Birth Story #7 Alicia Macias
From Venezuela, living in Spain
When did you become a mother? Was it a premeditated decision?
Miguel was born on the 7th of September 2018, but I felt like a mother from the first moment the pregnancy test revealed I was pregnant. We always wanted to have kids. For some time, we were not thinking about it that much, believing that if I was getting pregnant, I was… However, in the end, this pregnancy was wished, it came after a few miscarriages and disillusions.
Would you like to tell us more about that?
Since we are kids, we are told that motherhood is something simple. Would you like to have children? You just get pregnant and 9 months later you get a good-looking chubby 4-kg baby, born in an idyllic birth. Facing reality is hard. No one is prepared to suffer a miscarriage. I always wanted to be a mother, always… so reading a positive on a pregnancy test for the first time made me incredibly happy. A few weeks later, I began to bleed. Once I made it to the clinic, they told me that I had just suffered a spontaneous miscarriage. They didn’t even care: “It’s something usual”, they told me, while doing an ultrasound scan and explaining how they would have to remove the fetus. “It happens to many women, but they don’t talk about it that much”. I supposed they were right. I was overcome with grief, without telling anyone or verbalizing anything. Days went by, so did weeks and I finally told myself that nothing had occurred, we could try again and everything would be fine. The problem was when I had second miscarriage. All my illusion vanished completely. I blamed myself, I felt as if I had done something wrong and that was the reason why it couldn’t work out. I felt damaged. My sad destructive thoughts would hit me constantly because I wasn’t “normal” and I couldn’t experience pregnancies like other women. This is why Miguel’s pregnancy was very very special to me. I had lost all my hope and he made us realize that everything happened the way it was supposed to.
How do you understand Motherhood?
I understand Motherhood from a very emotional point of view. I raise him with closeness, love, a lot of security; and letting him be without conditions. I always wanted him to feel loved, from that wide pillar he can build and work his own independence as an individual.
Is it difficult to let him be without conditions?
There are some basic pillars of education that need to be rooted in every home. Respect, empathy,… some values are non-negotiable. When I say I let him be, I mean we respect his most personal nature. I wouldn’t like to shape a person who accomplishes what I couldn’t. I want him to choose, discover, feel his own fears and make his own mistakes. It is difficult, but we try to be firm so that he is independent, able to make his own choices and feel satisfied with them. For us, it’s important that he can fly, knowing that he has a place to which he can always fly back.
What do you remember from your pregnancy?
My pregnancy was exceptionally complicated. On the 26th week I suffered a false birth that made me go directly to the hospital from then until the 34th week, without being able to leave the bed. It was hard, until very recently I only remembered it as a tragedy. As time has passed, I have understood that it was an experience that taught me so much. We were able to overcome it stronger. So, in spite of everything, those memories are kept with love and strength.
What was it that changed your mind?
Him. Seeing him growing up strong and without aftereffects. He has taught me the biggest lesson in life: “You can not control everything”. And that is ok. I have always felt the need to plan things, writing to-do lists, etc… Since he exists, that has entirely changed. I know I cannot have everything under control, and that’s ok. In the end, life is about experiences, some of them as hard as this one. It made us stronger and able to appreciate our existence from another point of view… With a large amount of humility in front of life’s fragility and happiness to celebrate the little things. For example, every 10 grams he would gain in the incubator. These things change you. You don’t realize it until time has passed. In the beginning, you feel fear. Later on, even if you don’t forget it, you see things in perspective.
Did you give birth the way you had imagined?
Nothing happened as we had planned. We all have a dream birth in mind, where our partner is holding our hand. I experienced an emergency cesarean with a premature baby whose weight was 1,2 kilos. My body was shaking uncontrollably, I was scared. However, the medical support was wonderful. They took such good care of me, I felt accompanied and they tried to create a “normality” out of the difficult situation. I remember the anaesthetist holding my head and saying: “It’s ok, stay calm, just breath”. A nurse brought him to my breast and said: “Feel each other shortly, before I place him into the incubator.” We had to be separated from the first moment and my heart literally broke into pieces when that moment arrived.
What did you feel the first time you held him?
When I held him for the first time, I felt fear and blame, mixed with an infinite love, rage and a sense of helplessness. He was a tiny 1-kg baby covered in cables, there were many whistles around him. He was so vulnerable. I blamed my body for not being able to take care of him. I thought it was my fault he had to go through all that trouble. And I was in rage that this happened to us. It was a quite complex emotional moment.
Why would you blame your body?
My placenta didn’t develop as it should have. The umbilical cordon didn’t have the proper blood irrigation and he didn’t receive enough nutrients to grow. It’s hard to know that your body is the reason why your son, who is still inside of you, is undernourished. You feel powerless, because there is nothing you can do. Everyone around you tries to make you feel better by saying that there are things in life that you cannot control. Yes, that is true. Nevertheless, for a mother, knowing that her son can die inside of her because of her own body… this is something that destroys you. Every time I would stroke my belly, I would cry saying I was sorry. The first words I told him were: “I am sorry, baby”. Even today I look at him and I still feel guilty. At the same time, I am grateful to my body because in the end he was born. Breastfeeding also helped me to reconcile myself with my body, because I have been able to feed him and raise him healthy thanks to my own milk.
How was the postpartum process?
Well, I went home without my baby. He had to stay in the hospital and I spent the days mostly watching him through a glass, observing his heartbeats on a screen, changing diapers that seemed to be produced for dolls. Neither the birth nor the postpartum were common. The C-Section was only a scar and, yes, I had physical pain. Still, what hurt me the most was leaving home every evening without my baby.
How long did the hospitalization last?
He was there for 45 days. An eternity. I was isolated from everyone during that time. I was there every day all day long, I hated being at home without him. It was horrible. So we spent all those days in the hospital with him, next to the incubator or carrying him around, seeing how he was making progress little by little until we could finally go home.
In which ways has motherhood changed you?
In every possible way. Motherhood has entirely transformed me. The way I relate to my body has changed. I’ve developed more patience too. Miguel taught me a lesson about strength. Since he is in our lives, he teaches us something new every day.
Has it affected your career?
It is fortunate that I’ve had all the support around me, so that I can continue with my professional career. I feel lucky I can take him to work. Wherever I go, he is with me. I had a security net that was always able to help me.
What about the relationship towards your mother?
I’ve always been close to her. She’s pure inspiration to me. Still, since I became a mother, my admiration towards her has even increased exponentially. She’s my unconditional support, my pillar. My heart softens when I see her with my son. I wish she could be eternal and I could enjoy her presence forever.
Would you like to have more children?
I’ve always dreamed that in a few years we would be sitting on a very long table: my partner, my children, their partners, my grandchildren,… So yes, I would really like to. I have 3 brothers and my childhood was a pleasant time with them. I wouldn’t like that my son wouldn’t know what it means to have siblings.
— Photos: Alicia Macias.