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Regret about baby's birth

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I've been blessed to have very healthy, happy children, and very easy births. I have a six year old and twins, age 15 months, as well as a new baby girl.

This last time around, I had some issues. It started as some general anxiety and I assumed it had something to do with the fact that our last baby was very very much unplanned so I just ignored it. Then I started using my hypnosis for childbirth that I'd used for my previous two births. I noticed that when I would start my CD, I'd instantly have a panic. I would manage to calm myself down, however it was never perfectly calm. This was so different from all my other times using the program. I eventually stopped, and thought I would just rely on my prior knowledge. I honestly had just done this not long ago, so how could I forget already.

Fast forward to my birth. I labored all day, I had my first real contraction when I woke up, and spent the day making preparations for the birth. I noticed a low grade anxiety whenever I was alone, or allowed to think of the birthing time. For the first time I was afraid of the actual birthing process, which is a change because I always loved birth. I remember calling a friend and talking her ear off for probably an hour, because I didn't want to be alone.

We get to the hospital, probably far earlier than I had actually intended, but I didn't want to wait. Get on the monitors I'm fine. Get in the tub, I'm okay and getting less so as the time wears on. I start to go into a full on panic, and with each contraction I was literally freaking OUT. I wound up having a medicalized birth, despite my intentions and for the first time in 6 years of having children. Nobody could figure out *why* I was freaking out, I just was. Full on panic attack.

I also wouldn't push for a good 15 minutes or so even though I felt "pushy", I was just afraid to and I don't know why

Anyway, long story short I don't understand why I experienced such a change in a short year between births. Any help would be appreciated. I won't have any more children, but IF I happen to, I wouldn't like a repeat, and honestly I would like to come to a sense of peace with my last birth because right now I just feel like I failed for my last ever birthing experience.
Mom of Four


Dear Mom of Four,
I want to start by saying that there is no "failure" in a "medicalized" birth. I share your bias that generally the less medical intervention, the safer the baby. But everything worked out fine and everyone is happy and healthy. It is what you do today and every day for the rest of your kids' childhoods that matters now. I suspect you may want to give yourself time to grieve a bit over your disappointment. I also suspect you may need to offer yourself some forgiveness. We all do the best we can in the pressure of every moment.

So let's talk about that moment, that day when your littlest one was born. It sounds to me like you had feelings that tried to surface throughout your pregnancy, that made you so anxious they sent you into a panic. Feelings that we can't explain are a message from somewhere deep inside us. The question is, what was the message that this part of you without access to words was trying to transmit?

In this case, since you had previous healthy, easy births, we can probably rule out fear about the actual birth. And since your daughter was born healthy, we can rule out that mom's sixth sense that sometimes warns us something is wrong with the baby.

So you were terribly anxious, ready to panic, throughout the pregnancy, and it came to a head in a full-fledged panic attack while you were in labor. You were terrified even to push, and anyone who has ever pushed out a baby knows how hard it is to resist the urge to push when your body is ready.

So what could have been going on? I believe your deepest self stands ready with the answer. I suspect, though, that the answer is hard for you to hear. Maybe so hard to hear that you resisted it throughout your entire pregnancy. But you've asked me directly, so I'm going to ask your permission to take a big leap here.

It sounds to me like maybe part of you really was not ready to have a baby right now. You made the decision to go forward with an unplanned pregnancy, despite having twins who are still babies. Part of you, of course, was completely committed to that decision, maybe even very excited about it. But it sounds to me like part of you was dragged into it kicking and screaming. That part of you did not have a voice, and could only make its fear heard with anxiety and panic attacks.

It is not a terrible thing to be conflicted about whether to have a baby. Any woman who knows how much sacrifice motherhood involves has to think long and hard before making the commitment to bring another child into the world. How could you not have been anxious about balancing the needs of a six year old and three babies?

I'm guessing that you felt you had to push your anxiety down and bury it in order to move forward with your pregnancy. You might even have felt that it would be disloyal to your baby to acknowledge it. But some part of you wanted to make itself heard, and wanted even to stop the baby from being born -- thus the panic as labor progressed, and the resistance to pushing.

In the end, of course, your little girl insisted on coming into the world, and the part of you that was ready to welcome her did so, with open arms. She was born healthy, and I am sure that you adore her as you adore your other children.

So what about that ambivalence? All moms have it. However much we adore our kids, there are times when we would give anything for a moment to ourselves, when we just wish they would all go to sleep right now, never mind that it's only 4pm. For you, trying to juggle three babies, it would be a miracle for you not to wonder, sometimes, if you should have had a fourth child right now.

But I suspect there's a reason that your desire to make peace with this last birth came to a head right now. Now is the perfect opportunity to do so. Holding your daughter in your arms has tipped the balance. While you were pregnant, you might not have felt safe allowing your doubts to surface: what if they won out? But now, holding your baby, it becomes safer to acknowledge your fears. Your love for her wins the battle. Yes, you must still have anxiety about how you will juggle so many babies at once. But now you know that you can handle it, indeed, you are handling it, every day, and your heart is getting bigger every day as you love your kids through thick and thin.

Part of emotional maturity is realizing that contradictory things can all be true at once. We can NOT want another baby right now and also welcome that baby into the world. If I heard that you were having a hard time bonding with your daughter, I would suggest that you see a counselor. But that's not what I'm hearing here. So I think that the peace you seek can be found simply by:

1. Accepting the full range of feelings you have about mothering your brood,
2. Thanking that nonverbal part of you for trying to protect you, as best it could figure out how, and apologizing to it for not being able to listen,
3. Lighting a candle and having a little cry to release the disappointment you feel about this birth, while forgiving yourself for not being able, this time, to live up to your own very high expectations, and
4. Accepting and adoring yourself exactly as you are, as all humans are -- not perfect, but doing the best you can as you greet each new moment.

I wish you and your family much happiness, moment by moment, for all your lives together.
Dr. Laura

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