I saw you today, at the shops, my sister. I saw you pushing a pram, perusing scarves, unable to respond to the bleating, hiccupping cries and jagged breaths of your newborn. I heard the babe cry out over and over, “Help me. Hold me close. Comfort me. Show me I’m not alone.” and yet in your aloneness, you were kept from responding. Was I seeing the trauma of your babe’s birth in action? The fragmented care of a brutal maternity system which prizes compliance above wellness? The ugly effects of industrialised parenting and the mould into which we are all shoved in this 21st century Sparta? I saw your babe’s face as she shut down and stared blankly at you from the pram and I felt my heart break for you both.
I hid weeping behind the clothing racks, pained for you and for your babe that this is the normal of parenting now; the bereft mother who struggles to relate to her baby. I feel the more keenly for you because I too have been that mother, savagely denied my birthright of connection with my first child and because the babe who would be in my sling right now is missing from my arms, never to return. I wish I could nurture you a little, mama, so you could connect with your earthside babe as I cannot mine.
If you are like most women, your pregnancy has been punctuated by testing, by scaremongering, by the slow whittling away of your instincts and connection to Self and Other within. Your babe has experienced the onslaught of ultrasound, almost definitely twice but most likely more. A sugary drink was probably fed to you after a day’s starvation and your belly babe struggled to regain equilibrium in an environment now hostile, with a beating heart and who knows what else? By the time gestation was nearly finished, as your babe’s body began to prepare for life earthside, harsh drugs were probably used to evict her from that perfect dwelling place, and make a once safe place dangerous. Did strangers ram a painful screw into your scalp, little one? I am sorry. Did someone puncture the cushion on which your head rested, while the drugs denied you oxygen with each mechanised wave of pain that wracked your mama? Was your beautiful birth cocktail of love hormones ripped from you and your brain changed? I am sorry. This is how birth is done to babies now in my world and in your prehistoric innocence you journey earthside unwittingly, to wrestle with a system which does not recognise your intrinsic humanity, or capacity to dance from your mother’s body.
Mama, did you feel fear as you submitted to induction? Did you try curries, walking, sex despite your unwieldy body, or even castor oil, in an effort to have some control over inducing yourself before giving in to the people you trusted to care for you? Did you feel relief when the drugs entered your body and took the agony of chemically induced labour away even though you didn’t realise just how much it was going to do damage to your babe and you? I am sorry. We should be doing better for you. Was your babe cut from your body, wrapped up, wiped, injected and removed from your sight, for who knows how long? I am sorry. I wish you could give birth in your own way, without drugs to dull the keenest experience of your life. Held in love, nurtured, in bliss, walking that hard path to a new you, a woman who knows what she can manage and feels her own strength in the world.
But all is not lost because your human brain can find ways through even this most terrible pain and injury. What can you do? Buy a soft, cotton sling, hold your babe near your heart and your breast as you move through the world. Take to your shared bed, sleep together, dream together and in that dreaming, weave again a cocoon for you both, from the untouched remnants of your primal self who still remembers how to parent these helpless, pink, hairless babes. Offer your breast without timetables, or rationing, revel in the hormone rush of oxytocin and show her the world is predictable and safe. Bathe together and marvel as your tiny one remembers the giant sea of her gestation, close your eyes and remember back to the bliss of feeling those tiny limbs as they swam in your body. Share the joy of unfettered mammalian parenting with the world so other women may awaken their memories of parenting without recourse to punishment or the casual brutality demanded of us today.
I wish that through this pain you may birth yourself and find the woman in you who seeks only that which nurtures, and casts aside in future, that which does you harm. I wish that your next birth will be eye opening, life changing and that the first hands to touch your babe will be yours.Tweet