All my life I heard these beautiful stories from mothers about the birth of their children. They usually go something like this, “The day my child was born was the best, most beautiful day of my life. My heart just opened up with love. I was in heaven. I never knew love like this before…” You get the idea.
So fast-forward to the birth of my own daughter Siena. Everything was going smoothly – as smoothly as it can go with no painkillers, no drugs, and no sleep – until a few minutes before she was going to be pushed out of my womb. And then it hit me. Oh my god, there is no going back. Yes, intellectually I had realized this. I knew that a real, live baby was coming for the last 9 months, but at a core, visceral level, I did not truly know what this meant until just a few minutes before she was born. And I was scared to death. What had I done? My life will no longer be my own. How am I going to take care of this small baby? I was totally and utterly overwhelmed and helpless to stop this process from completing. This baby was coming. My body was working to get this baby out, even as my mind and emotions were desperately trying to press rewind. Thank god bodies know what to do even when we don’t.
I’d like to be able to say that the moment Siena was born and placed in my arms, the world stopped, the gates of heaven opened and this love just poured out of me, making it the most beautiful day of my life. But that’s not what happened. Love was there and a fierce protectiveness, but there was also this feeling that I was meeting a stranger. Who is this being that came out of my body? The fear was still there too, but thankfully, my instincts kicked into gear and I knew what to do. Over the next days, weeks, months, my love for this little baby grew more and more intense and I can now say that I never knew love like this before. But it took time.
Now I know that my experience is okay – not just okay, but fairly common. It’s just not talked about as much. It’s a dark truth that’s not as glamorous and beautiful as those other birth stories. Still, I think it’s important that these stories get shared. They are part of the spectrum of mothers’ experiences and as we mothers share our truth, they give space for other mothers to accept the full range of their emotions and experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly.
By Anita Michelson