Today my oldest son turns 8. It is also the 25th anniversary of the death of Henri Nouwen, hands down my favorite spiritual writer of our time.
As I contemplate the birth of my son and the death of my hero, I circle back to a truth that rarely escapes me: birth and death are inextricably connected. There’s so much more death to birth than I think we realize.
Death is part of a much greater and much deeper event, the fullness of which we cannot comprehend, but of which we know that it is a life-bringing event….What seemed to be the end proved to be the beginning; what seemed to be a cause for fear proved to be a cause for courage; what seemed to be defeat proved to be a victory; and what seemed to be the basis for despair proved to be the basis for hope. Suddenly a wall becomes a gate, and although we are not able to say with much clarity or precision what lies beyond the gate, the tone of all that we do and say on our way to the gate changes drastically.
Every birth I attend as a doula cements this truth in my mind. As I prepare my clients for their labors, they confide their worries, their fears, their anxieties to me.
“What if I can’t handle it?”
“What if the pain is too much?”
“What if I’m unpleasant/too loud/too demanding/not able to speak up?”
Each prenatal visit finds me steadying them, reminding them of what is true, reinforcing their purpose in this event, reminding them that this is sacred work that they do not have to do alone.
And every birth finds my clients face to face with those worries. Looking those anxieties straight in the eyes, nose to nose with the very things they fear will overcome them…and every time, they conquer.
What seemed to be the end proved to be the beginning.
What seemed to be the cause for fear proved to be a cause for courage.
What seemed to be the basis for despair proved to be the basis for hope.
I have seen so many walls become gates, so many women die to themselves, their very identities cracking open to let in new life. I have experienced the despair of transition that signals the imminence of breakthrough, of birth.
Women and men do not walk away from their births unchanged. The person they were before that baby enters the world is not who they are when the midwives finish up and the lights go back down. Birth requires death. Death requires transformation. Transformation becomes a gate to higher levels of holiness and a new understanding of the human experience.
Today I’m pondering all this as I celebrate my newly minted 8 year old, my biggest baby and most peaceful birth. I’m pondering his birth as I think of all the ways we’ve cumulatively died over the last couple of years: so much suffering, so many disappointments, and looming monsters that have forced us all to face fears we never even verbalized.
Our labor is long and hard, fraught with complications, progress alternatively piercing us to the core and seemingly stalling out. If we only view our life experience as hardship and pain, it’s certainly tempting to medicate ourselves with whatever will numb us out. There’s plenty to try: shopping, porn, hidden stashes of cookies, crime dramas that drown out reality. endless hours of scrolling. Of course epidurals and medications aren’t inherently bad. In fact they’re a very effective tool. However, if our motivation in using them is total avoidance of the experience, they’re less of a help and ultimately disappoint. A good epidural takes the edge off while allowing the patient to actively participate in her labor. I fear that many of us would rather feel nothing at all than engage in the dirty work of living. I fear that of myself, most especially.
If we neglect to view our labor through the lens of eternity, we hug up against the wall without ever allowing it to become a gate. The temptation is always there to focus on the hard stuff without letting it transform us. Yes it feels unrelenting, but each contraction brings change, each pain brings progress, each ache is an opportunity to allow ourselves to gradually open up and birth new life into the world.
I don’t know what God is calling you to bring into being. I’m not sure if you’re living in the expectancy of a growing baby, a growing dream, or a growing desire to commit yourself to hard work worth doing. Perhaps you’re living in the static of just honestly not knowing. I don’t know what your fears are, but I’d guess they have something to do with not being good enough for this thing you’re being asked to do. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll fail. I hope you do. I hope you fail and fail well. Maybe you’re afraid of change. Transition is definitely the hardest part of life and of labor. It’s that point of no return when we find ourselves just done with the job at hand, but too far in to turn back now. I’m sure there are nagging doubts and imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy. There are for me. That’s why I write as infrequently as I do, even though I know this is the hard holy work I’ve been tasked to do.
There’s no way for me to know where the gate leads for any of us. I can’t predict what horizons lie on the other side. But in all the haziness, I can remind us of what I know is true. I can remind you of what I know without a doubt. You were chosen for this purpose. You are the only one who can birth this child, this idea, this dream, this product into the world. You are necessary to this specific labor. This will be incredibly hard, but it will not overcome you because it comes from you, from a place deep inside you that is fed by the Holy Spirit and sustained by the communion of Saints. If you approach this birth through the eyes of eternity, you’ll see that you will never labor in vain. If you allow yourself to be transformed, the Lord will use you as co-creator, you will be a channel through which newness enters the earth.
Birth is death is birth. One requires the other. One begets the next. Each is heartbreaking, good, and beautiful. Both will wreck and ruin us in all the best ways.
So my prayer today is one of humility and obedience.
Lord, let me do this work not for what I will gain from it, but because it is what you have called me to. Help me to be faithful when strength is failing and humble in my pursuit of holiness. Let me submit myself to suffering, use it all to transform me into the person you created me to be. Use me as an instrument of your grace and help me to truly desire all these things I pray for. Let each and every death bear forth a birth more spectacular than the last. Grant me eyes to see it and the courage to run tirelessly towards every dead end that leads to you. Amen.
Y’all. It has literally been a kazillion years since I actually sat down and took some time to write.
I’ve missed you. Seriously. I kind of feel like that Taylor Swift song where she goes back to December and regrets leaving and turning her man down, but with a blog. Stay with me, I’m rusty.
Anyway, here’s Remy’s birth story because I wrote it down like six months ago when he was actually born and never published it because I’m a whacko. This is the fog that is my sad brain.
I never really know how to start these, but I guess I’ll start two days before the little guy was born and I was randomly contracting, on and off and off and on again for-ev-errrr. Every time I was convinced that I was truly in labor, things would peter out and I’d get all discouraged. Usually I am a total champ the entire way through pregnancy, but this one was just a lot harder for some reason. Suffice it to say, the closer I got to our due date (the 27th), the more I was feeling it. I was just so huge, and so tired. Also, everyone in the family (except me) was just getting over a horrible stomach bug…because if there’s a stomach bug within the tri-state area my family will get it. And as my wise friend, Katy, says, we’ll probably get it twice. She knows us.
So, the day before Remy was born I had an appointment with my midwife, Genny. I think I was at 2 cm, not great but not completely horrible, I guess. She “stretched me out a little” (sidenote: why do all things obstetrics have to sound so horrifying?) and sent me on my way. We were both hoping to get things started because we really wanted to have a water birth this time and the hospital doesn’t allow water births if they think your baby will be over 9 pounds…and guess who always has “gigantic” babies? (I need you all to know that I just jumped on my mental soapbox about how my body grows babies that are the right damn size for it thankyouverymuch, so don’t even talk to me about “big” babies…but then I realized that don’t nobody want to hear that soapbox, and down I hopped. And I curtsyed in front of my mental soapbox because in my mind I curtsy and it’s cute, the end.)
