Before my son came into the world, I wrote out a detailed birth plan. I even used bullet points and maybe threw in a few italics to stress what I really wanted to happen. Note – water birth, in the room with the disco ball (if there’s a party, I’m not missing the action).
When my baby did eventually emerge, the plan had already been metaphorically ripped into a thousand tiny fragments and there was not even a whiff of a party in sight. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to be proactive and consider the options available, especially given that my power to discern was more than a little compromised after doses of diamorphine. However, I regret the attachment I had developed to the plan, which is actually quite laughable when you consider the impossibility of controlling the multitude of factors at play when delivering a baby.
The idea of a birth plan (is that an actual oxymoron?) led me to think about the scripts we write for ourselves. The narratives begin early in our childhood, influenced by our parents as our primary reference points, interwoven with the myriad of cultural ideologies that are invisibly embedded in our lives.
It feels very much like the stories we tell are incredibly defining at times, creating a definitive outline for who we are that doesn’t allow much room for manoeuvre. These secret scripts dictate that we should be great parents, achieve in every aspect of our lives, all the while looking radiant and feeling immense enjoyment, even while carrying out the most mundane tasks.
Even PND worked itself into a chapter of my story, trying to convince me to identify so closely that I failed to see the nuance between ‘experiencing perinatal mental illness’ and being ‘an anxious and depressed person’.
It took me 39 years (bloody hell, that’s technically ‘middle aged territory’) to even recognise there was a script and that I was following it to the word. I had never ventured from the text because I’m a convincing storyteller. We all are.
What I didn’t see, until fairly recently, is that if I get to write the script and act it out, I also get to change the narrative. To extend the analogy, I recognise that it’s a work of fiction so I don’t need to believe everything I read. The same applies to you.
You’re vast, expansive and in no way are you confined to the stories you’ve been told.
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