Friday, 29 June 2012

The difference a decade makes

One of these days someone's going to tell me that my blog title doesn't make sense. I don't mind, but if anyone asks, it's metaphorical. Or something.

A few months ago I bumped into a woman I used to tutor. During the course of our conversation I mentioned that we were moving abroad. "With a baby?" she asked, incredulously. "Sure! Ha ha! Why not?" I replied. I gave the impression, I suppose, that this is the sort of thing I take in my stride.

And I did, the first time around. When I was 21 and carefree (in as much as someone racked with insecurities can be carefree). With a suitcase and a plane ticket, I had all I needed. Friends? To be made! Paid employment? To be found! It didn't occur to me that what I was embarking on was a major life change. It was just an adventure.

A decade (and a half) later and I'm doing it all again, this time in reverse. I've done this before, so it's no big deal. Right? Ah. Well. That's the thing. It is. I'm not 21 anymore. This has nothing to do with age and everything to do with experience. I have commitments and responsibilities which mean that it's no longer just about me. I have more items in my possession which means a suitcase is not sufficient. I have people in my British life who I've grown with who can't come with me. I know how hard it's going to be to leave them. When I did this the first time, I didn't.

I'm scared and excited and apprehensive and many more things that I can't even begin to articulate.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

It wasn't meant to be like this.

I didn't think I was ever going to cover this topic, and even as I write I'm still not sure. What follows is a summary of my birth story. I'm going to keep it brief and devoid of detail. However, if you feel this isn't for you, now's the time to make a swift exit.

My son was born at 11:07pm on Wednesday 5 October 2011. I had been admitted to hospital the previous evening to be induced, as he was around a week and a half late. When my waters broke meconium was discovered. It meant that there was a chance our baby was distressed. There was a lot of waiting around after that but when things kicked off Wednesday lunchtime, it was the start of a very difficult birth.

I started off on gas and air which, if you have never had it, made me feel as though I was having an out of body experience every 30 seconds. I didn't like it very much but it helped to ease the pain of the contractions. After a while I had to progress to pethidine. I don't think it really agreed with me, but again, it helped to ease the pain. I have no recollection of what happened between that stage and the end stage of labour, as I was drugged up to my eyeballs.

Despite the coaching of the midwives, and despite my best efforts, our little boy wasn't able to make an entrance on his own. All of a sudden, the numbers in the room swelled from two or three to ten. There wasn't time to do an emergency cesarean so the doctors decided to use another procedure.

By the time M arrived and was whisked out of the room due to possible infection, I was exhausted and in shock. My husband was concerned (understatement) as no-one had told him what was going on and had himself been whisked out of the room at one point.

Now, the purpose of this disclosure is not to elicit kind feedback such as, 'poor you - what a rotten time you had', so please don't feel that you have to respond in this way. Rather, I wanted to give a context for what follows, namely an explanation of my psychological state after the birth.

When our son was brought back in, I felt detached. I just couldn't connect him with the bump that I had bonded with for the past nine months. I felt as if I knew my bump, or Bun, as we called him/her. I didn't know this creature, lying there staring out at the world. I knew how I supposed to feel. There was supposed to be a golden ray of light shining down from the heavens. There was supposed to be a choir of angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. There was supposed to be adoration and smiling and sudden onset amnesia regarding the recent unpleasantness. There wasn't any of that.

In the days and weeks that followed, I struggled to bond with my baby. Breastfeeding was difficult. The lack of sleep was difficult. I went through the motions, doing what I had to do, but I didn't know how to connect with my son. What made it exceptionally painful was the fact we had experienced a miscarriage. Here was our long-awaited baby, the baby we had been through so much heartache to meet, and yet I felt at best, numb, and at worst, wanting to run away.

In time, gradually, I was able to bond with my son. Now, I can honestly say that I love him with all my heart and we have a beautiful relationship.

With permission, I want to share something that helped me recently; a quote from Fleur Bickford (@NurturedChild on Twitter).

It's ok to love your baby but hate the way they came into the world.

Maybe your birth didn't go the way you had hoped or expected it would. Maybe after the birth you didn't feel the way you thought you should. Maybe you're finding it difficult to come to terms with your new life and the new responsibilities it brings.

It's ok.

You're not the first person to feel like this, and you won't be the last. You may be surprised at how many of your friends and people you know had similar experiences. Why do we pretend that everything's fine? That we're coping well when clearly we're not? Sometimes life is hard. We should be able to share our grief as well as our happiness. The good times and the bad.

I have no affiliation with them but if any of this is relevant to you, visit the Birth Trauma Association (@BirthTrauma on Twitter). It's all too easy to feel isolated, but we don't have to stay that way.