Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth

I haven’t written for the Carnival of Natural Parenting (hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama) for some time, but when I saw that this month’s topic was Embracing Your Birth Experience I knew that I had to weigh in. I have two children, and their births were very different. While both were midwife-attended hospital births, and both of my labours were relatively short, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

My firstborn, Hannah, arrived unexpectedly at 34 weeks. I was thrust into a high risk birth, complete with monitors and obstetricians and pediatricians and a whole team from the NICU. She was whisked away within minutes of her arrival. My placenta didn’t deliver smoothly. I hemorrhaged severely, and even more people showed up in my hospital room. When the bleeding didn’t stop I was sent to the operating room for a D&C and I received a blood transfusion. I spent four days in the hospital recovering, and I had to go home without my baby, who was still in the NICU. We struggled with breastfeeding due to the separation and her small size.

Day 1 - Mom is doing better
Visiting Hannah in the NICU the day after she was born

My second child, Jacob, arrived a few days before his due date. I spent the morning of his birth making pickles with my friend. By noon I could no longer ignore the signs, so I called my husband. The midwife stopped by to check on me, and told me I should head to the hospital. I endured some uncomfortable contractions during the drive to the hospital, but I made it in one piece, and gradually made my way up to my room. They checked my vitals and ran a bath, and as soon as I got in the water my body started pushing. I got out of the bath, and my son arrived 20 minutes later. He breastfed well right off the bat, and we went home about five hours after his birth, stopping at Burger King for my husband on the way because he’d missed his dinner.

If you were to hazard a guess as to which of my two births was harder to embrace, the most obvious answer would be my first one. It didn’t go to plan at all. Both myself and my daughter required extensive medical care afterward. I sobbed on her first four birthdays, remembering the difficulties surrounding her arrival. It took me years to make my peace. And yet, as I reflect on my births themselves, hers was the one I found easier to accept for what it was.

Resting together
Resting with Jacob after his birth

What I am about to share next may sound whiny, given that many people would view my son’s birth as ideal. In fact, my birth attendants themselves described it in glowing terms. And yet, I found myself feeling overwhelmed and confused and the opposite of empowered in its aftermath. This, in spite of the fact that I got pretty much everything I asked for. I went into labour after I dropped my daughter off at daycare in the morning, and my son was born while she was still there, which simplified things considerably. I even said that I’d like to have the baby about 45 minutes after I got to the hospital, and I did. But in birth, as in every other aspect of life, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

Some mothers describe natural childbirth as a beautiful and empowering experience. It’s meant to make you feel as if you could do anything. I didn’t feel that way. I found it messy and uncomfortable and overwhelming. Yes, it was fast, but it was also a lot to take in a relatively short time. I pushed my son out on my hands a knees, a position I found uncomfortable. At the time, though, I just couldn’t move as my body worked on its own to expel my baby. I spent most of my time pushing saying to my midwife, “I know there’s nothing you can do now, but I don’t want to do this.”

Pickles!
The pickles I made while I was in labour with Jacob

With my daughter, I found myself with a birth I hadn’t bargained for, and I just rolled with it because I had no other choice. I held on to what went well, and shrugged off the parts that I had no control over. It was what it was, and I recognized that I had done the best I could. But with my son’s birth, I felt that I should be feeling like a birth goddess, when I really just felt as if I’d been hit by a truck. A beautiful, perfect, seven-pound-ten-ounce truck, who was everything I wanted. And yet, I felt weak and overwhelmed and confused. I couldn’t wrap my head around the rapid-fire events of his birth.

Some months after Jacob’s arrival I watched The Business of Being Born on DVD. It contained a scene in which a homebirth midwife discussed her own birth. She talked about finding herself between a rock and a hard place, feeling afraid to push but also afraid of the pain she was already experiencing. I could really relate to her words, and I found them liberating. Here was someone who helped other women have natural childbirths, and she herself was describing birth in less-than-glowing terms. She was acknowledging the hard-ness, and the discomfort, and the mess. Because birth is all of those things. Some people may find it transcendent and spiritual, but I did not. And as I watched the DVD, I realized that was okay.