So, I left and felt completely overcome by anxiety. Everything in me was stressed and wigging out and wishing, wishing, wishing that this baby would be born that night. But he wasn’t. Not even close. So I just had to get it into my mind that I had to surrender to the fact that I couldn’t be in control (and if any of you want to know the secret to natural childbirth, that’s it. Just surrender and let it be. [Easier said than done, obvs. Brackets!]) I gave myself a little pep talk and resigned myself to the fact that I never have babies early and that I might as well enjoy the time we had before Remy got here and just not stress over things we can’t change. Babies come when they’re ready.
And I totally bought my own speech! I woke up the next morning feeling nary a contraction but very much better emotionally and spiritually. I really thought that it might actually happen that day, but I definitely didn’t let that thought stress me out. Vin had the day off, so we took the kids to the zoo so I could walk around and they could blow off some steam. It was just a gorgeous day. We saw all of our favorite animals, fed the giraffes some lettuce, Ev inexplicably freaked out in the elephant house, it was wonderful. And I didn’t have a single contraction the whole time. We all got home and took naps before Maggie’s last t-ball game of the season and I started feeling crampy on the walk to the field.
About halfway through her game I started having definite contractions. My dear, dear friend Amy was there and I told her I thought this was the night and we squealed and got super-excited and it was lovely because Amy is lovely and wonderful and good. I love Amy…but I digress. After the game, we headed home and Vin ordered pizza just to tide the troops over and so I could have something to look forward to throwing up later. (I’m sure you recall the Ole Burger Incident of ’12 or the Salisbury Steak of ’13…no? Just me and the hospital staff, huh?)
So, an hour or so later, we decided it was probably a good time to call in reinforcements. Vin’s parents headed our way and I let my friend, Lauren, know that we were heading to the hospital since she was going to be at the birth, too. We got to the hospital around 10 or 10:30 and did all of the miserable triage junk…may I just say I hate answering questions when I’m in labor? I also hate the stress that comes before that very first check when you’re secretly afraid that you’re not dilated past a 2 and they’ll send you home and you’ll have to be like, “Oh sorry…I’ve only done this, like, three times before, so…yeah.” Shudder. But I was a 4 or 5, so I got to stay and they moved the birthing tub into my room and I got super excited about the fact that I was really going to get to have a water birth this time!!!
The house doctor confirmed that my last baby was almost a 10 pounder. She got that shady look in her eyes that means hopes are about to get crushed and said she was going to call the OB that Genny practices with just to get his opinion. That guy is seriously a fun sucker, so I knew right then that there was no way they’d let me do it. I was, however, promised that I could labor in the tub, which I figured was the next best thing and in the meantime, I negotiated for no effing monitors once I was in the room. Boom.
Once Genny got to the hospital, she checked me and I was already at an 8, so we agreed that it probably wasn’t a great idea to get me into the tub because I’d never get back out in time. Le sigh. But at that point, I had been yacking my lungs out (oh, haaaay there, pizza!) and didn’t really care. I will say that my guilt complex was still quite strong because I felt (and still feel) horrible that they filled that entire damn tub up with water only to immediately drain it again. I’m pretty sure I apologized to the state of California while in labor. And I’ll say it again, sorry I wasted all that water, California. I am so. sorry.
At some point Lauren showed up and she was gorgeous and soothing and jumped right in with Vinnie. That man was on point with this labor, y’all. He was so calm and in control. Lauren was a seamless addition, despite the fact that she had never been to a birth before. They kept me happy with cool cloths for my eyes and Lauren fanned me with one of those cervix dilation charts (cause we’re classy is why) and they caught my vomit and were all around the most fantastic team ever of all time. Seriously, you should hire them!
Around midnight I started feeling really pushy. I can honestly say, this is the first time in labor that I’ve really felt like it was all my show. I don’t know if this makes sense, but usually I feel like I almost have to wait for permission to start pushing, like I want validation that it’s okay maybe? (And herein lies the metaphor for my entire life…so many asides in this post, geez!) Regardless, this time was different.
A lot of women say that they can feel their baby moving down. Usually I just feel a lot of pain…it’s like Madeleine Khan in Clue or something. But this time, I could really feel Remy making progress down the birth canal. I had just been checked and was almost complete, had thrown up yet again, and then really felt like I needed to push. I knew that the baby was low and I just kept saying, “I need to push!” Genny came in, told me to go ahead and push, and started suiting up. I think they thought there would be a bit more pushing because Genny was still getting her apron thingy tied, the bed hadn’t been transformed into a space station yet, and everyone just seemed generally a bit laissez faire about the whole thing.
Vinnie, on the other hand, stepped it up. He must have somehow known that it was really, really, really go time because that man was on point. He went into full commander mode and told Lauren to grab my leg while he grabbed the other. I gave a push and that baby’s glorious head was born!! I was shocked that it was that fast; I believe my exact quote was, “Is that a head??!” because that’s what smart people say. Anyway, another little push and we had a baby! It all happened so fast that Genny raced to catch him in time and we were all in shock. Also, I went all evangelical and I’m pretty sure I kept repeating, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Jesus!! Praise God!!!” over and over again in a very Southern way. You are welcome, little Northern nurses.
We kept Remy’s gender a surprise this time, so I was super anxious to know if I was getting the boy I desperately wanted. Vinnie got to be the one to tell me that it was indeed a boy, which was just magical. Honestly, it wasn’t that surprising because Vin had dreamed that it was another boy. That guy is 4 for 4 on gender predicting dreams. 4 for 4. 100%. Take him to Vegas, somebody, because that man is a winner!
Anyway, we had sweet Remy Vincent in our arms at 12:14 am, 8 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long. The entire time we were in the hospital people kept saying he was such a big baby, which cracked us up because Everett was over a pound heavier. Remy nursed right away and snuggled and peed on me and he was just perfect from the start. That boy had/has so much dark hair, which is amazing since we’re so used to bald babies around here. He looked like a perfectly grouchy old gentleman, as all newborn babies should.
After he was born, Lauren headed home and Vin promptly got a resurgence of the stomach flu. Because why not?? Poor guy. He was miserable. And we ended up being dropped off at the hospital, so he couldn’t even go home and had to “sleep” on the world’s most pathetic cot. It was the worst, even for hospital cot standards. But he was a trooper and got me a glorious bagel with cream cheese and I love him forever and for always, duh.
