‘I have failed.’
I hear it almost every day.
It’s women who whisper this.
Men say, ‘I was robbed’, ‘It wasn’t fair’, ‘There wasn’t enough time’, ‘Ah well, that’s just the way it is.’
Our bodies are branded.
Labelled and judged:
“Failure to progress”
“Lack of maternal effort”
So we say:
‘I didn’t prepare enough.
I should have advocated better for myself.
I should have spoken up.
Why didn’t I speak up?’
‘It’s probably the shape of my nipples.
It’s probably the size of my breasts.
It’s probably what I’m eating.
My milk just isn’t satisfying my baby.
It’s probably my fault.’
In the clinic, in the ward, in our living rooms
The voices say:
“Your placenta will fail”
“Your uterus will rupture”
“Your baby is too small, too big”
“You’re too fat and too old”
“You’re not feeding it enough”
“Baby’s weight isn’t where we want it”
Hot tears of shame and blame
Recrimination and reproach:
‘I’m failing my baby,
My body is deficient,
My body is defunct,
All my dreams down the drain.
Why did I think I deserved to dream?‘
Suddenly six again, being told off:
“You are so bossy…Just keep your mouth shut…You’re so ungrateful…stop asking so many questions”
Suddenly seven being called fat:
“Look at those thunder thighs…cover yourself up…no one wants to see that”
Suddenly sixteen and ashamed:
Burgeoning breasts, jam rag hidden up sleeve.
They whisper their shame at me: ‘
‘It’s supposed to come naturally.
I can’t cope.
They’re all doing it so much better.
I’m sorry my house is a mess,
I’m sorry I’m still in my dressing gown,
I’m sorry for asking, for needing
Some help, a lifting up, a squeezing of a hand.
I’m sorry for being such a fuck up.
‘I should have listened to my instinct,
Should’ve worked harder, tried harder.
I’ve made my baby too clingy by rocking
And feeding and cuddling and caressing.
I’ve made a ROD FOR MY OWN BACK.’
‘I should be up and about,
Should be in Tescos,
Should be out doing all the things, seeing all the people,
Should be going to classes,
Should be doing the housework,
And then they say
“I couldn’t have done it without you”
And I think
YES YOU COULD
Thank you to all the Developing Doulas who contributed words and ideas for this piece