by Dr. Meagan McGowan
We have hit our run of birthday months, a time of year that we recognize with a little more excitement. My husband (August) and I (May) bookend our boys who were born in the beautiful summer months of June and July. Every year is met with a little more anticipation of a day that celebrates them and only them!
It is certainly easy to get lost in the pleasures of surprising them with gifts or the excitement that comes from transforming a living room into a Jungle theme to match their love for animals! Every year, on each of their birth-days, I find I’m reflecting on the day our boys were actually welcomed into this world, arriving Earth-side. It is well known that I have a deep love for all aspects of women’s health including the motherhood journey. I think it is that passion that helps me willingly exist in and around that conversation each day in my treatment room. I am so fortunate to witness each woman’s journey, becoming part of their team of care providers, and listening as they process their thoughts, questions, reflections, and aspirations. Although every pregnancy is unique with its own story, as I share these conversations with women, words are often said and emotions expressed that have a certain universality and would be recognizable to many women who’ve been on his journey.
Our first son will soon be 6 years old and I can remember his birth like it was yesterday. Although this was our first time and there were a lot of unknowns, I felt my toolbox was full. His birth was relatively quick and, according to our midwives, went beautifully. I remember feeling amazed at what had just happened; I was happy, thankful, and most definitely sore. I remember thinking as the midwives left “I can’t believe you just have a baby and are immediately left with it as if you have any idea of what to do!” We learned quickly.
Our second son just turned 3. I can remember his birth just as clearly, however, not with the same elation as I remember his brother’s. He was born a very healthy blue- eyed boy who has grown a smile as bright as the sun. His birth felt like a loss of control to me, a traumatic feeling. I couldn’t find my breath, my pushing felt erratic and without rhythm, and I was yearning for something—words, advice, assistance—when all the while I was doing exactly what I should have been doing. I gave that birth every ounce of strength I had, he arrived and, again, my support team said it went beautifully.
I’ve felt confused by that ever since. I now exist with an overwhelming feeling of negativity, yet those feelings are unmatched by the others who were there. Recovery was more difficult as my body needed more time than with my first birth. Our son acclimated to the outside world well; he has a family that loves him dearly. I however was on a very different journey. I had night terrors, severe discomfort due to tearing, contractions in my breasts that were strong enough that I would have to pass off my baby until they passed while I laid in the fetal position. In my mind I was nowhere close to the shape I had been in for our first son, mentally or physically, and that was my fault. Our son had digestive struggles and needed diagnostic testing. I believed it was my fault, that I didn’t eat as cleanly as I did the first time around. His movement patterns were not developing typically—also my fault, since I didn’t exercise as regularly as I should have. He yelled a lot, especially at meal time once we started solids, he seemed angry, short fused, aggressive (yes I know he was a baby). Of course, he came out stressed, I yelled a lot while pregnant with him. At that time, we had an almost 3 year old who decided to develop a strong opinion about everything! My point is—and as irrational as some of these thoughts may be—they’re my reality, my memories, my heavy thick blanket of guilt that if given the chance to turn back time, I would have made different choices.
When I said a Mom discussing her journey often resonates with me, it is not with her specific details, but rather the general feeling of guilt, judgment, and discontent with themselves during a particular time. When we speak about it, IF we speak about, we are generally met with, “don’t feel like that,” “it’s ok,” or some other seemingly comforting line that really isn’t all that helpful. What would be helpful, in my opinion, would be if another person just held space for us, let us speak without feeling like you have to offer words of advice or solutions. Expressing thoughts in a safe space can allow for emotions to evolve, benefiting you naturally. I am excited to have that space held for me in an upcoming session with a Birth Story Mentor, a woman introduced to me by a wonderful friend who simply planted a seed of an idea a while back.
I am excited to spend time with her. She has asked me to reserve an uninterrupted hour, in a comfortable place, tea in hand if I wish as since that is what she would provide me if we were able to meet in person! She has only prepared me with the following:
The goal of a Birth Story Mentoring session is that by working with a Story Mentor trained in Birth Story Medicine, you, the Storyteller, leave with a different story than the one you came in with, as well as newly-discovered self- compassion and heart-opening perspective.
The benefits of working through a birth story reach beyond the person who gave birth. It may benefit a spouse/partner who attended a birth, a birth provider, or other support person like a friend or parent. If you haven’t given birth yet but have thoughts or concerns heading into your birth that you’d like the opportunity to shift, this could also benefit you. Regardless of your role during a birth, if you are harnessing a moment or memory from a birth that you feel unresolved about, that maybe still weighing on your heart, when the time feels appropriate, you might consider spending time with a Birth Mentor.
For me as a mother, I am often working through feelings of guilt, or recognizing the projections of my own desires and fears. I do this so that I may allow our boys to grow up expressing themselves through the energy THEY create. I feel encouraged by the opportunity to work with a Birth Mentor, in hopes that I can bring new light to the memories of my son’s birth, although I anticipate the benefits reaching far beyond his birth alone. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you would like to discuss whether you’d like to provide yourself or someone in your life the same opportunity.