And honestly, life’s been kind of a whirlwind since then. The kids fell in love immediately. Lily immediately forgave Remy for not being a girl and she is seriously his number one fan. Gosh, she loves that kid. Ev had one rough night and then decided it was whatever. Maggie is genuinely my right hand man and I really couldn’t get by without her.
So, almost six months later, Remy’s teething and here we are. Here you are. Happy to see you again, friend. I missed ya.
Well, it has taken me nine million years, but I’ve finally written down Ev’s birth story. So here goes…
Many of you may remember that we had planned to have a water birth with Everett, something that I was really excited about and really looking forward to. My midwife, Genny, is all about water births and felt that I was the perfect fit for one…which remains to be seen, since it didn’t work out. Whomp whaaaaaaa. But that turned out to be a good thing. (Didja like that teaser?? Eh? Eh???)
I was given two due dates, the date based on my last period and the ultrasound date based on measurement. So we all thought sometime between September 20th and 22nd we’d have a baby. Kiddo was born on the 21st, so he was right on the money! On the 20th, which was a Friday, I went in for a checkup with Genny and was maybe at 3 cm. They had been worried about the size of the baby since he seemed pretty large, so I asked Genny what she thought. She suggested I have an ultrasound done just to see where we were and then gave me a “rough” exam in hopes of getting things started.
I met up with the OB that Genny practices with, who had done my previous ultrasounds. He’s a nice guy and all, but let’s just say that his philosophy on birth isn’t exactly in line with mine. In his estimation, Everett was measuring “very” big, somewhere between nine and eleven pounds, and the OB basically told me I’d need a c-section if the baby didn’t come over the weekend. He suggested I schedule a c-section for Monday.
Now, I am obviously not a trained medical professional and I clearly don’t know everything about all of this. However I am fairly well-read and I knew that there were lots of positions you can try during delivery to help get a stuck baby out. I asked him about the Gaskin Maneuver and some other labor positions I’d read about, all of which he said were “impossible.”
“How would you move a mother from her back to her hands and knees during delivery?” he wanted to know.
I pretty much stopped the discussion right there and said I’d like to talk to my husband about it since there’s no point in talking in circles.
Needless to say, I was kind of upset about the whole thing. Obviously I was aware that there were some real risks involved, but since I’m definitely NOT a small-framed woman and I’ve never had shoulder dystocia in delivery before, AND I was still not technically past my due date, I felt very pressured to schedule a c-section and I just really didn’t want that. I felt with everything in me that I was capable of delivering this baby naturally. I trusted my body, I trusted my baby, and none of the evidence I was shown was persuasive enough to make me think otherwise.
So, this was Friday. Vin’s brother, Dan, was in town for the funeral of his fiance’s brother, which was very heavy on everyone. That day was Dan and Kate’s last day in Cleveland before they had to go back to Chicago and I had really wanted to have the baby while they were here. They’re going to be Ev’s godparents, so I thought it would be amazing if they were in town when he was born. They had to go back to Chicago the next day so we all went out for dinner at Sokolowski’s. Guys. If you’re in Cleveland, please let me take you there. It’s basically magical Polish grandma cafeteria-style deliciousness. I always get the Salisbury steak, AKA shot put of meat, as Vin says…and I get it with corn and mashed potatoes (’cause starch on starch on starch, that’s why) and I’m not sorry. And sometimes I get pierogis, too. And I’m definitely not sorry about that, either.
During dinner, I started having contractions, and I thought, “Whelp. Definitely going to be seeing this meal again!” Some of you may remember the Ole Burger Incident of 2012. I don’t know if Salisbury steak was a better decision, but I definitely don’t regret it. The contractions weren’t anything consistent so I didn’t even mention it to anyone at the time. Once we got home, I started timing things and just when I’d think we were cooking, they’d slow down or stop. So we went to bed where Vin promptly fell asleep because he’d been up since 3:30 for work that day and I read my latest Real Simple since I just couldn’t get comfortable.
So contractions kind of started picking up then. I’d sit cross-legged on the bed, reading my magazine. I’d have a contraction and then have to pee like crazy. So basically it was sit, read, contract, bathroom, repeat for a few hours. By the time I’d finished my magazine, things were getting more serious and I woke Vin up. I was bent over the bed and pacing the room trying to move things along by walking. At that point, contractions were still about 13 minutes apart, so we decided to call his parents since they had a 20 minute drive to get to our house.
And then things moved SO much faster than any of us expected. When Vin’s parents got to our house, contractions were only 4-5 minutes apart and I knew I was getting to transition because I felt like throwing up. Vin, his mom, and I jumped in the truck and headed on our way. I called Genny, who said she was on her way, too, and told me that we wouldn’t be able to do the water birth because of the baby’s size. I was disappointed, but I’d expected that. And honestly, I didn’t think we’d have time to fill a tub much less get me into one, so I was fine with it. In the heat of the moment, I was less worried about a birth plan than about the birth itself.
Once we got to the hospital, my labor went into overdrive. The baby was coming and I knew it was going to be fast. I got really nervous on the elevator ride to L&D because I felt super nauseous and vomiting in an elevator wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. For a hospital, it seemed like there was a surprising lack of trash cans anywhere and I kept thinking, “At Disney World there’s a trash can every 25 steps! I wouldn’t have this problem at Disney!!” Clearly, I have a secret wish to give birth at Disney World.
We finally made it to the L&D floor and had to wait in the lobby for a nurse to unlock the doors and let us in. Vin picked up the phone, which rang and rang at the nurse’s desk. I’m sure the nurses were busy with something important, but they were right there and they looked at us waiting to get in and didn’t pick up the phone. At which point, Vin started knocking. I was leaned over a side table in the lobby moaning and breathing when these hill billies who were also in the lobby decided to give us some advice.
“Ya gotta use the phone.”
In my head: Oooohhhh, you mean the phone we’ve already tried using? That one???
“Haaaaay! I thank she’s havin’ a baby! Are you havin’ a baby??”
Out loud: Jesus, take the wheel!!!! (This is my favorite expletive to use when I’m trying real hard not to say anything worse. Also, I think Carrie Underwood gets the point across in most situations.)
After what seemed like an eternity, but what was probably more like two minutes, the nurses finally let us in, and we all had a laugh about the crazies in the lobby. They checked me when I was admitted and I was at 5-6 cm. When the house doctor came to check, I was already at an 8, so we were moving really fast, evidenced by the fact that I was throwing up a lot. Thank goodness Vin’s mom was there. She’s got some sort of 6th sense when it comes to knowing I’m about to throw up. Every time I felt nauseous, there she was with a bucket and a cup of water, like magic. It was really special to have her there and not just because of the nausea thing, obviously. (Side note, I think nausea is one of the crueler tricks of labor. Not only are you dealing with pushing a human out of your body, but you throw up, to0?? Unjust, I say!) Anyway, I really loved having Vin’s mom in the delivery room and I still get kinda teary about it. I had initially wanted both our moms there (a first for me, since I usually have a closed door policy) but my mom was stuck somewhere in Missouri getting no sleep. Le sigh.
