Often when pregnant with our first, we wonder how we will change as a woman after the arrival of our own precious squawking bundle of cuteness. We know our body will be changed – that’s already happening, we’re already sensing a loss of control on that perspective. But what of our personality and our emotions and the biggest aspect of them all: our LIFE!?!
Every mother tells us it’s impossible to fully grasp ahead of time what these changes are like, yada yada. Ok we get that (and to be frank am actually a bit tired of being repeatedly told just how we can’t ‘get’ it yet). But we still wonder, of course, as every mother-to-be has wondered for thousands upon thousands of years long before our own existence – but it’s our first time to wonder, so wonder we do.
Having been through three births myself, and having personally helped hundreds of other women do the same, I can tell you there actually is a repeated pattern of change, a theme as such that echoes itself, always with slightly individualised versions. But yes there does occur a common thread of evolution to us as women, personally and emotionally. And I call them the Five S’s:
Supervising → Surrendering → Silence → Servitude → Success
For many women the first time around, below is roughly their generic journey, or a not too dissimilar version of it…
SUPERVISING: The Pregnancy
From almost immediately learning about their pregnancy, they begin to ‘manage’ it, like another project on their busy schedule. They have managed their work responsibilities, and managed their fitness regime, and managed their social life, and managed their household budget, and their pregnancy gets slotted into their life as just another thing they are ‘managing’ and ‘supervising’ the progress of … and certainly some women are definitely more ‘anal’ at this than others (!) They look up loads of information on the Internet (typically too much) because they want to be ‘informed’. They plan to try to ‘interview’ potential Midwives/Obstetricians until they have a rude shock that sometimes there can be a shortage and the most popular ones have no shortage of caseload (and actually, sometimes, it can end up being more a situation of the midwife/obstetrician interviewing the Woman to avoid the ones who sound rather “demandingly high-maintenance” because typically they’re the ones who can later-on make nasty complaints.
Initially she considers it utterly reasonable to work until a fortnight before her 40-week ‘Estimated Due Date’ and then has another rude shock to learn that a fully ‘term’ babe is actually due to be born from 37-weeks onwards – so that means working until two weeks before her EDD is actually working one week after she is Due. And her midwife/obstetrician is saying that working beyond 30-32 weeks increases her chances of complications – and that’s going to be tricky at work, with her replacement, and her maternity leave. Oh the whole thing is not how she first planned. Then she’s told she has developed gestational diabetes, or may be getting pre-eclampsic toxaemia because her Blood Pressure is rising, and then there’s the questionmark on the baby’s growth, plus there’s her brother’s wedding, and her mother-in-law has been unwell, and there’s a big project on at work, and there’s some blimmin’ ugly stretchmarks starting to appear on her belly even though she fastidiously has been massaging on an expensive cream to stop them, and OMG does she so craves for some salmon sushi, and her friggin’ left hip is becoming so unbearably uncomfortable, and the indigestion when she is trying to sleep is now beyond a joke … and she’s just so tired, so bone-achingly muscle-atrophyingly tired at the end of each day. Oh yes, and the baby is kicking fine.
Life is still, at this stage, actually all about her.
She was adamant she is not going to ask for an epidural. She knows it substantially increases the chances of forcep deliveries, and ventouse deliveries, and C-Sections. She doesn’t want that – not for her! (Oh yes, and not for her baby too, yes yes of course.) And then it begins: The three nights of latent labour, with contractions tapering off each time the sun comes up. The first night is fine. The second night interminably long. And the third night, can only be described as feeling like being in your own personal depth of miserable hell never ventured into before. And, the midwife insists, she hasn’t even established into Active Labour yet, and that those painful contractions are still only “mild”. “I’m only ONE centre-metre dilatated??!!” she grunts.
Then, it changes: Then it spontaneously starts: Real labour. ‘Active’ Labour: “Oh my god” she bellows “I can’t breathe they’re so strong!” and finally she’s 4cm dilatated. “You have to breathe, don’t hold your breath” says the gently reassuring Midwife “remember your hypnobirthing meditation – this is it, this is the day you have been waiting for … You will become a Mother today, and it will be the hardest thing you ever do, harder than you could ever have imagined, but I’ll get you through, you will be fine, this is all normal, now breathe, this is You doing Labour not labour doing you, so you need to take charge of your own mind now and surrender yourself to the pain, letting it wash over you not take over you, allowing your inner Goddess to emerge”.
Later, once fully dilatated, the woman must change from her Goddess letting-go mind, to her fearless Warrior as she pushes her baby around the curve of the birth-canal into this world. And then it happens!…
She looks down at her baby in stunned awe, in complete wonder at this sacred Being that she grew, that she laboured to birth. And the woman cries tears. She cries sobbing tears from a depth of her own Being she didn’t even know existed. And she is silent, speechless, as she touches her baby. There are no words. There are just no words. And in that one millisecond she realizes it all meant nothing, absolutely totally nothing – the stretch marks, the pelvic aches, the indigestion, the missed meetings at work, the missed exercise regimes, the unpainted nursery, the failed birth-plan, the money, the everything. It all means nothing, it’s all instantly been dwarfed into trivial insignificance. For in her arms is the human being she grew, her own child, her own everything. And there are no words.
SERVITUDE: The Postpartum
Within just 48 hours a harsh reality hits home like a whacking thump to her Soul. She is leaking tears, sweat, milk, urine and blood, and the babe just won’t settle. She’d had three nights of broken sleep before the birth, no sleep the night of the birth, and it’s now her second night with a newborn, who just wants to feed and feed and feed. The babe is unrelenting in its needs and merciless to her nipples, and she begins to feel the tears roll down her cheeks of sore sutures, defeated exhaustion and overwhelmed emotions. Then a few hours later, or a few days later, she does what needs to be done: She submits. She stops trying to be in control of something that is not controllable, she lets go of the reigns, and starts living her life from one hour to the next, from one feed to the next, from one sleep to the next. Over this month the strong Life lessons continue, each week getting a bit easier, as she stops fighting against the reality that she needs to become obedient and compliant, and for her to welcomingly accept the mundane routine of menial domesticity. She halts the hostess entertaining role, realising its impacting her breastfeeding. She rain-checks the coffee group, realising they can meet her baby in a month’s time. She cancels the outing to the photographer’s studio realising she has plenty of beautiful newborn photos. She stops looking at the Antenatal Class Facebook page, realising there must be a lot of BS going on as to how well everyone is coping. She decides for the first time, in her life perhaps, to stay in her PJs all day, and discovers she loves it. By the time her babe is a month old, she has learned acceptance for the first true time in her life.
Six weeks after her baby was born, she is feeling realized accomplished success. The breastfeeding is now fully successfully established, and she’s onto the next mountain: Infant Sleep. But that’s all okay, as she has all the time in the world, there is no hurry any more, the race is over, she crossed the finishing line six weeks ago at the birth, but only recently realised she doesn’t need to run any more. She feels liberated and emancipated. A new person. A new woman. A mother. Her opinions have mellowed. Her judgement has softened. She is gentler. She is kinder. She is more empathetic and more sympathetic. And her intuitive instincts are growing stronger every day. She now feels more womanly that she has ever felt before, even with the saggy tummy and saggy boobs and saggy bags under her eyes. But more than anything, she feels fully complete. Until now, no one on the planet has ever needed her like her babe needs her. And now she gets it. She really gets it. Life is not all about her anymore, and that is so liberating, for she is no longer the centre of her own universe, and it feels good, delectably nourishing. She’s arrived home. She’s found herself. She’s found her Warrior Queen.