I love giving birth! I really do. If I could give birth everyday without having to be pregnant, I would. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but the two times I’ve done it have been the best two days of my life.
That said, I’ve had two “easy” pregnancies and two “natural” births that went off without much of a hitch. I know that had things been different, I might feel differently. People give you all sorts of crazy advice when you are pregnant. Truly unsolicited, wacky, forthright advice. I want to write more about this later, but I think a lot of this free flowing advice/judgment/pregnant lady juju that you get has a lot to do with the high stakes that we, especially women, feel surrounding anything to do with parenting and child rearing.
Really, there’s nothing I will ever do that will be more important to me than my children. Most mothers feel this way. So it makes sense that we will want our choices to be the right ones. The seriousness and intensity of being a parent makes us all a little know it all-y because we need to feel that we have done right by our kids. I tried to keep this in mind when I had someone telling me that I HAD to have an epidural or that I HAD to have water birth or a home birth or a hospital birth or a scheduled c-section or whatever their preference was. We all just want to feel that we did the right thing, and this begins with how we bring our child into the world in the moment of their birth.
All this passionate advice really leads a girl to think she has to make a choice about how her birth will be. I felt the pressure that first time around. A few arguments had me thinking that I definitely would want a drug-free, natural birth. At other times I was convinced I should march right in and get an epidural immediately. Then, as my daughter’s due date become closer, I really began to feel like it was most important to be present in the moment and just listen to the signals my body was sending me! I am so thankful that this idea dawned on me and stuck with me. We tend to forget whilst pregnant that every single human on this planet got here the same way that my kids will. Millions of women have done this before me and millions will do it after. Our bodies are built for this. Why not lean back and enjoy as much of it as possible, let our bodies to the work and get our heads out of the way for once?
So, when my water broke two weeks early (Both times! Weird, right?), I took my time, showered, washed and styled my hair (yep, and I was so glad I did!), thoughtfully packed my hospital bag and moseyed on down to the hospital. Somehow it was in my head that this event was out of my jurisdiction and it felt sort of nice to have a day that was entirely not in my control! I really felt very relaxed but also conscious of the fact that something amazing was happening. My life, my husband’s life and what we had built together were all about to change.
That first time, I sucked it up and dealt with the bitter pain for 12 hours and then got the epidural. I ended up getting an epidural both times. The pain can only be described as a bitter acid coursing through your body and singeing your nerves. It really, really does deeply suck as much as they say. The epidural is a big, big, big relief. I went from writhing in pain to watching Chris Mathews and dozing, only to wake to find that it was time to push! This is an exciting moment; the energy in the room lights up in a flame of movement, technology, hustling nurses, but I just felt calm in the eye of the storm.
With my daughter’s delivery, we had an intern come in and ask if he could “participate in our birth”. My husband and I were so elated already that we said sure, the more the merrier! This kid internist played a special role – while pushing, if I was losing my finesse, he would say, “Come on, Sarah, finish strong, finish strong!” My husband Jesse and I love that and we still say it each other all the time. It’s a good one – we all should finish strong in general. Why not? It’s patently lame to finish weak, so I say, “Nice going kid internist! Good slogan!”
Back to pushing – this is an important piece of advice. I was feeling a little stuck, pun intended, and the nurse told me to close my eyes and imagine that I was in woods, constipated and trying to poop in a hole in the ground, which was what my goal should be. Find those desperately constipated muscles and use them! And you know what? It worked! A few moments later I had pushed my daughter out and she was laying in my arms as my husband and I cried over the miracle of it, the beauty of her, the instant love we felt, the kind of love neither of us had felt before. Deep, deep, gut-crushing soul love. That moment is the best, her skin on my skin, our eyes locked, she’s shimmying up to my boob (because they instinctually know where to go) and I’m feeding my daughter! I instinctually know what do, too! Holy smokes, who woulda thunk it? That’s not to say that breastfeeding is easy – it’s not for me at least. But all in all, it is a miracle and the best moment I’ve had.
With my son, it was just the same. I thought it couldn’t be as magical and momentous as the first time but it truly was. Granted, he came out a little faster and I knew which constipated butt muscles to engage but when he was placed on my chest, all warm and gooey and gorgeous and needing me, again my heart swelled and made more room for my little boyoyoy (that’s what we call him, “the boyoyoy”. My husband and I stared and stared and felt near exploding with awe at the wonder of loving this hard again.
This is good stuff, right? My heart just took a big breath remembering it all. I guess my only point is to not have a plan. Do whatever feels right to you in that moment because only your body can tell you what it needs and how things are going to go down. There’s all sorts of other super gross stuff that happens after anyway, just enjoy the moment of glory. The gross stuff isn’t really that bad anyhow, if you can get someone to level with you. I’ll just say this: the placenta looks like the sea monster they dreg up at the end of La Dolce Vita, gross, and it comes out of your body, double gross. Ahem, I will also tell you, because I am a good friend, that your vagina takes on another zip code. Things get really big down there but all goes right back to normal after a day or two. Just enjoy sitting on some ice packs and regular business will resume shortly.
None of this stuff really matters though. The real importance lies in the fact that you just did something amazing! More amazing than running in a marathon or winning Olympic Gold, more amazing than any career success you could make up in your wildest dreams, you have made a life! And it came out of you, you weird pod person! Isn’t that just the craziest thing you’ve ever heard???? I still look at my kids and my eyes start crossing when I remember that I cooked them in my tummy for 9 months.
I’m just leaving you with the thought that it’s great to focus on your pregnancy, it’s great to use the 9 months to be good to yourself and it’s great to focus on your birth and prepare for it the best you can. But your pregnancy lasts just nine months and your birth lasts just one day. Your child will be with you for the rest of your life. Sometimes I wish that we focused more on that! There’s no one perfect way to have a baby. I think that whatever the route you take, walk away from it feeling empowered and proud. Enjoy your birth, it will be over before you know it, and the pain disappears the second you hold your child. Do whatever way feels best to you and don’t forget to have the best day of your life! Whatever that means to you. There is so much fear surrounding childbirth. My hope is to open up the dialogue and get ladies – and gentlemen – talking about it. It’s something we don’t do nearly enough!
I’d love to hear some birth stories up in this blog! Thanks for reading mine!