Lessons in strength #1: facing my fears

I wrote a series of posts about being pregnant with, and giving birth to, Emma. Lots of people were really lovely about them, leaving thoughtful comments or telling me in person how much they enjoyed reading them, whether they’d had a similar experience or not. Looking back at the birth story in particular, however, makes me feel very sad now. I said I felt humbled after having Emma. Now, I would say I felt vulnerable. I felt vulnerable because while her birth was not nearly as awful as many others, and the outcome was obviously what everyone wanted – it was traumatic.

It was traumatic enough that I had flashbacks for weeks afterwards.

It was traumatic enough that for months, the smell of blood reminded me of that night.

It was traumatic enough that it took a good 18 months to think I might want another baby – and even then, I was terrified of the birth part.

It was traumatic enough that when I thought of Emma being born, I did not think of those peaceful hours in the bath or her actual arrival when pain turned to joy and I loved her immediately or Toby’s face when he saw her. I thought of thrashing around on the bed with bright lights blinding me and Toby trying to hold me while a doctor I hadn’t met before shoved what felt like his entire arm inside me and barked at a midwife to get me some gas. I’d felt like a trapped animal. And that was my overwhelming memory of Emma being born. Sad, right?

So when I found out I was pregnant with Finn – a bit of a surprise pregnancy, although as one of my friends pointed out, “If you know how babies are made, it’s not really a surprise” – I was mostly excited but I was terrified too. The idea of having to go through birth again was almost paralysing. In fact, any time we had considered the option of sticking with an only child, avoiding childbirth was a huge plus for me. But Emma wasn’t going to be an only child, and I was going to have to give birth to her sibling somehow. I knew I needed help.

The first thing I did was try to get some private Calmbirth sessions. I’d felt that Calmbirth was very useful the first time around, but I didn’t want to do the whole course again. I really just wanted to talk to the instructor one-on-one about Emma’s birth, and get some ideas for preparation. Unfortunately the joy of preparing for a second birth means you need to consider babysitting for the first child, and our timetables just never lined up. So instead I trawled through the Calmbirth instructor’s resources list on her website and made contact with a local doula company. They were able to fit me in right away – and so I began to face my fears.

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