And it was funny because during this pregnancy I had read a lot of Ina May Gaskin and really wanted to focus on working with my body, surrendering to the contractions, being at peace with labor. During labor with Lily, I tensed up and kind of had a freak-out moment and I really didn’t want that to happen again. I focused on breathing and Vin helped a lot with this. He kept reminding me to breathe like a horse so I could relax my face. I tried to keep my toes and fingers completely loose and imagined myself rolling with the contractions and just floating on the bed. I kept reminding myself that I wasn’t the only woman in the world having a baby right then. I thought about how I was a part of a larger community, a sisterhood of women connected in those very moments by one of the most primal and holy experiences any of us would ever have. I know it sounds very hippie and new age, but those thoughts were very special to me. They made this labor almost meditative. It was really, really wonderful.
Once Genny arrived we decided I was good to push. I was so relaxed, I almost felt too weak to lift my legs and I needed help, so pushing was a group effort, which I greatly appreciated. I only pushed for five minutes and Everett John-Daniel Delagrange made his appearance into the world! Gosh, it was just magical to finally have him there! Ev was born on September 21st 2013 at 2:05 am. He was 9 lbs 15 oz and some inches long. I can’t remember how long because he’s my third baby and I barely remember to shower. Sorry, Ev!
Here’s the remarkable thing. This baby had the shortest umbilical cord I’ve ever seen. It was so short, Genny couldn’t even put him on my chest because he wouldn’t reach. So, basically, it was pretty miraculous that we ended up not having the water birth. If we’d been in the water with a cord that short, we wouldn’t have been able to get Everett to the surface, which would have been truly frightening. Obviously the pros would’ve figured it out, but it’s nice that they didn’t have to.
Genny was just phenomenal during labor. She was calm, patient, and she followed my lead. I had my usual bout of placenta trouble in which my placenta didn’t want to separate and there was lots of bleeding. This happens every delivery with me, and is likely to always be an issue. Luckily, it’s not that serious if we know to expect it. Genny was a rock star through all of this and was so encouraging. After it was all over she hugged me and kissed my cheek, a gesture I’ve never gotten from another medical professional. Genny’s pretty much the best baby doctor I’ve ever worked with. We really love her.
All births are special for mothers and I think all births should be learning, growing experiences. Before I left work for my maternity leave, I met a mom who told me that with your third baby you really hit your stride. And I think that’s true of the actual birth process, too. At least it was for me. Even though this birth didn’t go as I planned -har, har, like one ever will- it was such a sweet whirlwind of wonder. I was amazed at how truly in tune with my body I was. I was in awe of how connected Vin and I were; how he knew to make me a playlist of music from Up and Wall-E and Finding Nemo to relax me. Right before we went to the hospital, he gave me the sweetest gift possible, my very own Adventure Book to collect all of my favorite memories in.
And that’s what birth is, an adventure. It’s challenging and trying, and completely awe inspiring. I was in wonder at my body’s ability to do what was necessary to birth my baby. I was in wonder of my mind’s ability to let go, be at peace, and rest while challenged.
Once we had a minute to ourselves, Vin and I both laughed at the fact that this labor and delivery was so easy! We were surprised when Ev came so fast because we both kept waiting for things to get crazy, for me to shriek or cry or say the F-word or something. None of that happened. Everett entered into the world pretty quietly and peacefully into a room filled with concentration, focus, and love. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Ev’s birth was so surprisingly easy and, I have to say, it was so satisfying to see that OB, who was called to the hospital at two in the morning “just in case,” congratulating me on the completely drug-free vaginal birth of my large baby. It took everything in me not to say, “I tooooold you so!!” but I tried to keep it classy.
Another remarkable thing is that Dan was able to come to the hospital and see Everett right after he was born. What makes it all the more special is the fact that Ev was born on the feast day of St. Matthew. Remember how Dan was in town for Kate’s brother’s funeral? Her brother’s name is Matthew. I can’t help but think the timing was just providentially perfect there.
We left the hospital as soon as we possibly could so that we could get back home to the girls. Maggie got to come visit us in the hospital, but sweet Lily was sick and throwing up, so she didn’t get to come, poor girl. My mom and dad made it into town and we all set up camp.
Coming home was good but challenging since I always have issues with breastfeeding for the first week or so. Once I pass the one week mark, I’m usually fine. Ev has been a breeze to nurse, but that first week is always completely miserable for me. Anybody else have this problem??
On top of the nursing pain, Lily had a really rough time adjusting to Everett at first. The second night he was home, she stayed up all night just crying and wanting to be held, clawing to be in my lap and furious that Ev was always nursing. My mom and I were zombies and stayed up with her until she finally passed out at 4 am. As hard as it was, I really treasure those times with my mom. It reminded me of how we stayed up all night with Maggie and I was so clueless and she showed me the ropes. It’s such a blessing to have her during those really raw, emotionally draining times. I can’t think of anybody better to stay up all night laughing and singing to babies, remembering silly times, crying, praying, and just being friends. My mom puts up with a lot of crap from me during those long nights and I’m just so grateful she does.
Everett is just the sweetest, easiest baby ever. He’s four months old now and I’ve never heard a baby laugh so much! Lily is now pretty enraptured with him and she loves to hold him and snuggle him. Maggie just naturally steps in as big sister and takes care of her little brother. I’m really impressed with the initiative she shows in giving him a pacifier when he needs it or trying to make him laugh while he’s crying, which she’s very successful at, by the way. Having a boy around the house has been so fun and different and I just really love the dynamic we’ve developed as a family of five.
I look around through all the chaos and mess and the inevitable crying of children and think to myself that I am, without a doubt, the luckiest woman on Earth. I worry that I’m not worthy of such gifts and pray that I’ll be the mother and wife that they all need me to be. Even when it’s hard, I’ve got the best life ever and I couldn’t be filled with more joy.
Want some tunes to relax and inspire you? Here’s my faves from my Birthin’ Mix:
To continue our series on natural childbirth, I thought I’d share some reading/viewing recommendations that I’ve found to be useful. My list is not long. Heck, I don’t know if it really even qualifies as a list.
