is your own!
I understand this is a tender topic but I would be honored to hear your story and opinions. Please share.