About when I believed my body let me down. I was wrong.
I believe that women’s bodies are incredible, amazing things. That they are strong, adaptable, powerful and occasionally capable of miracles. But I have ‘wobbled’ on 2 fairly major occasions to maintain that belief, namely the 2 times I gave birth.
Don’t panic, I’m not going to have a ‘my gory birth story is worse than yours’ moment, and some of you will have had much more traumatic or physically damaging birth experiences than mine. Just as many of you will have had fantastic, unassisted and empowering experiences (I applaud you whilst being just *slightly* envious).
I had to re-think the advertising for my pregnancy and postnatal personal training business after I had my first baby in 2005. You see I used to be one of those trainers who, with the very best of intentions, would assure clients how easy their birth could be if they just followed the correct pregnancy exercise regime. How quickly they would pop out their baby with their finely tuned pelvic floor muscles and how swiftly they would zing back to energetic gorgeousness.
Then I had a go at that Giving Birth thing.
And Man, did I feel short-changed. It was so unfair. I’d ‘done everything right’. I had eaten, relaxed and exercised by the book, so how come none of it worked out?
My daughter was a pretty damaging ventouse delivery after 28 hours labour, followed by postpartum haemorrhage, a ‘manual evacuation’ (that was nice) and a catalogue of frankly gruesome and crappy moments which I won’t bore you with.
My son was born nearly 2 years later, a natural birth with the full support of midwives and doctors who assured me that there was ‘no reason why it would happen again’. My boy’s birth was glorious – but then the haemorrhage came again and this time it was vicious. Helicopter, (Oh yes. A helicopter. I mean I know I said this isn’t a competition but beat that 😉 ) theatre and a whole series of ‘procedures’ plus a terrified looking nurse telling me the next day how she ‘thought we’d lost you there’.
At one point I asked, ‘Where did that bruise come from?’ noticing yet another angry needle site. She shrugged ‘Could be anything, Love. You’ve had a LOT of drugs’ .
When I recovered I was mad. Mad with my body for letting me down. Twice. Bitter because it wasn’t fair. Other women could do it… why couldn’t I? Women who weren’t as fit/ strong/ healthy/ ‘knowledgeable’ as I was. I had wanted ‘that natural birth’ so badly. What was the point of all that preparation and exercise? What did I do wrong?
But back at home my midwife put it in perspective and stopped me feeling quite so sorry for myself. ‘You think most women can still squat after 24 hours labour?’ she asked. She reminded me of my strength and stamina, of my core and lower body strength and of how my nutritional knowledge had enabled me to nourish my body so quickly back to vitality after such massive blood loss.
Mother Nature and my Midwife taught me that there is an awful lot about labour and birth that really is in the lap of the Gods… but there is a fair bit we can do to help. By eating for optimum health, exercising correctly and having confidence and respect for our body, I think we empower it to do (and bounce back from) incredible things.
We play the hand we’re dealt. Our babies are born (thank God… and Doctors and Midwives…). And then we start to heal. It makes me so sad to see women being made to feel they should or could have done it better / more naturally / more beautifully / more anything.
Its hard giving birth. We did good, however we did it.
I work with women on re-connecting, emotionally as well as physically, with their bodies, especially when they have preferred to ‘cut off’ from certain body parts when faced with stress incontinence, flab or stretch marks. Their body’s ability to recover and look fabulous is still there, but again, it needs some help in the form of very specific exercise and great nutrition, as well as a lot of love and acceptance.
I know so much more of the academic stuff now, about alignment especially, about things maybe I could have done differently, that maybe would have affected the process. Whatever. What happened, happened.
I did feel that my body had let me down. But then I got over myself and realised that (with just a little medical intervention ;-)) it had actually been amazing. So much had gone right, and of course the results make me grateful every day.
Birth is a very big deal, and I know only too well how many women continue to be affected by their experiences (good and bad) many years later. This post is not supposed to be about who has a ‘perfect birth’ and who doesn’t, but rather how a little self love and physical TLC can go a very long way, whatever the experience.