But here’s the deal: This is a biiiig topic and it is easy to become overwhelmed by the veritable cornucopia of options out there. It is also easy to become overwhelmed by bloggers who use phrases like “veritable cornucopia”…so, sorry. Anyway, I’m going to list a few things that I’ve found to be extremely helpful in preparing for a natural childbirth and then I’d like to open the comments up to other (probably more experienced and better read) mamas and daddies to share their suggestions.
Please note that these are books that I have found to be extremely helpful as your average, every day person. I am not a medical professional, blah, blah, blah, consult a physician, yada, blargh…
This was the first book on the subject we picked up when we found out we were expecting Maggie and it’s so great. I really appreciate the premise that childbirth should be an experience shared with a partner, that it builds the relationship between man and woman, rather than causes a rift, as seen in the movies.
I also like it that Bradley’s ideas are derived from observing how “perspiring mammals” behave during labor. As someone who has seen many a house cat deliver kittens, it totally gelled with me. The entire book does a great job of giving practical examples and great comparisons (there’s the metaphor of labor being like climbing a mountain, for example) that make the whole process easier to understand. Basically, it’s my fave.
This book does a great job of balancing scientific research with real-life stories that have a lot of heart. You’ll get the bare-bones facts about the effects and risks of medications and interventions during pregnancy and labor as well as Buckley’s birthing experiences with her own children. I liked that the research was very approachable and that it’s easy to tell that the author is incredibly passionate about the subject.
I will say that this book tends to be more on the “hippie” side of things, for lack of a better descriptor. Buckley endorseslotus births, for example, something that I don’t disagree with at all, but also won’t be attempting any time soon. But that’s just me.
So, I’ve got birthing on the brain and I wanted to start a dialogue with on natural childbirth. I’ve been having a conversation with a friend who is preparing for a natural (unmedicated) delivery after having previously given birth under induction, etc. What’s really struck us, and what I’ll be focusing on in this first post, is the initial negativity that most people have regarding natural childbirth.
As Everett’s arrival gets closer, I find myself gearing up for one of the most transformative and soul-satisfying experiences a person can have. I can’t begin to tell you how totally psyched I am. Seriously, can’t wait.
And I know I’m not in the majority here. I’ve been blessed to find some really great online communities of people who are as excited as I am, but more often than not, when I’m out and about in the “real world” and the subject comes up, I’m greeted with emotions of horror, put-downs, negativity, or self-depreciating comments.
Why is that? Why is it that our culture is so incredibly negative regarding the “earth-shattering” idea delivering babies without drugs? I believe that, ultimately, it all boils down to fear, ignorance, and intimidation.
Unfortunately we’ve got a long history of negative imagery deeply embedded in our minds. Think about every movie you’ve seen in which a woman is depicted giving birth (natural or otherwise). What happens?
There’s always a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. People panic, run for hot water. We find out that Prissy “don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ no babies, Miss Scarlett,” and then Prissy gets the biz slapped out of her. Hateful words are shrieked across sterile hospital rooms. The doctor bumbles around and the hysterical mother usually casts blame on the father, as in, “YOU did THIS to MEEE!!!” I cannot recall one instance in which birth is depicted as a peaceful experience. I’m sure one exists, I just don’t know where.
Now, I get it. “Knocked Up” just isn’t as funny without all the scrambling and the chaos. And it’s genuinely hilarious to think of Bill Cosby’s wife literally pulling his lower lip over his head. But if these are the only images of childbirth that are out there, I mean really getting out there to a large audience of young women, what message are they receiving about the miracle of bringing a new life into this world?
And the blaming of the father? The screaming of condemnation that he is solely responsible for the allegedly horrible situation in which the mother finds herself? What does that say about our culture’s view of sex and responsibility and the gift of children?
Besides a boatload of cultural misconceptions surrounding childbirth, I think the main thing to combat is the simple fact that the average Joe has no idea how the female body works, much less how it works specifically in childbirth. Blame public schools, cultural stigmas, shyness, over-protective parents, whatever, but let’s face it we just don’t know our bodies.
For many years I considered myself fairly well-informed on the female anatomy. It wasn’t until I took a Natural Family Planning class that I realized how little I really did know. Later, when we were expecting Maggie, we researched and learned even more, and I felt like I was an informed parent-to-be; I felt like I knew enough.
But it wasn’t enough. Not enough for me to trust my initial instinct to wait for labor to begin on its own. Not enough for me not to be tempted by the alleged ease and quick pace and “routine-ness” of an induction. Not enough for me to avoid being in labor for eighteen hours. You can never know enough. When I became pregnant with Lily, I hit the books hard and never looked back. I was intensely more satisfied with my second labor experience and I credit that to my continued pursuit of knowledge. Never stop learning. Never.
Ultimately, guys, we’re mammals. We need to understand that the female body was gorgeously created to give life. Childbirth is intuitive for the body, but not the mind. We have to re-introduce ourselves to our bodies and get to know them intimately to get the best results.
I understand that medications can be helpful and that they can make things a zilliondy times better for us in the right situation, under specific circumstances, but I will never be comfortable with the idea of medicating the body when medication isn’t required. It is counter-intuitive to chemically change the dynamics of a machine that is doing exactly what it was designed to do. Period.
I know that natural childbirth is intimidating. It hurts. A lot. Is it the most horrendous pain of all time that no one alive can live through? Not even close. And the way I look at it is that, based on the research that’s out there, a drug-free delivery is the best option for my babies, so why wouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice of myself for them? Labor is not forever. It is completely doable. People climb mountains and run marathons. Childbirth is no different. It’s a physical challenge to the absolute extreme that will take you to the edge and back…and that’s why it is so incredibly rewarding.
I think a lot of women don’t choose natural childbirth because they’ve been told they can’t do it, by society, by other women, by themselves. I’ve literally had people tell me that I’m crazy for wanting to deliver naturally. I’ve been told, “Don’t be a hero, take the drugs.”
I’ve often wondered what makes women so negative about the birth choices of other women. It may be that they don’t understand the desire. It may be that they don’t feel capable and, when met with someone who wants to try, they feel threatened.
Maybe they’ve met one too many of those “militant” people. You know, the kind who use their lifestyle choices -which are fine in principle- as weapons to make you feel like absolute garbage.
“I don’t eat that I’m vegan.”
“My child wouldn’t know about that…We’re a screen-free family.”
“I delivered my baby on top of Mount Kilimanjaro with only a Sherpa to attend me.”
Regardless of the cause, I think it’s a shame that women aren’t more empowering of one another, specifically in regards to childbirth. While I’m as pro-natural childbirth as they get, I will never condemn another woman for the choices she makes in delivery. Every woman, every pregnancy, every delivery is unique. I am not the one who walks that road. I only take my own and I don’t think that belittling someone based on their childbirth choices helps anyone.
