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The Whuff is twelve weeks old now. Twelve weeks! The first twelve weeks are known by some as the “fourth trimester” and for good reason – the newborn phase is very much like having an outside fetus who doesn’t so much interact with the world as squawk at it. Fourth trimester is ending and the Whuff is such a real baby now, it’s unreal. He’s starting to reach for things on purpose rather than sort of randomly punching that giraffe in the face. He talks. Oh my, how he talks. If I look at him – or even if I don’t – while I’m holding him, he smiles and coos and babbles and yes, that was my heart that just melted and puddled all over the floor. I’ll clean it up later, I promise.

And now, twelve weeks later, I’m starting to process my birth experience. After Paulo was born, our doula told me if I wanted to get in touch with her in a few months if I needed to process, to feel free to call. I thought this was very sweet of her, but couldn’t fathom why I would need to talk months after the fact.

Now I understand. It took me twelve weeks to have enough distance from the birth to really truly come to terms with the fact that, healthy baby aside, it sucked.

I know this isn’t what I’m “supposed” to say or how I’m “supposed” to feel. The narrative of putting your birth story online is that “everything that happened was worth it!” And yes, having Paulo born healthy was the end goal and we achieved that. I even managed not to have a c-section after 47 hours of labor and 5 hours of pushing! (Seriously, if you haven’t read our birth story – linked up at the top there – it’s EPIC.) So, in that sense, it was “worth it,” absolutely.

But that truly doesn’t take away from the fact that it was awful.

Forty seven hours of contractions every three minutes. Words don’t do justice for how exhausting that was. There’s a picture of me right after he was born and I can’t even bear to look at it. I can’t confront that girl who had every last ounce of her drained. Even Paulo was exhausted – the photos of him on the warmer don’t show your pink, screaming newborn. They show this little wee baby who is pale and so wiped out he can’t even really stay awake. It was so hard for both of us, the journey of bringing him into the world.

At the same time, I have conflicting feelings about the process. I feel guilty for having the epidural, even though there was no question that I needed it and would have surely had a c-section without one. A hundred years ago, rather than a vacuum extractor, I would have ended up with one of those horrible forceps births where any amount of damage might have been inflicted upon me or the Whuff. I received excellent care in the hospital and had an amazing support system, there’s no doubt about that.

But I feel really conflicted about needing that care in the first place. No one wants to have the experience of being told that an epidural is your only option. I would have rather have had it be a choice. I’m so, so grateful that I didn’t get to a point where a c-section was my only option, but that doesn’t detract from my wishing that things had gone more smoothly.

I guess all this rambling is to say that while everything went right – I did everything I could, I received the care that I needed, and my support system was everything I could have asked for, and we ended with a vaginal birth and a healthy baby – that I wish it had gone better. I wish for both of us that we’d had an easier time of it and truly hope that the next time, I can do a few things differently. Ideally, I didn’t want an epidural as I wanted to be able to feel what I was doing when I was pushing. And truly, the pushing was the hardest part of the whole thing and while I am so grateful for the pain relief and being able to let Paulo passively descend, it would have been “easier” in a lot of ways to be able to feel things like where I was supposed to be pushing rather than figuring it out by trial and error and trying my best to replicate what I was told was “it.” (It’s really, really hard when someone tells you “THAT’S IT!” to do it again when you can’t feel what “IT” is!)

I just wanted to put this out there. I know a lot of people have read my post about our experiences breastfeeding and how they wish more women would hear the message that supplementing is ok. So, I wanted to open up the door to discussion that sometimes, you’re not ok with your birth story. And, y’know, that’s ok too.

(Total digression: I’ve always gotten a little misty at Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” and I made the STUPID MISTAKE of listening to it yesterday – for the first time after having given birth. Oh. My. Gourd. Crying like a baby with a skinned knee. “I know you have a lot of strength left” is nearly verbatim what my doula was telling me at the end when I was literally crying that I couldn’t do it – and truly, I didn’t think that I could. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to hear that song again without losing it. Which is why I’m not even linking to it, because then I’d listen to it, and then the tears and… yeah, the whole downward spiral.)