JANA: "I struggled hard to cope with losing my freedom and independence."
A lot of people think that pregnancy is the most beautiful time in a woman’s life. What was it like for you? We had been waiting for a baby for over a year and a half during which I went through different phases. From initial enthusiasm through repeated disappointments, to fear if we would ever have children at all. During this period I had quite sharply shifted from my previous rather achievement-oriented lifestyle more to my inner self. I reconsidered how I lived, who I met with, what made me feel good and what did not. A huge lesson for me was to learn to let go of my life of things and people who did not bring any joy to me. It seems self-evident, but it was not for me. At the time I started to look at myself and my life from a different angle and re-evaluate whether certain things were good for me or not, my desire to claim my own worth through achievement started to lapse. And so the pregnancy stopped being an item on the to-do list and that is when it happened. I believe that this shift in my thinking has helped me to conceive in a natural way. As for the physical changes during the pregnancy, in the first trimester – not considering occasional nausea – I did not even know that I was pregnant. I kept actively doing sport and climbing. The only stress for me was doctor checks as they made the impression that pregnancy is some kind of an odd state or even a disease, that needs to be observed and examined. At the beginning, when there was even no heartbeat visible yet, one doctor said to me that it could easily be a ectopic pregnancy and that I should give them a call if I experience any stomach pain. She made me feel scared for no reason. As the belly was growing, I started to plan the birth, look for a midwife and tried to look for as much birth information as possible. I set myself (in the spirit of my strong tendency to plan things) a very precise idea of how my birth would look like – as natural as possible and without any interference. At that moment, I did not even realise that I had fallen into my achievement-oriented mode and instead of letting my baby take a lead, I was pushing things. My not at all helpless baby had responded very strongly to me by turning head up. At that time I did not understand what she was trying to say. I fully got to understand the whole situation only one year after the birth. Because of the baby’s position and non-progressive delivery, they did not want to perform a natural delivery and they recommended me a planned c-section. Last few days I spent crying while from each directions overwhelmed with the arguments why I could not have a natural birth. I got to the hospital feeling helpless. I did not accept the situation at all. How did you feel the first time you saw your baby? I had a c-section so although they put my daughter on my chest right after the examination, our first meeting was not very special. We were both drugged. I felt sick in my stomach and felt as if I was outside my body. The little girl looked confused. She was beautiful, but I could not see her that way. Actually, however awful it sounds, I didn’t even really like the way she looked at that moment. I also realised that this was no longer about a cute pregnancy belly, but that there was a new human being here who needed me. That made me feel frightened. How were the first weeks and months for you? I spent the first week in the private hospital room along with my husband and our daughter. Although I got to spend time with my daughter from the beginning, I was afraid of her. I was afraid of all the changes that her presence in my life represented. I egoistically thought about things I would miss out on. And if I would handle it. I did not even want to take her to my arms at first. Approximately one hour after the c-section, a midwife came over, took my daughter and asked me to put her on my breast. I felt like ‚no, I don’t want to.‘ However, I could not stand against her (I also have a ‚good girl‘ program in me). However, it all, fortunately, changed very quickly. The right hormones started and I had fallen in love with my little girl during those first few days in the hospital. The lactation started quickly too and I had a lot of milk which made me very pleased. Those days in the hospital were magical for me as we were all together as a family. The magical bubble burst after we got home when everything around me started to get back to normal, but my life was everything but normal. The first few weeks I was trying really hard to cope with losing my freedom and independence. I took it really hard that I could no longer watch a movie whenever I wanted to, have food in a restaurant or take a nap whenever I needed to. I envied my husband whose life had dramatically changed too, but who still had available some moments for himself. He could go to the toilet alone whenever he wanted or eat without any interruptions. I lost these moments practically instantly. I felt like it was all unfair. Even my body was not the same. On top of that, I still had not processed how the last phase of pregnancy and birth went. I kept blaming everyone around me and I was furious with my mother in law who as a doctor did not support me in my idea of having a natural birth. This strong anger turned into a breast infection and a painful wound, so the breastfeeding became torture. I ended up in the hospital where they opened and cleaned the abscess in my breast. All this happened within the first six weeks. Mentally I was not in the best place, but my husband helped me a lot. He worked from home and was basically nonstop available to help in case we needed it. He handled the critical moments, for instance when our daughter was crying while I was totally knackered and in pain. On the one hand, it was a huge help and a relief for me. On the other hand, it made me feel horrible that I was not able to deal with it myself. Looking back I see that at the beginning I had not been the same mother as I am today. I know it is a process. A woman becomes a mother gradually and not from one day to another. I also know that a c-section is not good for hormones excretion. It is also more difficult for mothers to bond with their child. That is why it is much harder to tune in with their baby and fulfill their needs. So the starting position was not ideal. Convalescence after the surgery, little baby, painful breast and a few weeks with a high temperature is not an easy thing to process. I felt very confused in this new role as a mum and I felt desperate at the thought it would be like this forever. That this little human will always be here and that she will need me. I missed my old life. Today your daughter is 13 months old. How do you feel as a mum today? I feel more natural and happier in a role as a mum than in any other role in my life. Of course, there are moments when it gets to me and I need to switch off. After all, it is not a life purpose to be happy 24 hours a day. What do you think caused such a change in your emotions? What helped me the most was that I did not rely on the time’s proven habits of raising children. I was trying to find my own way that would be in line with my intuition. While my daughter slept on my breast for hours, I had read a lot of books focused on the newborn needs. This way I also had the opportunity to process any harms from my own childhood and the resultant patterns. It was one of the biggest challenges for me, to face the pain from my childhood. What helped me a lot was attending the somatic experiencing therapy, which is extremely effective for this kind of problems. The post-birth trauma my daughter and myself handled thanks to the craniosacral therapy. All of these changes happened gradually. Probably the biggest change came around my daughter’s first birthday. As one period had finished, I re-experienced my birth in my memory and accepted it. What helped you to get over the hardest time? What helped me a lot was nurturing and supporting relationships with women in my environment who also become mothers during this period. I think that the most fundamental problem of women on maternity leave is the fatal absence of the community – we can even call it sisterhood – where women can share their joys and difficulties, organise trips or simply chill. Just like the old days when we had been cave women and kept a fire burning while our kids were running around. Today’s separateness is cruel and unnatural. What took you by surprise the most about motherhood? How much it changed me. In the overall childcare experience, things that have previously characterised me such as sport, travel, work had begun to fade away. Suddenly, I felt like I was a human had started to disappear and that there would be nothing left of me. However, I finally found out that I was not the things I did. I approached myself through “inaction”, I found out what was really meaningful and what was only a mask. Through all this, a brand new view of life had built up for me. For the better, I have to add. What do you wish you would have known before you became a mum? Nothing. I think my experience was non-transferable and that I had to experience it all in order to be where I am now. What do you find the most beautiful about motherhood? That I got rid of all the masks and got closer to my core. All future mums have a lot of questions. What do you think they should especially prepare for? I think it is essential not to rely on the conventions and to look up for the best information about childcare so that a woman can decide what is best for her. It is also helpful to accept the fact that it is practically impossible to get ready for motherhood. If you could turn back time, would you have changed your decision to have a baby? I would not. It gave me much more than it took away. My child brought me through the painful experiences back to my own self and that is the most amazing reward.