• The Fit Midwife

Don't Feel Guilty For Doing What Is Best For You!!!

I didn’t plan it that way BUT…..

How many times have you said those words about something that did not actually sit right with you? Why are we always justifying things these days? To our friends, family, colleagues, to ourselves? Probably because it is easier than wondering “what if I made the wrong choice”, “what if people think I am weak/stupid/selfish for choosing what I chose?”

Without fail, whenever I am out at a bar or a brunch and I am stood getting a drink, or meeting someone new, they will tell me about their children’s, nieces, best friend’s neighbours child’s delivery. Every. Single. Time. The stories are often told like this “Oh my wife had a caesarean section…. but she had to you know because the baby wasn’t low enough” or “I bottle fed my baby but only because my milk didn’t come.” Always justifying their experience as if what they have said is something that needs an explanation. I’m still stood there, at the bar, wondering when I can order my gin. But mostly I just feel a bit sad that we are always trying to justify our choices, to make sure people don’t judge us too much.

I can liken it to having a really crappy boyfriend/partner. You know the one that treats you like crap in someway. Makes you feel uncomfortable with a situation or outcome. The one your family or friends really don’t like and deep down, you know they are right. But you justify their behaviour. “Oh he’s really stressed at work”, “He didn’t mean it like that”, “I think I overreacted”. Because all of these things are generally easier than admitting you gave your time, respect and support to such a reckless human being. Or that what happened is not what you wanted to happen. It wasn’t what happens to other people. Why couldn’t you make it work?

I see it all the time in women who have had a bad birthing experience or who feel the guilt usually derived from not achieving that often elusive “normal birth”. It genuinely makes me sad when women tell me of their birthing experience and say, “I had an epidural, but it’s ok though because they had to give me the oxytocin drip.” You had what was necessary for you at the time. There is no reason to justify that at all. I mean, you have grown and delivered a tiny human one way or another…. I don’t care what your choices were as long as they were informed and respected. We should not have to justify what is best for us in any situation.

A lot of the time I believe we use the wrong terminology. We place importance on the wrong things (and I am no exception here) Instead of making women the centre of our focus. The bane of my midwifery existence is the term “Natural Birth”. I really don’t like this term. It has somehow become a weird benchmark which all women strive to reach. What’s best for one is not best for all. All this phrase means is there was no use of medication to induce labour or during labour and that resulted in a physiological vaginal birth followed by a physiological delivery of the placenta. It is one method of birthing. Not the only method of birthing. We need to stop having natural birth as one method and then everything else. Truth is some women want pain relief, some women don’t. Some women change their mind based on their circumstances. Some women want want a vaginal delivery, some don’t.

The fact is, we need to accept that birth does not always go as you planned it, especially these days and especially when Doctors try to expedite a natural process without just cause. Regardless if you visualised it from start to finish or had an epidural from the first contraction. It doesn’t mean that it was a failure. That you were a failure. That there should be any guilt. We cannot be a society that supports women and provides informed choice if the repercussions of that are feeling guilty because you feel you didn’t achieve what other women did. In all honesty it really is no one else's business how you birthed your baby.

Whilst there are many programs and classes out there designed to ‘empower women’ to birth naturally or to make certain choices that feel right for her, there is not enough focus on ensuring women know that they are enough. As a mother to be. As a labouring mother. As a postnatal mother. We need to work on women feeling pride. Pride in what they achieved. I mean, they grew a tiny human when given a teaspoon full of swimmers. They endured nausea, vomiting, weight gain, bodily changes, both positive and and negative, hormones, back pain, constipation, to name but a few of the delights of pregnancy. Some even endured the most heart breaking losses. And make no mistake, these women are just as much mothers as anyone else. They should be so proud of their strength, of their bodies.

I wonder if we will ever get to the stage where women can say with pride “I had an epidural/ventouse/c-section/vaginal delivery” and not feel the need to follow it up with a justification. I have not had children myself (maybe one day when I am all grown up) but what I do know, is that I don’t really care why others have the deliveries they have, I don’t care what drove them to their choices. I only care that they had true informed choice and they had a positive experience. Maybe that is because I work in this environment everyday. But it really isn’t any of my business why women choose what they choose, my job exists to support said choices.

Birth, ludicrously, is one of the things we, as a society, like to chat in depth about and pass comment on. We don’t expect people to divulge their personal circumstances when it comes to other situations…. “Hey Carol…. how was your colonoscopy? Where did they put the scope? Did you watch it on the screen? What were your results?” Wouldn’t dare, would you? We need to change the way in which we talk about birth. We need to stop focusing on what we think we didn’t do and start talking about all the awesome things we actually did. We are the ones who set the bar all the way up there and wallow in the guilt that follows when we don’t reach it. So maybe we just get rid of the bar altogether. Let's tell stories, not explain them.

Nikki xx

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