This is the second in a series of posts on healing after a negative birth experience. To see the first one, click here.
After my daughter was born, I was overwhelmed by the various emotions that swept in and out, like waves on my heart. I felt many emotions I had not previously experienced. Among these, the one that surprised me the most was guilt. This tiny little person looking up at me so sweetly, and with such innocence, was relying on me to provide for her wants and needs, to guide her in life, and to be responsible in a way I didn’t know how until that very moment.
In my mind, all of these equaled up to a mound of guilt building in my chest. She wasn’t even an hour old and I already had failed her. I didn’t give her the best possible start by avoiding all drugs in labor. I didn’t ensure her entry into this world was as soft and gentle as it could be. I didn’t stay with her every second to make sure no one gave her anything other than what my breasts provided. I couldn’t even tell all the people crowded into the room to go away and leave me with my baby. They kept passing her around from person to person and all I could think was “GIVE ME MY BABY!”
The guilt just kept piling up, the mound getting bigger with each new perceived failure.
One of my first doula clients had an epidural. I felt like I had failed her. She didn’t see it that way at all. She felt empowered, supported, happy with her experience.
So why then did I feel so guilty for my “failures” so many years previous? Support. I did have a lovely aunt who supported me fully throughout my pregnancy and birth. She, however, was the only one. My husband at the time, his family, the doctor and nurses, all were either ambivalent to my wants/needs or downright disagreeable.
I still am not quite sure how to heal from these wounds. I think one way that has helped has been supporting other women in their choices, whatever they may be. I don’t want any mother to start off her parenting journey with a heaping dose of guilt. That helps no one. We all do the best we can with the information that we have at the time.
Another aspect of healing the guilt is reminding myself that guilt serves no one. It does, however, get in the way of loving relationships and being healthy. Guilt is a useless emotion, especially in the context of a past experience that cannot be changed. I can only look to the future and work to be different.