But I do want people to learn. I do want people to give natural a chance. Most importantly, I want to foster a community of women that is encouraging and uplifting. I want my stories and your stories to be an encouragement to others who may be considering natural childbirth, but never though they could do it.
Because self-doubt is the biggest enemy. So many women who initially want natural births cave under the negativity, they believe the lie that says they aren’t capable, and they give up before they’ve even begun. And it’s a shame, because you really can do it if you want to. Really.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I’m not even really all that professional in general, so I’d suggest that you get out there and decide what you think for yourself. And then come back here and tell me about it, ’cause I want to know what you think! This series is meant to provide my personal opinions and to foster dialogue, so chime in and consult a trained medical professional if need be. But definitely chime in! 🙂
Maggie turned three two days ago. She woke me up that morning by stumbling into our room and standing by my side of the bed. Instead of climbing in like she usually does, she asked me to hold her like a baby and rock her. She’ll never know what a gift she gave her mama in the early hours of that morning.
I thought about the mystery of life, that a Creator so great would know me so intimately. That He would give me the desires of my heart, even when I don’t feel capable, even when it’s not according to the calendar I ridiculously planned. And I thought about grace that smooths over fear like a mother soothing a hot forehead and I could not think of anything more in this world that I wanted.
So on this gloriously Good Friday, as we celebrate the sacrifice of our Savior, I’m so excited to share this news with you! Baby Number Three will debut somewhere around the 22nd of September and we couldn’t be more excited! This also happens to explain a lot of my blogging absence because this pregnancy has been waaaaay different from the last two and I’m just. so. tired. I’ve been feeling much more energetic as of late, though, so here’s hoping that the second trimester treats us right! We’ll be finding out Baby’s gender in about a month, so stay tuned for that…and have an incredibly blessed, peaceful, and joyful Easter Holiday!
Here’s Part II of my reflections on my childbirth experiences. You can check out Part I here.
While giving birth to Maggie seemed to be an absolutely endless process of pain and waiting and more pain, Lily’s birth couldn’t be more opposite. My greatest desire was for this labor to be as peaceful as possible and it was pretty close to perfect.
I started having contractions around four in the afternoon on May 19th. I had spent the day running errands, playing with Maggie outside, and doing housework. Vin’s parents picked Maggie and me up to go out for dinner around 5:30 and we had a lovely meal at a cute restaurant. Even though I was fairly certain that I was in the early stages of labor, I was also fighting a very Texan craving for some spicy food. So, naturally, I ordered the “Ole Burger” for dinner. It was a huuuuuge burger with pepper jack, topped with onion rings, chipotle mayo, and, best of all, pickled jalapenos. It was soooo good!
I mention this burger because it ranks right up there with some of the dumbest food decisions I’ve ever made. I just couldn’t stop myself. The “Ole Burger” called my name and there was no turning back. It was very similar to the time my brother ordered the “Blowout Burger,” or the other time he ordered the “Big Nasty.” We all knew no good could come of it, but sometimes you just can’t tear yourself away. And apparently the ability to resist terribly named menu items is not a skill possessed by either me or my brother. Suffice it to say that the “Ole Burger” will, like a bad, bad penny, keep turning up.
So, after I shamelessly destroyed the “Ole Burger,” we went home. Vin’s parents decided to hang out for a while until he got home from work which gave me the opportunity to take a nice hot shower and shave my legs, which I’m sure the medical staff greatly appreciated. The shower was a perfect comfort measure for me. I truly believe that going into labor is one of the most natural things a woman’s body is designed to do and therefore takes us back to our most basic nature. It only stands to reason that darkness and privacy are just what our animal nature needs to prepare to bring a baby into the world. It reduces stress, which can slow down the labor process, and relaxes the mind, body and soul.
After my shower, I felt very peaceful and continued timing contractions, which varied from about eight to five minutes apart. It was about 8:30 or 9 at that point so I went ahead and called Vin at work to let him know it might be a good idea to get home as fast as he could once his shift was over.
I basically spent the next two hours chatting with my family, watching TV with Maggie, rounding up bags, and swiveling my hips through contractions. I looked pretty hot doing my “dance moves”, I’m not gonna lie. But, whatever works, right?
I was kind of in awe that my body was actually doing what it was supposed to do so easily. Since Maggie was induced, I definitely had some nerves and anxiety throughout my pregnancy about how I would know when I was really going into labor. However, I was coached for months and months by Vin and my friend, Kate, a doula in training, to trust my body to do what it was designed to do so I adopted a lot of faith in my body and its ability. It was so refreshing and delightful to experience the natural onset of labor and I just kept thinking, “My body’s doing it! I’m really doing it!!”
When Vin got home from work a little after ten, my contractions were anywhere from three to five minutes apart and getting stronger. Vin changed clothes, we gathered up our loot, kissed Mags goodbye (since we couldn’t get her to stay in bed) and hopped in the truck to go to the hospital.
By 10:45 or 11 we were checked in and I was hooked up to the monitors to make sure this was the real deal. The house doctor checked me out and, much to my joy and surprise, I was already dilated to 5 – almost 6 – centimeters! Lily was doing great and, not only did we get to hear that precious heartbeat, but she had a ridiculous case of the hiccups that literally sounded like she was trying to sledgehammer her way out of my belly.
Soon after that we were shown to our room and the real fun began! Vin’s mom and dad were there for a while, which was nice while it lasted, but soon and very soon the “Ole Burger” began to take its revenge. It seemed like such a very good idea at the time…but, alas, if you’re a gal like me, the transition period (going from about 7 to 10 cm’s) means that vomiting is in your future. And for me, it most certainly was. I threw up while in labor with Maggie and, sure enough, the “Ole Burger” exacted its revenge about three times during Lily’s labor. Definitely not as good the second and third times around, I can assure you.
Shortly after I began puking my guts out I asked my in-laws to go wait in the waiting room. I don’t know if I’m super-private about this sort of thing, but I feel very strongly about it just being me and my husband in the delivery room. Personal preference, I guess, but I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those women who delivers babies with a ginormous audience of family and friends. The medical staff is enough for me! Also, I think it’s easier to focus and concentrate without having too many people around.
The only other person besides Vin who was with me the entire time was our nurse, whose name was Luda. You know, like Ludacris, only more eastern European and less thug. But basically the same. Luda was a complete rock star. She was incredibly encouraging. When I told her I wanted to do everything naturally she was immediately on board and never once did she pressure me to get an epidural or pain meds. She was pretty much the best nurse of all time. She stayed with us the entire time, mainly because Lily was so low that the only way we could get a consistent heart beat was if Luda held the monitor in place, readjusting it as needed.