They're such a help in the garden
My babies

What I’ve discovered is that birth, in all its forms, challenges us. It challenges our preconceptions, our ideals, and our bodies. It rarely goes to plan – and even when it does go to plan, we may find that our feelings don’t. You know what? That’s probably to be expected, given the extreme nature of the experience. You don’t have to enjoy birth to be glad that you’ve had a baby, and to love that baby. By allowing myself the space to feel confused and overwhelmed, I embraced my birth for what it was, rather than what I thought it should be. In the process, I made my peace with it. Paradoxically, by giving myself permission to not feel empowered, I found empowerment.

For me birth was a brief, intense, hard, transformational experience, which I endured so that I could have these two children I’m head over heels for. The way that they arrived is an important part of their story – but it’s just one part. The events of those days may have changed me, but they don’t have to define me. I’m the one in charge of writing my own story, and I choose what to take with me and what to leave behind. That knowledge, ultimately, is what has helped me to embrace both of my birth experiences, just as they were.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!

    Comments

    1. It’s so funny, because my two experiences were somewhat similar – a long, difficult first birth ending in the NICU with #1, and a short, “easy” birth with #2. I also pushed Ailia out on hands and knees, which is not what I’d wanted, but it’s where I found myself when it was time and the birth pool was barely inflated, let alone filled. (Here is where our similarities end, because I did feel like a birth goddess with Ailia, probably because I was so damned happy that it wasn’t the marathon that I had with Kieran ;)) At any rate – you’re right, just because you had a textbook/beautiful (to your midwives) birth does not mean it was your ideal. And hey – some women just do not like birthing! I can understand the shock some people get when they hear a woman who *likes* childbirth. Thank you for sharing your story, Amber!

    2. you done well, btw – i’ve met your family and they’re awesome.

      i was quite surprised after my own birth experience of how down my mom friends were about my C-section. they seemed certain i would be an emotional wreck not having this glorified natural birth (two bragged about no pain relief) we were sold. they were unsure what to do next when i just got on quietly with recovery. none seemed to notice the true amazement and ongoing hard work that was my very sick baby; a prolonged natural (and for me/us, a vanity push – he was wedged) would have delivered him in less than optimal strength – i shudder to think how he would have coped with the next 14 days of continual seizures and meds).
      I still feel very positively about our birth experience; the Wee Guy hasn’t given me his opinion yet
      pomomama’s last post … having a clueMy Profile

      • True story – when I was pregnant with Jacob, Hannah was looking at some photos of childbirth in one of my pregnancy books. Her take? “Ouch, that hurts the baby!” I asked if being born hurt her and she told me it ‘really squeezed’. Whether she was extrapolating or harbouring some latent memory, I have to be honest: I just can’t get that worked up about what my babies felt during birth. I had enough on my plate, thankyouverymuch. ;)

    3. Beautiful, beautiful post! It brings to mind…

      The moment my first child was born, I was in absolute and total awe. I couldn’t believe how amazing, beautiful, perfect she was. I felt a bond *immediately.* When my 2nd child was born… I did not feel bonded. I was so glad I had read that this was a possibility in advance or I’d have been freaking out about it. We did bond later, but I was just not feelin’ it at the hospital (though I did love the birth experience).

      Peace – that is what I wish for all women in regards to their birth experiences. I’m glad you’ve found yours. And you’re so right, our birthing does not DEFINE us.
      Momma Jorje’s last post … Birthing Dreams & RealitiesMy Profile

    4. Shorter births are like that. My first birth was all goddessy with candle-light and me chanelling my powerful birth energies from the blah blah blah. And I totally expected my second to just go like that. But because I’d remembered it all candle-lit and empowering, I was blindsided by how much it hurt. And instead of quietly saying “yes” to the cosmos, I was loudly swearing the whole time about how painful it was.

