Birth Story #1 Antonella Tignanelli
From Buenos Aires, living in Barcelona
When did you become a mother? Was it a premeditated decision?
My son, Luca, was born on the 22nd of June, 2018. It wasn't at all a premeditated decision, but it was very happily accepted from the moment I found out.
What is your conception of Motherhood?
Motherhood is being a mom. I know this sounds tremendously simple, for such a complex task, but for me it actually all comes down to that. There's not one way of being a mother, and that's actually something I learnt when becoming one. There can be no judgment towards other mothers, because every single one of them is learning how to be one, even if they're having their sixth baby, and every decision is very particular to each personal context. Motherhood isn't at all what I expected, I think it must be really hard in general to match your expectations when you never experienced labor before, or unconditional love, or the vulnerability and tenderness that come with the fact of becoming a mom. Both the hard parts of it and the beautiful parts are equally as unmatchable by any other experience lived before, so I could've never really imagined what it was gonna be like, even if I tried.
What memories do you have about the pregnancy?
I remember there was a moment, I think around the second trimester, when my subconscious started being super alive. Every night I would go to sleep and dream something extremely meaningful related to my fears. Fears in general and in particular related to not being the best mom I could, but in the most sci-fi scenarios you can possibly imagine. That moment in particular was the most interesting for me, to see all those things manifesting was incredible.
Which were your strongest fears?
It’s hard to put it into words, since it belongs to the world of sensations mostly. I do remember I had dreams with being worried about the kind of values that would be passed on to my kid. Others where I didn’t know if I would be able to even keep him alive... I think this is something that comes tied to motherhood that can be hard! Feeling so responsible and caring so much for someone else is a blessing but also a very difficult thing to experience.
Could you share with us your birth experience?
Well, my birth was literally the best experience I could have imagined. I was born underwater, it was the first underwater birth in Argentina (my mom was very avant-garde, haha) so for some reason I had this inside of my genetic memory and when the time came to think about how I wanted to have my baby, I had no doubt I wanted to do it the same way. Underwater birth is illegal in Catalunya, but for a miraculous reason, I ended up meeting my gynecologist (a crazy great Italian woman) who told me she would decide when the moment came if the baby was ready for making an underwater entry into the world or not. I had all of my labor at home in the bathtub, my mom and one of my best friends were sleeping in my house. My mom woke up at some point and we took a taxi to the hospital. My friend hadn't even woken up by the time Luca was born. It all happened really fast and in a really nice way. I asked for the natural birth room, and I could lower the lights, put music on and eat nuts to have more energy (all things they don't let you do in regular birth rooms). When I arrived I was already very dilated, my midwife told me I had done all the work at home. They called my gynecologist and as soon as she arrived I begged her to go inside of the water. The moment I got in the water, my waters broke and the birth started. From there it took less than an hour for Luca to be out. I didn't need epidural or any other type of painkiller and they did't even have to stitch me afterwards... I was very lucky!
Do you remember what you felt the first time you saw your son?
I felt like I had to protect him.
How much did the postpartum affect you?
My particular situation was very different from others I heard. My hardest part of the whole process happened on the 7th month of my pregnancy, when the father of my child left me with no previous advice. I was alone in a country that wasn't my own and I had no friends, so my mom had to come save me. Those two months before Luca was born were SO hard emotionally, psychologically that I think life really gifted me with a beautiful birth and a beautiful postpartum. After this rough times, when Luca was born it was a real blessing. Our mom-son relationship was really beautiful and all the changes that came after were really accepted with joy and without fighting against.
How much did the relationship with your mum changed during that time? Do you feel like you suddenly saw her with other eyes?
The relationship with my mom had serious ups and downs, it was a very intense moment. She wanted me to go back to my country and I didn’t want to, so after some struggle she just accepted it and we moved from there. It’s hard to live with your parents again when you haven’t in a really long time, and it’s specially crazy to have them in your own house, instead of being the other way around. Despite all of this, we really grew closer of course, but we were already very close. It was really great to have her around when Luca was born and receive her tips and her help, it would’ve been really hard otherwise.
Do you have any postpartum recommendations for friends and new mothers?
My midwife gave me a sort of recipe that I can’t find but it was a life saver. It was something like making a huge tea with chamomile flowers, thyme, peppermint and calendula. She made me soak some sterile cloths in it and freeze them, then I took them to the hospital and by the time I had birthed they were super cold and fantastic to apply down there were it all happened. I cannot explain how grateful I was to have these! My only real advice in this whole process is that you follow your own truth, there are as many ways of doing it as people in the world. But try to connect to yourself and see what you really want out of this experience and fight for it, the system is not designed for you to have it easily. But listen to yourself, you are the only one who knows how to care for yourself and your baby in the best way, don’t let other people’s opinions confuse you. Also listen to people’s advice, but just the ones that resonate with you and the way you’re living things, don’t pressure yourself to try to fit into other people’s ways or expectations about your process.
Which are the most significant changes you have experienced in your life since you became a mother?
I really believe I became a better person. I don't look after me or my own interests alone anymore, now my priority is the wellbeing of another human. That shifts the focus a lot, and it is impossible to be very self centered anymore. It is such a great exercise for your ego and for not trying to have everything under control. As well, I learnt that pain is not equal to suffer. They teach us from an early age, that if you feel pain you must kill it, because it's not nice to feel it. Nowadays I see pain as a really transforming thing, I liked to feel and experience it while birthing, I think it prepared me for what was coming.
What is the best about being a mother so far? What would you consider the worst?
The best is the love that you feel. You realize your heart and your ability to love can stretch day by day. One day you think you couldn't possibly love any more than you do, and a month after you laugh about yourself because there you are, loving triple. I couldn't say worst, but definitely the most difficult for me is to have to share your most loved and cared for person in the world, with someone you don't share love with, or even ideas... that part about being separated with the father of your child can be extremely exhausting and can bring a lot of worries. It is also a huge learning process.
Would you like to have more children?
Yes! But not yet.