Article by Erika Mitchell
When I was younger I had no desire to be a mother. I aspired to be a cool aunt who swept into my nieces and nephews lives with gifts, an air of mystery and fabulous stories of adventure. When I turned 21 I realized I would never have nieces and nephews. At 26 I fell in love. Between the ages of 25 and 30 I went from baby fearing to baby craving and at 31 I had my first child.
I had a wonderful and empowering birth experience with my son. I had a healthy and uneventful pregnancy and midwives whom I trusted and who supported my choices. The actual birth was incomparable to anything I’d done in my life. Up until that point I had harbored doubts about my abilities in every task I’d ever started and consequently I hadn’t finished a lot of things. I was always worried I wasn’t doing things quite right. With each small or spectacular failure I ‘proved’ I just couldn’t do anything. I lived in the mentality of a victim.
I was very aware of this aspect of myself and it haunted me throughout my pregnancy but my fear of surgery trumped my fear of ‘failure’. I did a lot of research and planning about my birth choices. I chose a prenatal class that specifically addressed fears and concerns around caesarean births. By the time I was in labour I had come to terms with the idea that I couldn’t rigidly control my birth experience but I could state my desires, stay informed and have confidence in my care providers so that whatever mode my child was delivered I would know the best was done for both of us. In facing my fear I was able to let my body relax and work the way it needed to.
Giving birth felt like physical, mental and emotional tectonic plates shifted inside me. I was absolutely not the same person I had been before. And the ripples from the experience affected all aspects of my life from that point forward. For example, the career I had spent a decade working in was no longer even an option I was willing to consider. However, I was not going to be able to do the stay at home Mom job for long either; for the first time I felt passion and wonder and a desire to be involved with something bigger than myself. The incredible care I had received, the awe I had at my real ability to DO something from start to finish had lit a fire inside me. I knew I wanted to help other women feel this self empowered and I knew that one of the most powerful times in a woman’s life is during pregnancy and birth. I knew I wanted to be a midwife.
Within a few days of my son’s birth I was feeling the baby blues. Then the baby blues became deeper and darker and I slipped into the spiral of depression that was terrifying and felt shameful. I mocked myself for thinking I could ever become a midwife and I buried my dream. But that feeling of power and awe at my own ability couldn’t be erased and it ended up being one of the anchors that helped me emerge from my postpartum depression. Never before did I have such concrete evidence of my capacity to succeed. My son was in my arms every day; I had grown him and I had birthed him and now I was caring for him in spite of the doubts and anxiety. Even when I truly believed I was a horrible parent and a useless human being I couldn’t ignore the truth of his presence in the world and what that meant.
The birth of my second son, while not so ideal was also powerful and reaffirmed how capable I was when it mattered. It also rekindled my dream and this time I held onto it and have been doggedly pursuing it – overcoming the obstacles as they appear and adding to my list of things I can do and so increasing my confidence.
The birth of my first child marks my transition from woman to mother but it also marks my transition from going through the motions of life to recognizing and pursuing my passion. And by pursuing my passion I am a better mother – I am modeling being true to myself for my children, I am showing them the power of persistence and I am showing them that they can dream and persevere and that is, for me, success.