Be Gentle with Yourself

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 2.55.19 PMBe gentle with yourself.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves: the perfect birth, the perfect baby, the perfect mother. Know right now that you will not be perfect. You will say and do things you wish you hadn’t. More often, you will simply be too distracted or tired or overwhelmed to say or do what you’ll wish you would have.

Learn to say “I’m sorry.”

But also: learn to be gentle with yourself.

Years ago, I took over for another midwife in the midst of a long birth.

Dana had been in labor for many hours and with little change. By the time I came on, she’d received an epidural for rest and Pitocin for labor augmentation, but her baby still didn’t seem interested in exiting anytime soon.

We talked about where we were at and the increasing possibility of a cesarean birth.

Dana started to cry. She was scared: not of what the surgery might mean for her but of what it might mean for her baby. She’d read that vaginal birth was better for babies.

“I’m already failing as a mother,” Dana said.

Perhaps it was because, at that time, I was so constantly exhausted and overwhelmed by two young children that I answered so quickly, and so bluntly. “Oh gosh,” I told her, “don’t take this first opportunity to feel guilty. You will have so many better opportunities later on. Let this one go.”

Dana looked at me, surprised. Had her midwife really just suggested that she’d have loads of regrets to embrace down the road?

But her own mother, who had been beside her throughout the labor, smiled. “It’s true,” she said. “You’ll have plenty of other chances for guilt. Don’t beat yourself up over this.”

And then we both told her: You’ve done your very best.

And she had, and she would.

Be gentle with yourself.

Model the compassion you have for your child by giving that compassion, also, to yourself.

Reprinted with permission. ©2019 Ilana Stanger-Ross. Illustrations by Iris Gottelieb.