Let me take a moment to tell you how much I detest those monitors. I know it’s important to get a good read on the baby’s heart rate and keep track of the contractions, but, Lordy be, those things are SO frustrating. I had hoped to be able to use a birthing ball and/or walk around during this labor, but since I was hooked up to an IV and both monitors, one of which was finicky, it was pretty much impossible for me to move around the way I’d like to. I spent the majority of the time on the bed, but it was nice to be able to adjust the bed how I liked it and move around a bit there. Still, though, I’m not 100% sold on the fact that the monitors are really, really, absolutely necessary. Again, I get the point, but they seriously get in the way and cramp my style. But, I digress…
Unlike Pitocin induced contractions, which are non-stop pain, natural contractions are, in my humble opinion, a total breeze. This is not to say that natural contractions are completely painless, but there’s a definite beginning and end to each one which makes the whole thing a lot more doable. I also thought that the contractions were a lot less painful. Vin, Luda, and I all talked and joked throughout the majority of the labor, which was really fun. Vin and I both agreed later that we kept waiting for it to get really, really bad, but it just never happened.
In my usual luck our OB was off the weekend that Lily decided to be born, so the doctor that delivered her was a mystery man from our OB’s practice whom we had never met. By the time we were ready to push and things were getting really serious, I had reverted to keeping a cloth over my eyes so I didn’t actually see the doctor when he came into the room. Imagine my surprise when I looked up at one point and saw that he looked like the cheap Halloween costume version of this man:
This doctor seriously had long, curly, poorly highlighted hair and had the personality of Gilderoy Lockhart. I need you to know that I almost laughed out loud when I saw him. Also, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt closer to my husband than when we both brought up the resemblance as soon as we had a second alone…as if it were the most important aspect of the whole night. Oh, how we love us some Harry Potter.
So anyway, once Lockhart finally got there, he pretty much took one look at me and told me to start pushing. Now, I’m not going to lie, the pain got pretty intense once it was time to push. I also cannot deny that I did drop another f-bomb during the process. Apparently I cuss when I’m in labor…what are you gonna do? Luckily for me, though, we only pushed through three contractions and perfect little Lily was born at 2:15 am! Yes, you read that right…we went from checking in around 11 pm to having a new baby at 2:15. Super-fast and super-awesome!
Lily was immediately put on top of me after she was born, the hospital’s version of kangaroo care. I requested that we have immediate skin-to-skin contact, and was assured that it was standard procedure, but we didn’t get as much time as I’d have liked. I think this is a classic example of both sides assuming that they’re on the same page. In the future I think I’ll be far more specific so that we get exactly what we want out of the situation.
The only other complaint I have about this birth experience is regarding the IV. I was told by my OB that everyone gets an IV when they’re admitted so that if anything goes wrong they don’t have to rush to get one put in. Sounds completely logical to me. Granted, I had to have antibiotics anyway because I tested positive for Strep B, but I still get annoyed with IV’s because they get in the way in the same way the monitors do. Anyway, I totally understand the preventative uses for giving everyone an IV upon admission. However, I found it highly ironic that, after having a serious amount of blood loss after delivery which required medication to control, the IV stopped working. Luda actually had to give me the meds through regular shots in order to stop the bleeding. Obviously, I understand that things malfunction and that those things can’t be controlled all the time. It’s just really ironic, that’s all.
I can honestly say that I’ve never felt so empowered than after delivering naturally. It was something that I’ve always wanted to do and I was so grateful and proud that we had actually done it. I’ve also never felt closer to my husband. I can’t say enough how wonderful it was to have Vin by my side. Unlike, Maggie’s labor, in which I didn’t want to be touched at all, during this labor I couldn’t get enough. I basically wanted the affirmation that Vin was with me. He rubbed my back like a champ and I couldn’t imagine a better companion. I really feel like we got to be a team this time around; Vin got to take an active role as coach during this labor and he was absolutely amazing. Gosh, I love that man.
So, basically, delivering without drugs was really, really excellent. In my humble opinion, given my druthers, I’d much rather do things naturally. Stay tuned for a few more of my thoughts on the subject and a guest post by the hubz…and then we’ll stop beating a dead horse, I promise!
Note: In this series of posts I’ll explain my experience with the current maternity system and the reasons I personally believe that giving birth naturally is better for mothers and babies, medically, emotionally and spiritually. I am in no way looking down on mothers who choose to give birth using medication and medical interventions, nor do I claim that my experiences make me an undisputed authority on the subject. I hope that my story and realizations give others insight on what I see as the often unhealthy and unnecessary trend of medicating births in this country. If you’re preggers, definitely decide for yourself how you’d like to approach birth, but above all, educate yourself! Over and out.
Part I: Maggie’s Birth
My initial desire for Maggie’s birth was to do everything naturally. Vin and I did a lot of reading, relying especially on Dr. Bradley’s Husband Coached Childbirth for our training on how to get through labor. We also took a class at the hospital in which the nurse described labor as feeling like, “when you gotta take a huge poo.” Professionalism at its best. With that kind of education, we felt pretty prepared.
However, when the little darling was coming up on being a week late and our OB offered to induce, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We were so incredibly anxious to meet our little girl and, due to lack of research and lack of information supplied to us, thought that a medically induced labor would be just like natural labor. We saw no point in waiting any longer.
When we checked into the hospital on the night of the scheduled induction with our best friends, Jeff and Jen, by our sides, a “just in case” ultrasound revealed that our little girl, who had been head down for about a zilliondy weeks had, in fact, turned breech. So, we checked back out and did what any normal people would do…headed straight for our favorite restaurant to drown our sorrows in appetizers and molten cookies before heading home to attempt to sleep before going back to the hospital for a C-section the next morning.
We didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, we laid in bed at our apartment and imagined what a C-section must be like for a baby. We theorized that it’d be exactly like having the roof ripped off of our building and having a pair of giant hands grab us out of our nice warm bed then violently thrust us into a blindingly bright, cold, loud alien planet. Suffice it to say, I had weird dreams that night.
The next morning, we were whisked in to be prepped for the C-section. The word on the street on the L&D floor was that one of the residents was having some miraculous luck in turning breech babies around in utero, so we decided to prep for the surgery and then try to turn the baby since it’s a lot easier to get them to turn if mama’s can’t feel it.
While Vin was donning his hazmat suit, I was taken back to the operating room to get the epidural. This was, by far, one of the worst parts of the experience. I wasn’t allowed to have my husband with me and it took the anesthesiologist three attempts to get the epidural inserted correctly. Apparently my vertibrae are very close together. Also, one of the needles malfunctioned and, though it was inserted correctly, had no holes in it for the medicine to pass through. Just my luck. I kind of had an anxiety attack, but was very grateful to the sweetest, most wonderfully stereotypical Southern Baptist-y nurse who kept praying over me and assuring me that, “Praise God, we gonna have a blessed baby today!” She was so wonderful, as were her unsolicited prayers.
