When I got home the tears poured out. “I want to be like them” I choked. I wonder if they thought that I’m like them???…………………………………. I’m writing this blog for myself, but also for any other Epileptic expectant mummas out there. I want to say to you; very simply; You are not alone.
The seat squeaked as I sat down. Six other woman sat around the room like a collection of swollen Russian dolls, we smiled awkwardly. Sweaty hands gripping partners. Brightly coloured cards decorated the walls and the neon lighting blinked overhead. The scene seemed familiar. The chairs where too low, the tables all in miniature, last time I’d been there I’d been a teacher, now I was a pupil once again. It felt like I’d wandered onto the set of a sit-com. At any moment I expected a wall to fall down and a camera crew to reveal themselves, knocking over props with a big fuzzy microphone. But it didn’t happen.The room spun and righted itself and I tried to pay attention.
I’d chosen to come to this. This was my first ante-natal class. This was Hypnobirthing. This is what I want to learn about to give myself the best chance of having a positive birth experience, for me, for my husband and for our baby.
The class was fascinating and overwhelming. It made me start thinking about birth much more than I have done. That this is real, that it’s actually going to happen. I felt encouraged that I’ve already done so much work on the mind-body connection, I am grateful for my experiences with TMS and Chronic Pain for giving me a head-start on that… but then comes the but…
As the class wore on I steadily became aware of something. Most of the discussion seemed to be revolving around one word. ‘Choice’. The smiles grew and people talked about their choices. Their choice of birth place; hospital, home or birth centre. Their choice of care giver, their choice of birth, natural, medicated, supported, unassisted. Their choice to trust in their bodies rather than in Doctors. I should’ve felt grateful that I live in a place where there are such choices. But the truth is I didn’t. In a great cliché the walls seemed to get closer, leaning in on me. It was as if I was in a small glass bowl looking out at all these blossoming Mummas and their ‘choices’. I felt smaller and smaller, like Alice after she’d drunk the ‘drink-me’ potion.
My fists clenched and unclenched. Anger, which I know is just Fears body guard ran through me, irrationally and pathetically. I looked at myself in that bowl and didn’t like what I saw. I don’t want to be that person. Bitter and frightened, angry at myself, at others. You see, the thing is having a hidden disability like epilepsy often means my choices are limited. By others, by systems, by laws and even by myself. Epilepsy makes my body an unreliable witness to life. It is exceptionally hard for me to choose to trust it. Epilepsy means I don’t have a long list of choices. Instead I have a long list of people telling me what I can’t do. So it was hard. Hard to sit and listen to their choices. Hard to listen to them discuss what they wanted. When honestly, what I want can be summed up very easily. I want not to have Epilepsy. I wish that with all that I am. If I didn’t have it, I could join their excited chatter about choices. If, if, if.
Our homework from the course is to think about what we want. Well, what I want is impossible. So I cried. Eventually I snotted out that I just ‘wanted to be like them’……as soon as I’d said the words I stopped. Dragged myself out of the hole of self-pity I’d been throwing myself into. Our baby danced and pushed out against me. Our baby, who knows nothing of this, nothing of epilepsy or prejudice, nothing of fear and ignorance. Our baby who knows only, dim light, warmth, soft sounds and the safety of my womb. Our baby who was made with love, in love, by love. I thought of that babe who has already made us parents, made me Mumma. And I remembered I do have a choice. A big one, one that no one can take away. And it is this; either I can see epilepsy as my fault, as horror, pain and darkness or I can see it as the bringer of courage, the teacher of strength and the lense through which Love is amplified.
I will find a way to work out what I want. I will remember that I too have choices. I will go back to the next session of the course. I will look forward to it even, because I know that having epilepsy is just part of me and that is more than OK.