I’m at war with myself and I have just worked out why

10 December 2009

December 2009

For a long time, I have been suffering a general malaise. For the first two years of Benedict’s attendance at childcare, we suffered through weeks of sickness from Easter till August. We were all sick for months at a time. And we recovered eventually and 2013 has been better. Except I didn’t really recover. This feeling is not just a simple virus or head ache or pain in the leg. It is a deep seated unspecific feeling. I am not at all at peace within my own skin.

This feeling, right now is part of a life long feeling of dissatisfaction with my physical body. It’s a fine body in many ways. It contains me. It mostly works. It also has some deep limitations. Rubenesque and short waisted. Fair and freckly. Not especially tall. For a long time I had, at best an ambivalent relationship to it. At worst, I really hated it. I am not now at that worst. I have been doing more Pilates, yoga and the odd bit of other stuff. My opinion of myself has been much improved with effort on my part and the reformer which lives up to its name. Yet the malaise persists and is worse right now because I have been sick in bed for two days.

In 2001 I started yoga. Seven years later, I was doing three two hour classes a week, I did intensives that started at 6am, I went on a retreat, I was reasonably fit and had a balanced weight. I also had impressive legs from all the standing poses. I could handstand, headstand and even (on a good day) do hanamanasana. Hanaman was the monkey god who lept an impossibility large gap across a gorge. Yoga teachers love it, because it strengthens legs like nothing else. When I moved to Canberra in November 2007 I tried to find another yoga school. But I was so bereft after the closure of the Sydney Yoga Space a few months earlier, and leaving my beloved teachers, that my heart wasn’t in it. I walked a bit, swam a bit. Didn’t go to yoga.

When I got pregnant, yoga became really important. I wanted to have a natural childbirth. I knew I could do it. I was still pretty fit and importantly flexible. I went to prenatal yoga. I walked around the lake at lunchtime. During my pregnancy I did not put on any weight. None except baby, that is. I slept on my left side. I tried not to sit too much. I was doing everything I could to make sure my baby was in the best possible position – Optimal Foetal Position – head down, facing back. I was obsessed with this. I did the yoga positions, I swam and walked. The walking got pretty hard after a while to complete in a reasonable time. But I walked anyway and went to the pool.

I remember one morning late in pregnancy, not being able to sleep, so Robert and I walked around the streets of Ainslie. I was so pregnant. It was cool and clear at 5 in the morning. I hated every single step. But I did it.

Finally, when I went into labour, Benedict was LOT. Left Occiput Transverse position. Close to the worst position. His spine was pressing into mine. I was significantly distressed. This isn’t about his birth, so I won’t write about that here. What has recently occurred to me, is that this moment on Boxing Day 2009, started a chain of thoughts that were deeply buried in my sub-conscious. They have just surfaced.

I am at war at myself now because my body betrayed me.

After all my preparations, after all my learning about ways to make it easy to have a good birth, after all the yoga, all the walking, all the swimming; it made no difference. I had a really long, really hard labour. I had no pain relief. My midwife helped me keep it drug free and I thank her for that. Eventually, after missing out on the birth centre experience due to the length of the second stage, I was in delivery suite, after fighting hard to avoid being there. Eventually, Benedict turned and out he came. He was completely calm for the whole labour. He was never distressed. My breathing control was brilliant. And I kept it up. For more than a day. It was a great result, great baby and it was over eventually, but this experience has altered my relationship with my body in a fundamental way.