Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Darkside of Childbirth by Ischa

You will remember that Ischa shared with us precious son Matisse and how she found peace. In this blog, Ischa voices more of her emotions during her journey.

'Losing my boy has given me the much-needed permission to voice all the emotions I have been carrying around since becoming a mother.'

I have only been a mother for three years, and yet in this short time I have suffered one breakdown, exhaustion fuelled depression and most recently desolation after the heartbreaking loss of my second baby pre-term. For me, childbirth has been in many ways traumatic, and I am still deep in the process of coming to terms with it.

A few months ago, attending my first post-natal depression group it struck me how angry I am. There I was hiding out in therapy with other brave honest parents, sharing similar stories of confusion, guilt, anger and disappointment. Yet it was pretty clear to me that most of us were not classic post-natal depression stories, that of the mother who can’t feel love or care for her child.
We are something new. Parents whose pregnancy, delivery and first years’ experiences don’t match the sanitised version of childbirth that now dominates western middle class culture. We are parents living under a silent code that the so called dark stuff, the struggles are not to be shared in the mainstream but rather kept hidden out of harms way in the privacy of therapy.  Like we have something broken in us that needs to be sorted out before we can come back into society.

Yet it wasn’t so long ago that childbirth was well understood to be dangerous territory - brutal, bloody and unpredictable. It was a given that woman and babies often died during or shortly after birth and that there was very little control over the outcome.  In those days people understood that childbirth was a force of nature or god, more powerful than them, and most relied on faith and community to get them through. There were no illusions then as to what it took to have a baby, and the work involved in early care.

Modern medicine has radically changed all that. We now live in a time where mortality rates are greatly reduced, giving birth is safer, defects can be identified in the womb, and people whom previously had no chance can deliver healthy babies. Yet in all this progress we have unwittingly created a new type of story, the ultimate childbirth fairytale. In this version, pretty much everyone gets pregnant, pregnancy is a joyful experience, mothers have more control over their delivery than often is the case and babies don’t die. Heroes are those women who deliver naturally, abstain from painkillers, breastfeed and bask in the glow of their new arrival.

Its true medical advancements, research and material wealth have brought amazing changes. There remains however many unknowns that lead to difficult and sometimes tragic situations. To experience this in a society that is in denial about its impact isolates everyday people who are really going through everyday experiences. My own loss landed me flat bang in the middle of this hidden world of the unlucky. A land filled with loving, emotionally and mentally strong people struggling to come to terms with broken dreams. There are those who can’t get pregnant or are facing IVF, parents who suffered multiple miscarriages, lost babies at all stages, faced death during birth and then the very many of us who are just not coping like we imagined we would be or how our friends seem to be. This hidden land is so populated with versions of the same core story that it is obvious to me we are the mainstream, not a marginal group whose only place is in therapy.

Losing my boy has given me the much-needed permission to voice all the emotions I have been carrying around since becoming a mother. The feelings of guilt, of inadequacy, helplessness and disappointment, of being jealous of others who seemed to be coping so much better than me. Of comparing myself and in doing so judging my perceived imperfections. I was finally allowed under the guise of grief to be honest about how painful and scary it is to give birth, how traumatic it is to feel alone in the messiness of it all, to want so much for your child and to try so hard to deliver it, to become a parent and not fuck it all up.

So I am angry and I am sad for us all. Who are we serving by marginalising the darker side of childbirth in favour of the soap commercial? What good is there in pounding each other with judgement guised as knowledge and illusions of perfection and control? There is the yin and yang in everything. For every success story there is one of sadness and loss. In every fairytale there is struggle and it is time for the truth to come out. Childbirth and parenting is just as messy, painful and demanding as it is joyful, fluffy and inspiring. By not telling our whole story, we are forcing each other to live an illusion, to hide our fears behind bright smiles, gloss and can do attitudes. To find our only solace in small secret therapy groups, disguising natural healthy emotions as post-natal depression.

If you require support after reading this blog please contact
Sands on 13 000 72637

Ischa Roberts

I have many roles as a mother, wife and coach but my commitment is always to live my life in an authentic way. I am passionate about improving the human experience and helping people clarify their priorities and make conscious choices. I support relationships to create deeper experiences of intimacy and work to transform family life. Loss has been a powerful teacher of self-discovery, forgiveness, compassion and trust and I thank Matisse everyday for gifting me with this wisdom.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the share. I found your story so akin to mine in some respects. I am lucky now to have three grown children with kids of their own. After I had my last child having miscarried in my third pregnancy, I had a breakdown and had to leave the youngest in a care home run by the Grey Sisters at that time while I went to a different facility - another loss of sorts. After my son was born I too suffered from Post Natal depression but in those days there was nothing for having "the blues".

    Thank God for SANDS now.