Birth is not Linear
Full Spectrum Doula
Trigger warning: termination. This post contains a very real, very personal story about a voluntary termination. Yanna believes Real Life Birth Workers is a safe place to share her story for the first time. This is a place for connection & support. Please be respectful & empathetic to her journey.
I was born in Midwestern America, entering the world as the seventh of nine children to a single mother, whose superpowers I didn’t appropriately worship until I became a mother myself. I attended my first births as a pre-teen – long before my interest or grasp on the birthing world (or any world) was established – when I had the privilege of witnessing my eldest sister become a mother for the 3rd and 4th time. Little did I know, this would be my only reference and comfort a decade later when I would enter the birth realm myself short of support.
As a young teenager, I travelled throughout the States between living with several relatives, which eventually led to me buying and renovating a 40-foot-long big yellow school bus. My bus became my home for the remainder of my teen years, while I drove haphazardly into every state and National Park I could fuel myself through along with my older brother. When my bus years came to an end, I packed my backpack and moved to Hawaii where I lived and worked for nearly two years. Hawaii was not only beaches, and rainbows, and pineapples for me… it was also where I met the man I followed across the world to Australia and married only 5 months later.
I unexpectedly became pregnant shortly after meeting and marrying my partner. Without guidance or self-assurance toward the vigorous and metamorphic journey that was ahead of me, I found myself birthing in an environment that was unequipped in nurturing the divinity of what I was experiencing—and thousands of miles from “home”. The dramatic contrast of the outer environment care and what was going on internally left me stressed and terrified as I resisted all of the guidance my body was trying to give me. Recognizing the monumental gap between clinical and emotional support, as a first-time birthing mother, really planted the seed for being a birth worker in me. I have two daughters/two births/and three pregnancies that showed me everything that I wanted, but was missing, from my transition into motherhood. I experienced an undeniable calling to become a doula to fill the cracks within the system that I believe failed to care for me. My hope is that more support means less women feel they have to endure the same.
My third pregnancy ended by a voluntary abortion. I was five months postpartum with my second baby and with postpartum depression. It led to the end of my marriage, and to the confusing feeling of loss that I battle daily, although I had made the decision to terminate.
I fast tracked my lifestyle from the American bohemian wonderland of a converted school bus, pleasing no conventions, free to be just me— to being married, an immigrant to Australia, a big fat debt holder of a home loan, and a mother-to-be (very unexpectedly) in under a year. The dream to everyone else, was the catalyst to the quiet war within me. I didn’t know this side of life well, and the drastic compromises caused me turmoil. It was the end of life as I knew it, but I was finding my welcome for the new beginnings that come with all endings. I was going to be a mother.
I went on to have my daughter, the only certainty I felt about anything in the new life I was posing in, and blissfully accepted the distraction she provided from everything less important. I went on to have my second daughter not long after. She had colic and cried every minute from the moment she was born. Every day was a day survived. I realized that five months postpartum, I was in the thick of postpartum depression. At that same time, the stick read positive for my third pregnancy.
When that stick read positive, the discussion with my husband was challenging. It was that I needed to get an abortion, or my mental state would further spiral below the capacity to care for the children we already had, let alone another. I wanted her…I felt about her the way I felt about all of my babies—protective and responsible from the moment I knew she was there. So I sold the idea of life in nine months with every bit of belief that I would be okay then, that life would be different then, that our girls would be happier, and that we would too. I had no bites. I invested in this idea wholeheartedly with all the currency of my spirit. I went to sleep in the quietness of that night and woke to the quietness of the next morning… into the quiet car ride to be dropped at the clinic.
At the clinic, I traced my phone screen down and up, and up and down, scrolling through the contacts panel hoping to find someone to talk to. But I realized I had no one to call. I proceeded through the process with perpetually flowing tears and echoes of her nine weeks spent safely inside me until I made my way to the table. I was shaking and comforted by many masked medical staff, assuring me it was perfectly normal to be feeling that way, given sedative to calm me and continue on. It was then that I blurted out, like a sneeze when you look into the sun, what I couldn’t contain anymore— “I don’t want to do this”. I woke up in a panic knowing my words had meant nothing and that she was gone.
I began mourning a loss as though I hadn’t been the one that caused it. I have never stopped being angry with myself for failing to care for my baby, for choosing someone over her and over myself. I mourned the mother I thought I was and the baby I lost when I lost myself. That was the end of life as I knew it once again, and my life looks a whole lot different now.
I have spent two years justifying and countermanding my feelings of loss around the belief it was my fault. And it wasn’t.
Just as birth is not linear, loss is not linear.