You spend forty weeks growing and caring for your baby before you get to meet them. That's not even including the time before conceiving, preparing your body, the trying, the wishing. That is a long time to focus on and perfect the plan for the big day. It is a long time to spend imagining and re-imagining how that day will unfold. After all that time it can be very hard to let go of our 'plan' and accept the reality of what has to happen.
Of course, my husband and I knew what was really important was the safe delivery of our little guy in whatever way was best for him and I. Anything could happen, so we decided to keep an open mind. We had preferences, yes, but no plan. Ohh, how enlightened we were! In reality, my husband was the only enlightened one. I had no plan, but without even realising it, I had conjured up in my imagination the details of the day and my perfect delivery scenario.
So now, 6 months later, when I look back on my labour and delivery, it's with a tinge of sadness and a generous helping of guilt. Forget not sticking to the plan, even the preferences had to get chucked out the window. Our preferences can be summed up with 'as little intervention as possible'. My delivery, on the other hand, can be summed up with 'quite a bit of intervention'.
Sweep, induction, local anaesthetic, kiwi, forceps and episiotomy all applied. The only reason there wasn't a c-section was because there wasn't time.
Finally, my little guy arrived. But after all the poking and pulling he was battered and bruised. I waved my husband away to go with the baby as he was brought to the little table at the end of the room to be helped. I sat back and got stitched. The guilt pooled on top of me. I sat alone and felt awful. The baby was brought back to me. He was sore and frightened. As I cuddled him I shook. His head was badly scraped, his eye had been pinched, his face and shoulders were bruised. And I felt every bit of it was my fault.
My body hadn't been able to do what it should have to help him into this world.
I had chosen to be induced. Did that cause the meconium? What if I waited the full two weeks? Would he have come on his own? If so, would a natural labour have been easier on him?
During labour, I struggled to help push him out. I even requested an epidural because of my own pain. Thankfully that didn't happen. But still, I asked, I didn't think of how it could have made pushing even harder and the impact on him. Before he even arrived I had failed him so many times over.
Or at least that's how I see it. My husband's view is that I did a great a job. He says the induction would not have caused the meconium in my waters so it is better we got baby out sooner. He says that my body didn't fail to start things naturally, I had just made such a good home for baby, that he didn't want to leave yet. That my pushing efforts were great but that our little guy was not actually so little in baby terms (at 10lb 9oz he may have a bit of a point there).
Which one of us is right? I don't know. Perhaps the bigger question is why we see things so differently? Is 'mam guilt' so severe that even before we take our babies home to raise them, we are already convinced we have failed? We need to be stronger than that for our babies. We need to be kinder than that for ourselves.
Not going to plan is not the same as failing. Things happen, plans change. If you are a mammy to be, remember this and keep an open mind. If you are a mammy, learn to forgive yourself.