Monday, May 20, 2013

Guest Post by Elizabeth McKeown - Author of "In Search of the Perfect Birth"

So many women end up reeling from their births, with something empty inside or a “why me” attitude. It’s not always easy to explain or define. Some cover it up and go along with life anyway, convinced that the problem is themselves. They chastise themselves and don’t question the way things are. Afraid to be ungrateful, some are ashamed to confide their feelings and they keep it inside. And then for those, like me, for whom that is not good enough… we go searching for more.
What was I “in search of”? Answers. Answers why my body didn't work like I thought it would. Why wasn't I a pain warrior in the hospital? Why didn't my baby latch well or take to breastfeeding? Why did I feel so void of raw emotion the instant I became a mother? Why wasn't that the happiest moment in my life? Logically I knew it should be. In my heart, I was like a conductor with no orchestra. Cue the teardrops, I urged. All I felt was hungry (not eating for almost 24 hours) and tired. Some natural birth goddess I turned out to be.
Years later I had still not given up on myself. I believed in myself so much that I decided that if only I weren't strapped down to that hospital bed I could have handled everything well. I was older and wiser, and maybe even tougher than that 21 year old girl I used to be. Homebirth midwives were going to help me have the birth I needed. Only it didn't work out that way. I was overdue. Pressure was on. I experienced a non-consensual membrane sweep. The following day I would give birth. Intense, increased pain in their presence, meconium, and an ambulance ride to the hospital created for me what was my most horrifying life experience yet. My baby and I were alive, but I was shaken. I knew I was not made for this. 
My disappointment and disillusionment surfaced. Bitterness in “natural birth” took the place where confidence in myself once was. I knew I could never give birth again. I wanted no one to give birth again, ever. When I thought of birth, I thought of tsunamis wiping out populations, and tigers tearing animals apart in the jungle. Nature was harsh and cruel and did not care about any of us. I felt like some lonely star wandering the cold, desolate universe. I was on God’s torture table subject only to his whims, suffering comedy and tragedy at random and completely out of my control. 
I was not content to let it end there. Not like that.
My epiphany came and hit me during my third pregnancy. Something was always getting in my way in the other births. What would happen if nothing was standing in my way? There were things I had no say in, people who didn't honor my requests or needs, with the feeling of being vulnerable magnifying every pain. Yes, I do like to be in control of everything. Yes, I do like the idea of going with the flow. There is some balance, or harmony to be stricken, between the randomness of nature and the power in my own hand. I was going to find that balance. My epiphany was that I needed to birth unassisted.
I began researching my needs and found, shockingly, that everything I felt was so specific to me was supported in science. Scientific observation of mammals, the primal birth space, the nature of birth physiology… these were all in tune with what I suspected were my own “preferences“. I flung myself deeper and deeper into research and gave birth undisturbed and unassisted in 2011. Shortly thereafter my book In Search of the Perfect Birth was published. It describes all my birth experiences in detail, the “errors” in each, and the triumph of learning how to trust yourself again after life’s hard lessons. 
I am so glad I never gave up on myself, never subscribed permanently to my own bitterness, and never stopped asking questions. The obsessive pursuit of truth will lead you to scientific and spiritual revelations about yourself of proportions you could never imagine. It is “perfect”. I tell my story so others can find their way out of the suffering, too. 
The Facebook page In Search of the Perfect Birth is dedicated to discussing these topics. The book of the same name is available (among other places) at Amazon and for Kindle.

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