Fear of failure. It’s a real thing. You know what I mean don’t you, Momma? After you read that first sentence your mind instantly flashed back to a time where you felt it. That feeling is so strong in us, it’s insane. It’s gripping. We constantly dwell on whether or not a decision we are making has life altering consequences or will result in failure. It happens all too often for me. And it happened the night my second baby was born.
I had my birth plan worked out well in advance. I wanted a natural birth with minimal intervention as long as there was no danger to myself or my baby. No Pitocin. No epidural. I just wanted to allow my body to do something it was designed to do. I had many reasons for why I wanted a natural birth, some of which were driven by fear.
- I believed an unmedicated birth was best for my baby and was afraid she would experience side effects and be unable to nurse right away.
- I was afraid an epidural wouldn’t work or that it would numb the wrong half of my body.
- I was worried that an epidural would cause a series of interventions, eventually leading to a Caesarian section that might not have occurred otherwise.
- And honestly, I felt this need to be strong enough to handle an unmedicated labor because it was just something most women in my family did.
The thing is, when you’re a first-time mom and planning your labor, it’s true that ignorance is bliss. When you have no idea what labor will be like, it’s easier to face it bravely. Yes, you hear stories. You know labor is painful. But you just can’t understand what it will be like for you until you are in the midst of it. My labor with my first was long, slowly building from being highly manageable to oh-my-gosh-I-think-I-am-dying and lasted over 30 hours. I think the only reason I was able to make it through without medication was because I never knew how intense the pain would become with each following contraction.
That isn’t so much the case when you are facing labor with your second baby and I think that’s because you know what to expect. You may have forgotten the severity of the pain from your first, but the memory floods back to your mind the moment you feel that first contraction that takes your breath away.
It was in that moment, laboring with our second child, that the fear of what I was about face overwhelmed me.
It was in that moment, that I felt like I was facing failure.
If labor was a slow and steady build with my first baby, it was the exact opposite with my second. Labor lasted only 7 hours. Immediately, it was fast. Immediately, it was intense. Almost immediately as soon as we reached the hospital, my birth plan changed. I was not mentally prepared to face another unmedicated birth, especially at the pace it was going, and I kept thinking these three things, over and over:
I am scared.
I can’t do this.
I am not ready.
Ultimately, I made the choice to get an epidural. I know that to some, it may seem like a trivial decision. One that is easily made. But that just wasn’t the case for me. I struggled immensely to make that choice. Because that choice looked like a failure through my eyes. By choosing to move forward with an epidural, I felt like I was failing myself, failing our soon-to-be-born daughter and in a way, even failing my husband (don’t ask me why…he was amazingly supportive through the whole process). It felt like a choice I was forced to make because the stress my body was going through was too much for me to handle.
My mentality began to shift once I felt the pain of contractions subside. I think the best word to describe it would be Focus. I was able to focus on what I needed to do to meet our daughter, rather than focus on the pain. When she was born, I felt more mentally present. I was able to absorb every detail about her. I was able to focus on her beautiful face, her tiny hands and feet, and her little newborn cry. I was truly in the moment with her, soaking in those first moments in which we met. It was incredible.
Through that experience, I quickly learned that what I initially perceived as a failure and something to feel guilty about, turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made. The door that to me was leading to failure, became the door that led to an amazing experience. If I had clung to my vision for what I thought was the right way to give birth, I would have denied myself of that.
It’s crazy how perspective can change once you’re on the opposite side of the mountain. I didn’t fail that day. Not really anyway. Yes, I gave up on my initial birth plan which you could say was the “failure”, but out of it came something so positive it is hard for me to look at it that way. Something wasn’t working and so I adjusted. I just changed course. And that’s okay. Sometimes, when a path takes you in a different direction than you hoped, it leads to something better than you can imagine.
I learned from that experience that I should never be so firmly rooted in my plan and so sure of my footing, that I am unable to see the potential for something better along the way. I learned that failure is a matter of perspective. I can either let the fear of failure keep me from moving forward, cutting off the opportunity to grow, or I can push past that fear and perhaps stumble upon something amazing. I learned that it’s how you respond to setbacks that is the true measure of whether or not you really failed.
It is a simple lesson, but it’s one that I hope to carry with me through life.
P.S. Was there a time you experienced what at first appeared to be a failure, but turned out to be a blessing? I’d love to hear about it and what caused a shift in your perspective so please feel free to share in the comment section below!