Many mamas-to-be have a birth plan in hand and a distinct vision for how her labor and delivery should look. As well-intentioned as our plans, philosophies and approaches to motherhood may be, they often divide us, as mothers and women.
When it comes to birth, epidural mamas think the natural ones are crazy for muscling through. Homebirthers can’t imagine why a scheduled C-section lady would choose medical intervention. All of them have a sweet baby ready to burst forth, and their control over how it grew in them and how it will leave is minimal, at best.
I can feel the shudder of our invested spectators – husbands, grandmas, infertile mamas-in-waiting – exclaiming, “It’s not about you! There’s a child coming.”
It’s true, of course. But that doesn’t take away from the absolutely life-changing experience that ushers a baby earthside. Childbirth is hard and miraculous and beautiful and bloody, and the way we go through it doesn’t change any of that.
I can say that, because I’ve had a water birth without drugs and a highly drugged C-Section. Allow me to share. Heads up: this could get graphic, and not just because it’s about a breach birth! You can read about my first birth, the au natural one, here.
- My journey was mine. After a difficult third trimester, I finally went into labor one night! And the night after that, and the night after that. Three nights of regular contractions, punctuated by days of a calm, bored uterus. That third and last night, my husband and I finally made it to the birthing center at 2 a.m., where I labored inconsistently and just generally felt like things were off. Six hours later, we got an ultrasound and realized baby was breach. We transferred to the hospital and went from pre- to post-op in an hour. But every step of the way – no matter how unexpected – was ours. I had the choice to embrace the process or fear it, to trust God or delve into doubts and anxiety. I had the choice to celebrate her birth story, with all of its twists and turns.
- I was surrounded by caring professionals. My midwife from the birthing center rode in the back of our car for the two-minute drive to the hospital, and she stayed with me through those pesky contractions that weren’t getting my baby any closer to my arms. (The doctor strongly advised that I get a C-section instead of aim for a vaginal birth, because I had labored for so long and only progressed to 3 cm). Then the midwife kissed my belly and said, “You get to meet your parents soon, sweet girl,” as I was rolled into the operating room. The nurses and the anesthesiologist were so caring and gentle that I kind of want to buy them a car or a vacation or a steak or something, every time I think of them. I actually think back on my few days at the hospital with the same warm and fuzzies as I do our honeymoon. Must be the oxytocin.
- I had instant bonding with the babe. I will admit that the euphoria of pushing a baby out and bringing her to my chest in a birthing tub is quite different from feeling the yanks and tugs of some masked medical professionals, who pull my baby out and hold her above the curtain for me to see briefly. But the few seconds from when the baby was inside me to outside me where traumatic either way. I felt like a victim in the C-section – unable to move, drugged, sterile, vulnerable – and a victor in the natural birth – drained and veiny like a deflated Hulk who can finally rest. But when my baby was finally on my chest, she was home. And at that point, it didn’t matter how she got there, just that she was there!
- My body felt like an art project. Yes, pregnancy is beautiful, I’m a work of art and our baby is fearfully knit together and whatnot. But seriously? I got stapled. Tiny little staples kept my stitches shut. And with the natural birth? I got sewn up with what might as well have been yarn and a knitting needle, because that hurt like nobody’s business. The professionals who kept my insides from coming outside were skilled, and I’m so grateful that I’ve healed nicely on all accounts. But, like I said before, birthing of any sort is a bloody business.
- I was humbled. My first birth looked exactly like I had hoped. My second, the C-section, was nothing like what I wanted. They were both in God’s hands, and he is sovereign over all. What makes me strong enough to push out a baby unmedicated? To face the unknown with hope? To wake up as a mama at all hours of the night, for weeks/months/years? Nothing that I’ve done on my own. I am no more blessed with two sweet girls than the mama whose baby couldn’t make it past 12 weeks or the parents who sprinkled kisses on their stillborn child. For all the joy in the world, there is sure a lot of sorrow. Maybe being a mom has made me more aware of both sides to that coin; maybe that’s just a lesson life teaches, without discrimination. But God’s goodness is true and real and reaches a lonely woman’s tears as well as a gleeful baby’s giggles.
I so wish that we mamas could look past our differences to see our similarities: the miraculous little poop-machines sucking us dry and giving us life, simultaneously. And I wish that as women, we could learn to sit in the hard times together: the unexpected surgeries, miscarriages, unfulfilled desires and unmet expectations. I really hate pain, physical or emotional, my own or someone else’s. My first instinct is always to hide, isolate and wish the pain away. But my births have shown me a glimpse at the rewards of hunkering down, steadfast and out of love, and facing the ups and downs that time brings, together. We gain life.