A Motherhood Journey
It’s been a journey.
When my first baby was born eight and a half years ago, after 36 hours of back labor and two years of infertility, I found myself struggling so hard with the transition from maiden to mother. However, in the same breath, this was what I wanted, right? Why did it all feel so hard? Of course, I loved my child, but this flood of contradictory overwhelming emotion was more than I had bargained for and nobody had ever told me about the emotional component of becoming a mother. Nonetheless, I swept my feelings of self-doubt and confusion aside, assuming I was an anomaly, so I’d best not speak of it, and began “the dance of the perfect mother”. Even if I didn’t feel it, I was determined to fake it until I made it. A year and a half later, I came out of the haze realizing that I had spent that precious time coping with postpartum anxiety and depression and, to my regret, was left with little memory of my sweet daughter’s babyhood.
When my second baby came on the scene three years later, it wasn’t just better - it was magnificent! The ease and speed of her birth, this time in my own comfortable home, the safety I felt labouring on my own terms seemed to diffuse much of the trauma I took with me from that first harrowing birth experience that felt very out of control. I knew about the hormones of labor. I knew more about the raw emotions that accompanied birth. I knew about this overwhelming desire to protect my helpless baby and how that desire brought out the lioness in me, seeing the potential danger lurking in every situation. I still had the rollercoaster of emotions, but I could feel my way around those edges now. Instead of focusing on how hard caring for my new baby was and wishing to move on to a later, “easier” stage like I did the first time, I had more appreciation for how quickly a baby passes into toddlerhood and I savored every precious moment.
Three years later, we were surprised to discover we would be welcoming twins into our fold. This pregnancy had been a surprise and, while joyous, with it came a whole new set of fears. Whether the case or not, I attributed my relatively smooth second postpartum experience to my easy home-birth. However, twins are considered “high risk” and, therefore, a registered midwife cannot legally take on that responsibility in Alberta. I found myself flailing once again, swept up in a rough, dark sea of emotion, reaching in any direction I could for a life preserver or something to give me hope. And, worst of all, many of my friends and relatives could not understand why a homebirth mattered to me so much. Perhaps I had done such a good job hiding my feelings after my first birth that nobody could make the conclusion that I was drawing in my mind: hospital birth = trauma and trauma = hellish postpartum. I lost sleep over it. The stress of being pushed in directions I did not want to go, namely an “elective” c-section at 37 weeks, made me physically ill and I developed a blood clot in my right leg. One could argue that I would have developed the blood clot anyway as blood clots are more prevalent with twin pregnancies, but I knew the lack of sleep due to stress and worry had a role to play.
Over the course of my twin pregnancy, my eyes were opened to a world I did not previously know or care to know existed. I am deeply grateful to my twins, not only for their gift of being the wonderful little people that they are, but for igniting this passion and compassion within me. I learned of the sorrow, stress and sense of loss a woman feels when she longs for a natural, intervention-free birth but has the misfortune of carrying multiples, a breech baby, GBS, gestational diabetes, a baby passed their due date or any other variation of normal that suddenly means that they fall into the category of high risk and cannot have the birth that they planned and so strongly desired for their own personal reasons.
I spent a year learning midwifery hoping I could change the system or even help just one woman who felt like her choices were being taken away, but what I realized is that I cannot give what is not mine to give; meaning that personal autonomy can only be chosen and exercised by the woman herself. My time is now spent focusing on the postpartum – where it all began anyway and where I can immerse myself in learning and providing deeply nourishing, unique custom care options while putting my family first.
Most of my friends and relatives still don’t understand me and that’s ok. Through each individual birth, I’ve been given the gift of appreciating that we all have our own individual journey to walk and, while we may share plenty of common ground, no two journeys are exactly the same.
Written + Submitted by Cassie Snyder
Image Credit: Lucid Photography