In addition to my post, which is below, check out the posts from our regular contributors: Angela at Breastfeeding 1-2-3, who contributes 10 strategies for "Helping Your Child Welcome a New Baby into the Family;" Sinead at Breastfeeding Mums, who writes "Love is All Around Me;" Andi at Mama Knows Breast, who reviews the book, "Babyproofing Your Marriage;" and Jen at The Lactivist who writes about "The Things We Do for Love."
This month our guest bloggers are Karen at Cairo Mama, who writes about "Great Expectations and First Impressions: The Beginning of Love," Melissa at Booby Juice, who contributes "In Love with My Babies," and Colleen at My Baby and More, who writes about "Baby Lust...er...Love." Enjoy!
Baby Love: How my body loved my baby when my mind could not.
Quick note: While the theme of this Carnival is a cheery one, this post tells a more complicated story about difficulties I had after my son's birth.
When I think back on my first weeks with my son (pictured above), I have two images. One is of me thoroughly enthralled with my little boy, holding him close, nursing him and marveling at his every feature.
Another is of me tormented by the experience of his birth. I recall feeling like a shadow of myself, unable to think about anything but the birth.
I had a hard but not terribly unusual labor. It was long, 34 hours, and I had no pain medication for the first 32. The labor ended in a cesarean section after my son's heart rate faltered. The only explanation I have for the outcome is that he was posterior in position.
What was unusual, I think, was that I was so happy and felt so great for the first 26 hours of the labor. It hurt a lot, of course, but I felt really relaxed and able to ride the waves of the contractions. My birth doula really helped keep me in that state. I remember the midwives asking, "have you done meditation before?" I had, and I felt like I could really use my mind and body to move through the labor with relative ease.
But then at some point my body and mind broke apart.
After the birth there were two experiences. My body responded immediately and strongly to my son with milk and a strong urge to be close. My mind relived the labor and birth constantly. When I pictured the birth later, I felt as if I were floating just below the ceiling of the operating room, looking down at myself and my son being born.
I thought about the birth night and day for several weeks. I wrote about it, talked with my husband and my therapist about it. My midwife even took me out to lunch to discuss it. Nothing made the thoughts go away. It was as if my brain was a record player and the needle was stuck in one groove on the record.
All the while, my body was loving my baby. Fortunately, breastfeeding came naturally to us, and in spite of an infection which kept us in the hospital for the first week, we were quickly locked in a nursing embrace that wouldn't quit. Something deeper in me took over and made sure that my baby was loved, nourished, and protected.
But those feelings and thoughts about the birth wouldn't go away. Finally, my therapist suggested that I see another therapist in her practice who specialized in a therapy called EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It's a therapy first used with Vietnam veterans who experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In brief, the therapy consisted of me recounting the labor and birth, with breaks during which I'd listen to an alternating tapping noise in each ear through earphones. It was hard to relive the experience again, but the therapy was remarkably effective. I returned for a second session and, even with effort, I couldn't summon the feelings of pain which had been my constant companion only a week before. I felt sad about what had happened, but I was no longer living it.
In a way, breastfeeding saved me. While my thoughts were mired in the past, my body said calmly, "feed your baby, hold your baby, love your baby." When I had feelings of failure about the birth, my body said, "ah, but look - you can do this."
The early weeks of motherhood are a distant memory now, but these experiences have had a lasting impact on me. I ditched a successful career to become a lactation consultant. I have a particular empathy for nursing moms which I hope I'll never lose. And I believe in the power of our bodies to to love our babies, even when our minds cannot.