I wasn't sure whether or not to post this; it's been sitting as a draft for months and months. My message, at its simplest, is to empower others to trust their instincts and follow their baby's lead. This includes breastfeeding, unconditional love and attachment, accepting ourselves as human and celebrating the transition of Woman into Mother.
If you're reading this, there is every chance that breastfeeding has a place in your heart. If you're reading this, there is every chance that you are already 'sold' on attachment theory. If you're reading this, there is every chance that you believe that childbirth is empowering and beautiful. Because these beliefs often (although not always) go hand in hand.
Let me be clear; I believe these things too.
I advocate birth empowerment, but I cannot pretend to have experienced it. And there are many, many mothers out there who are walking this same contradicted path. The path that understands the significance of birth, values and honours its power and knows that there are few things more beautiful in life. But this path winds and bends and occasionally, it routes backwards...slowly through our trauma, below our lowest low and quickly past our shattered dreams.
I have a lot to say on birth trauma, but it is particularly heavy on the heart to write about. I understand that it isn't always joyful reading, but I am clicking that 'Publish' button for the mama sitting alone, walking this all-too common path. For the mama slowly but surely making her way through her trauma, even when the wider world doesn't recognise or prioritise its existence. For the mama who dreams of having more babies but is too afraid to try.
I'm publishing this to give you a voice, mama. To give us all a voice...
Sometimes, when it is dark and little bean lies peacefully sleeping beside me, I close my eyes and see smiles.
As my daughter’s breath falls rhythmically against my cheek, I shut my eyes tighter and hear voices. Loud and dancing, these voices crash together within a messy and tired room. A comfortable place; a place called home.
The edges of this scene are blurry and the colours are soft, yet my daughter’s eyes shine brightly amid the unclear faces of her imaginary siblings.
You see, sometimes, when it is dark, I dare to imagine. I dare to imagine a future with a room full of children. My children. I dare to imagine a busy and cluttered home filled with people who I grew, birthed and nurtured. Sometimes, when it is dark, I dare to imagine wrinkled hands stirring a larger-than-life saucepan, while my team of grown and growing offspring banter and chatter at our larger-than-life table.
But there are other times, when I close my eyes, and all I see is white.
White is the colour of the ceiling in the hospital room.
White is the colour that the bed sheets started out.
White is the colour of my husband’s face, as the blood drained from his complexion in synch and in unison with the blood pouring from my body.
White is the colour of surgical masks.
White is the colour that the world became…as voices grew distant and my eyes grew heavy.
When I close my eyes, I am throwing dice. I am gambling as to which scene I will find myself in; will I re-live my near-miss or will I pre-live my future-miss?
Because in reality, where sounds are steady and faces known, I understand that my team and my larger-than-life saucepan are not actually mine to dream. Not anymore.
Once upon a time, when childbirth was only TV shows and rose-tinted stories, this dream was mine to craft. I could look forward with an open mind and a hopeful heart about the exciting possibilities of My Turn.
This dream poured from me when childbirth became a reality; flushed away with litres of blood…floating upwards, outwards, downwards…towards the all-encompassing white.
But of course, I know that I am lucky.
Lucky to have a healthy and happy toddler who calls me mama.
Lucky to still be alive.
Because yes, I am lucky to be alive, to be a mother and to lie here next to baby-soft cheeks that squidge when I kiss them. But I am also unlucky to have experienced birth in the way that I did.
Yes, I am lucky to be able to run, laugh and play alongside my daughter, and to watch in wonder as she grows. But I am unlucky that my hopes of giving little bean a big family are wrapped in fear and in angst.
You see, my smudgy, easy, loud and busy dream is no longer mine to dream. It is selfish and dangerous and absurd.
Yet there it stays, lodged in my head. I would have expected their voices to quieten, these faceless un-children of mine; this team of genetics that sits hungrily at the larger-than-life table. I would have expected their colours to fade into nothingness…into white.
But they do not fade.
Because they hold onto hope; to some kind of strength that lies peacefully sleeping in all of us.
As I look across at my sleeping toddler, I remember glancing sideways at her as the doctors worked on me. She was my anchor and my hope. I clung to her in my heart, while the medics hooked IV lines into my arms. I squeezed her hand, in my mind, while the consultant squeezed, clamped and compressed the bleed.
Through blind pain and frenzy, I held onto my girl…she was the one who pulled me back, away from the white.
And in this way, my un-children sit patiently waiting. Patiently waiting for mama to ladle out their dinner from the larger-than-life saucepan. Patiently waiting for memories to soften and fear to subside. Patiently waiting for mama to hold onto hope and to take a leap of faith, if only just one more time…
Because in reality, my saucepan may only ever feed one or two, but within my heart lies the strength of an army of un-children, peacefully sleeping and pulling me back, away from the white.
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