Once the epidural set in and my entire body was numb from the chest down, my OB and the good luck resident stood on either side of me and manually turned my baby around in my womb. Weirdest. Biz. Ever. I cannot imagine what that would feel like without an epidural but it pretty much resembled a scene from Alien or some such. Really, really, weird, yet successful, so there you go. After Mags was turned to the right position, we headed to a room to get the show on the road. That was approximately noon on March 26th.
When we got to the room, they started the Pitocin and we commenced to waiting. And waiting. And watching lame dog shows on Animal Planet. And talking. And my best friend, Britt, got there. And then she waited with us. And then my mom went to the Wal-Mart and bought me a house dress. And I pretended like I would wear it. (Sorry, Mama! It was very thoughtful…but it was also a house dress…)
And my legs kept falling off the bed and Vin had to manually put them back on the bed because I couldn’t move them myself. To this day he describes it as, “moving railroad ties.” Nice.
And then everybody had to go home for the night. Vin was forced to “sleep” on a “bed” while I tried to sleep. However, he kept falling off of said “bed” and I just ended up watching The Proposal, which I enjoyed far more than anticipated.
And then it was the morning of the 27th and we waited some more. And Jen was there hanging out. And then all of the waiting got to my mom and she started hypothesizing as to where she would hide in the room if an occasion arose in which she’d need to hide. And then we all silently thought about Anne Frank.
And then they broke my water while checking me for any signs of dilation, of which there were few, and discovered meconium n the fluid (Basically, Mags pooped in utero. How rude.) which meant that the NICU team would need to attend the birth just in case there were problems, which freaked me out a bit. And then we waited.
And then the epidural was wearing off so I felt like my entire body was in that stage of tingling like when your foot is just barely coming out of being asleep. And then my mom had to massage my butt because it hurt so bad.
Have I mentioned she’s absolutely wonderful? She’s absolutely wonderful.
And then Jeff showed up with Bush’s Chicken and I was really jealous because I wasn’t allowed to eat and he also had fried okra, which is pretty much the most delicious food on the planet.
At that point, things were getting pretty serious. I was slowly progressing but the epidural was quickly wearing off because it had been in so long so I was in a LOT of pain. After being checked and being told I was at a six or seven, I was really overwhelmed and asked everyone to leave. Unfortunately for my friends and family, they were already in the hallway in order to give me privacy and never got to come back into the room. Therefore, they had no phones and, more importantly, no Bush’s Chicken or fried okra. Mwuahahahaha! Suckers!!
Let me take this moment to tell you that Pitocin contractions are endless. They are strong. Very, very strong. They are unstoppable, coming one right on top of another unlike natural contractions which have a definite beginning, middle and end. Pitocin contractions just go and go and go. At this point, I still couldn’t completely move my legs so I was forced to lay on my back hour after hour enduring incredibly intense pain.
During this time the only thing that gave me much comfort was a wet washcloth on my eyes and being left the hell alone. It took everything in my power to remove that cloth to talk to the medical staff when they came to check on me. My poor sweet husband tried to do everything in his power to comfort me, everything we had practiced, everything a great labor coach would do. Unfortunately for him, I couldn’t stand to be touched. Apparently, I also couldn’t stand to have sweet things said to me, either. After giving me his best attempt at a nice thought to get me through labor and enduring my reply of, “Just shut the eff up!!!” in which I didn’t actually say, “eff,” he retreated to watching March Madness playoffs on TV which suited me just fine. (For the record, I legitimately didn’t think that I actually said that out loud. I seriously thought I only said it in my mind and it wasn’t until Maggie was about two weeks old that I found out the truth. Whoopsie!)
Eventually, what felt like an endless hell of a process finally progressed to pushing time. The masses assembled to attend the birth that I was a hundred percent certain was never going to happen. Not only did we have our OB, an observing resident, and a couple of nurses to assist, but remember that we had the NICU team hanging out as well, which made for a very crowded room. This was contrary to everything I’d read about keeping birth as private as possible in order to avoid stress to the mother, which can slow labor down. However, at that juncture, I would’ve welcomed any number of strangers into my vulnerable state if it meant that the whole ordeal would be over.
At this point we discovered that Maggie was not face down as babies are meant to be born, but rather face up. A nurse then explained to me that this was probably why I felt such terrible pain in my back. Thanks, Mags. We finally started pushing and, after going for an hour, which really isn’t all that bad in the big scheme of labors, I stopped feeling contractions and basically just kept pushing on my own until Margaret Rose came into the world around 8 pm on the 27th looking right at her daddy.
Oh, my stars, she was so incredibly worth every hour.
The final cherry on top of this experience was that the placenta didn’t detach from my uterus as it should have and instead ripped when I delivered it. My OB was forced to remove the remaining parts by hand and I’ll just leave it at that except to say that it was the Worst. Pain. Ever.
Meanwhile, Mags was checked out by the NICU team and was pronounced perfect. I do believe I heard the phrases, “clearly brilliant,” “obviously gifted,” and “by George, this is the most perfect baby we’ve ever seen!!” I’m fairly certain that wasn’t the drugs talking. While I was definitely excited to finally meet my daughter, I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel like crying or laughing or really displaying much emotion at all. Don’t get me wrong, I was incredibly happy that she was born, but what I didn’t know at the time was that Pitocin inhibits the body’s ability to produce oxytocin at the time of birth, the hormone that triggers all of those feelings of love and bonding.
I think that the lack of oxytocin and other important “love hormones” combined with the bone tiring length of the ordeal truly left me with very mixed emotions about my first birth experience. I was overjoyed to have my daughter in my arms and I was incredibly grateful to my husband for putting up with me. However, part of me was made to feel as if I should be incredibly grateful to have been in an environment where I could be “rescued” by the medical interventions that “got me through” labor. Another part of me was hung up on the gut feeling that things weren’t really supposed to go that way. While I have very little faith birth plans, I was desperately disappointed that things had turned out the way they did. I understood that Mags had been breech and even if we hadn’t induced, we might have ended up with a C-section. Obviously there’s no way to know what would’ve happened if we had decided against the induction, but I was always nagged by the thought that forcing nature’s hand just wasn’t the smartest thing to do.
When I found out I was pregnant with Lily, I was determined not to be tempted by the magic fixes offered by the maternity system and to wait for nature to take its course. Which is exactly what we did.