A couple of days ago I rang a dear friend in the UK. We haven’t talked (other than through email) in years, and I ended up getting somewhat teary when I heard her voice on the other line. She’s having a rough time lately, so having the closer connection you get through the phone was important.
Her son is six months old. She thinks she’s depressed, and that it all stems from the birth. I knew from her emails that her labour and birth experience had been traumatic, but I hadn’t really understood just how much it had affected her until we were chatting and she said, “I’d give you more details but every time I start to talk about the labour I have an anxiety attack.”
I think (I hope) that her experience was uncommon. I think (I hope) that I have every chance of coming through relatively unscathed. But really, how can you know? And I think she said something rather interesting when she told me that she doesn’t understand why women “suffer in silence”, why they dismiss any lasting damage done to their bodies with “but the baby was healthy, and that’s what matters.”
Don’t get me wrong, she is very grateful that her most beloved baby was healthy. But six months on she is still struggling to come to terms with the destruction that he wreaked on her body. She’s had to consciously work on releasing the resentment she’s felt towards her husband, whose world did not crumble with his son’s arrival, who bears no physical scars from the experience.
As she told me, if archaeologists dig up her remains centuries from now, they’ll be able to tell that she birthed a child because her pelvis was broken. Her whole experience just sounds so… medieval, I guess is the best word for it. Here we are in the twenty-first century and some women are still being permanently damaged by birth?
So she’s not ok with suffering in silence, with claiming that all is well in her world. And I admire her for finding the strength to speak up and demand the help and support that she needs.
I ended the conversation utterly terrified of the labour process, of course, but I’m trying to mediate that with the stories told to me by my friends who have had relatively easy births.
It probably didn’t help that I’d just finished Pushed by Jennifer Block, which is a book on the state of childbirth and modern maternity care in the US. I haven’t looked to see how the book was reviewed, but she certainly seems to have done her research. And while there was a little bit too much of the “birth is all natural” attitude for my tastes, she did paint a very bleak picture. It had me running to my computer to see what my country did differently (thankfully, rather a lot).
So all in all, it hasn’t been a great week for getting me excited about pregnancy. Luckily my chart suggests that my temperature is still doing absolutely nothing, so it’s not something I have to worry about just yet (and I am a very good worrier).
I got bloodwork done today- TSH, free T3 and free T4, and meet with my gp next week to discuss the results. I don’t have any real sense of what she’ll say- I’ve definitely put weight on in the last couple of weeks, but I don’t have the same sensation of constant exhaustion that I had in December. So I don’t know whether my levels have stabilized or not.