The image with this story is one of my paintings, “The Illusion.” I spent a lot of my life in pursuit of this illusion that I can have both the sky and earth and the perfect world. When wisdom dawned, whatever I had, felt perfect.
The Real Woman… is a real-life story; I have presented it differently, to honor privacy.
I was in the middle of a bustling, busy clinic day, scrambling to keep my appointments on time with back to back bookings. I was already late as one of the babies, was not in a good mood. In amidst this chaos, the phone on my table decided to make its presence felt. Sighing deeply, I thought yeah, Right! This is what I need now. Clumsily I got to the phone, nearly tripping over the stool pulled into the middle of the room by a toddler accompanying the mom with a bad mood baby.
“Hello! How can I help, my dear?”
“Nav, there’s a woman with a two-month-old baby, and she wants to book an appointment with you.” “So, what’s the problem?” “She is not pregnant, and her baby is already two months old, at this point, they are already gone from midwifery care.”
“Right, then why does she want to see me?” “She says she was seeing you in pregnancy and wants to see you because she wants to tell you something.” “Alright, then go ahead and book her a visit.” I thought she was just another client needing some kind of closure on a course of care.
It is not unusual for women to come back and see me with their babies. I had not seen her in a long time because of scheduling issues, and so I had not been able to see her baby.
On the day of the appointment, I went out to the waiting room to usher her in with her baby. She greeted me with a brilliant smile. Her face was radiating with some kind of newfound happiness. There was a little baby girl in the stroller, sleeping calmly, oblivious of the hustle and bustle of the waiting room.
“Lucky girl!” I said to myself; I wish I could go home and sleep as well! Oh, wow! How nice to be a baby, you don’t even have to walk, just sit in the stroller and get pushed around and sleep whenever and where ever you want to. For a moment, I was envious of the baby blissfully asleep in the stroller!
“Have a seat, Jessica, How have you been?” “I am good, Navjot, and yourself?”
“Very well, my dear. Thank you. And who do we have here?”
“She is little, Hannah?” Hannah still blissfully asleep. “Ooh, she’s is cute as a button.”
Since this was her last appointment, I browsed through her chart to recap, and to tie up any loose ends.
As I was browsing, I recalled my conversation with her at one of her visits.
Jessica was referred to one of our social workers for mood issues, depression to be precise.
The social worker referred her to me for support since she had clinical questions that the social worker could not answer. In the prenatal period, Jessica saw me a few times for supportive care. We talked about birth and how birth had the potential to be an empowering experience for some and a devastating one for others. She reported her first birth experience was not an optimal one, and “I am hoping to change that this time.” She described to me how she ended up with a C-section and felt all defeated and vulnerable. Then went on to have a challenging postnatal recovery period, with barely any help from her husband.
As I was trying to understand, her family support system. I asked her, is your partner helpful and supportive. She said, “No, he is not.” I am seeing the social worker because of relationship issues, she recommended couples counseling, and he declined. He is not even interested in making things better. It is to his advantage that I do everything, including all household chores and taking care of our two-year-old son. He just goes to work! I have no family here to help with my older child.
I can connect you with an agency that can support you with your older child in the postnatal period. I also want you to engage in a regular physical exercise schedule. I can show you some of the exercises that you can do, and you are welcome to join me for a prenatal exercise workshop there is no additional cost to it. I am sure the social worker has reviewed all other strategies with you, I won’t go over that.
From a clinical perspective, I do want to review something with you. Baby blues are common in the postnatal period, and given your situation, you are at an increased risk of postpartum depression. Having a surgery further increases your chances of a problematic postnatal recovery and depression. Would you consider a VBAC (Vaginal birth after C-section)?
She said, can I have a normal birth after a C-section, “Yes, you can.” My Doctor has not even mentioned this to me. Well, you can initiate this discussion. Different physicians have different styles of working. In my experience with this Obstetrician, he does not support VBAC, and therefore, it might be a little difficult. Remember, all patients have the right to request information on all possible modalities of care and then make an informed choice after the discussion. It is the care provider’s obligation to honor this.
Your Ob is likely to review the risks of a VBAC with you. Don’t let him talk you down. It is a very safe and reasonable research-based evidence-based option to exercise in a controlled environment. However, this informed choice discussion is the norm. You will need to assume responsibility for your decision. If you do go into labor then this is how you need to direct your care to optimize your chances of a vaginal birth…This is where we left until today.
“Tell me about your birth. How did it go?”
“After I left your clinic, I had an appointment with my Ob next week, and he said to me that I had scheduled a C-section for you next week. I said to him, I was not ready, and he needs to reschedule. He was not very happy about it, but I stayed firm in my decision. Meanwhile, I went into labor, and I did as you said and, when the OB on call reviewed the risk of VBAC with me, I accepted it and assumed responsibility for my decision. Hence I proceeded with labor.”
“Guess what? I had a vaginal birth!!! I was over the moon”. My husband had said to me last time, “You are not even a real woman, you can’t even birth a baby normally.” As soon as the Doctor left the room after the birth, I could barely talk and keep my eyes open after a long labor and delivery, but I dragged myself to my phone and called him and told him, “I am a real woman now, I did birth a baby normally!”
As she narrated this story to me, I sat there eyes brimming with tears, “Good for you!” “I have decided to end this relationship since it is not bringing the best out of me. I have already registered for a fall session at the university; I am going back to school. I can do it, Navjot! I came to tell you how helpful it was for me to have this conversation with you. This experience has changed my life. I said goodbye to the social worker; I don’t need one now.”
I gave her a big hug and said, “Way to go, Girl! Don’t ever give up again!” Then she left thanking me profusely.
I sank into my chair, thinking yes! You are a real woman now! Not just because you can birth a baby normally. But because you have identified your potential and you do not need someone to tell you who you are or what path you should tread. You are capable of carving your destiny and making yourself, who so ever you want to be. You have learned to assumed responsibility for the consequences of your own decisions and actions. You have stopped wasting energy in complaining about your partner and circumstances and learned how to turn around people and situations in your favor and direct your energy in self-development. And that is what real women are about.
It is so intriguing how the human psyche works and how seemingly insignificant events or experiences can have such a profound impact on performance and well-being. It was amazing to see the power behind spoken words; it was words that broke her—or maybe inspired her? And then there were words that instilled hope and confidence in her to achieve her goal.
While I marveled at the constructive energy that words can instill, I was fearful at the same time as the destructive capacity of words. I put my hands together and said, “Please, mother universe, let me not say something to someone that will shatter them, let me not be a channel of negative energy, rule my head, heart and tongue that I may only be a channel of positive energy.”
Years ago, in my most difficult times, I had promised the mother universe, despite all difficulty, I will only live as a constructive and productive member of the community, no matter how difficult it is.
My blissful and nostalgic little bubble was shattered by the ringing of my phone again, “Hi, what’s up?” “Your 3:30 appointment has been waiting for about 10 minutes, and now she is getting restless. “Sorry I am late. I’ll come get her in a minute.” I rose from my chair with renewed enthusiasm and energy for my next client. Maybe I don’t need to sleep anymore!… Power of spoken words!