      Birth is like that sometimes.

      You’re awesome.

      • You’re awesome, too!

        And yes, totally swearing at the cosmos. In fact, I joke that it took me a whole week after my son was born to decide whether I was in labour, I was just so gobsmacked.

    5. I think your pov isn’t whiny at all! Short intense labors are extremely emotionally challenging, in my experience. My fourth child, first homebirth, was a 90 minute labor and it was literally the worst 90 minutes of my life. My next homebirth was 8h and it was perfect. Anyway, having a short labor isn’t the end all be all. Good on you for digging through your births. We can always learn something from our experiences. Great post!
      Erika@ Cincodemommy’s last post … Loving My Unnatural Birth ExperienceMy Profile

    6. Oh yes. That’s exactly how I felt after my insanely fast second birth. It was overwhelming and shocking and so hard to accept. I felt cheated out of the homebirth I’d been planning – sure, he was born at home, but it wasn’t a “homebirth”. He would have been born at home no matter what. There weren’t supposed to be paramedics there. My midwife was supposed to be there. It took a long time to make peace with his unexpected arrival.

      Thank you for sharing your stories!
      Cynthia’s last post … Memories of Birth: Calm Amidst the StormMy Profile

    7. This is a beautiful post Amber. I feel the same way – my kids birth story is just a part of the whole story.

    8. I love your honesty. I couldn’t agree more with so much of what you said above. Birth is hard and transformational and we do choose to take what we want with us from our stories. Fantastic post and words of wisdom! Thanks so much for sharing.
      Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama’s last post … Wordless Wednesday: Balancing a Newborn and Toddler (LINKY)My Profile

    9. I love this story just because it is so real. I delivered Joe naturally, but Lord above it hurt! I was thinking an epidural sounded like an awesome idea, and I said some really bad words during labor! I felt out of control, and I wasn’t liking that one little bit. It was not “spiritual” for me although having my baby passed to me at the end was pretty awesome, and in retrospect I’m glad I went natural, because I’m sure it did make for a faster recovery, etc.

      My birth experience gave me a new appreciation for the women in my life (my mom, for one) who make giving birth look easy and transcendent. It was not, however, that kind of an experience for me.

      Now I’m trying to psyche myself to do it again! :-)
      Inder’s last post … Milestones: Helen’s Second Birthday and Joe’s First Trip to the ER.My Profile

    10. Amber, this is so honest. It’s amazing what standards we set for ourselves – and then attempt to attain while simultaneously giving birth. I questioned whether I’d “tried hard enough” to have a natural birth with my second. The bottom line is: I got a baby out of it. A wonderful, darling baby. I hope expectant moms will read this and let themselves off the hook a little.
      Andrea @ talesofgoodness’s last post … Own Your Birth: My Hope For All Expectant MomsMy Profile

    11. My second birth was insanely fast as well and it took me a few days to feel like my world stopped spinning. I’m proud of you for both births… it’s hard to deviate from your plans and even harder when the deviation leads you to the NICU. Your children are beautiful and you’re a wonderful mother with beautiful stories to embrace!

    12. I can relate to this as well. My labor was 6 hours from the moment my water broke (no previous contractions) until the moment I pushed him out. The pushing stage was 2 hours itself, meaning that I had four hours to come to terms with the fact that I was IN LABOR with my first baby. I remember timing contractions in the car and being convinced I wasn’t counting correctly because from everything I’d read, they were supposed to be MUCH further apart.

      I panicked. No one told me I was ahead of schedule. I assumed I still had 8, 12, 18 hours to go. My mother’s labor with me, her first, was 18 hours. It’s what I was prepared for. My natural birth plans went out the window as I was so overwhelmed. At 4am, my husband wasn’t prepared either. None of the nurses looked at my birth plan. None of them suggested ways to avoid drugs. No one suggested the tub we had chosen the hospital specifically for.

      Whenever we tell someone that labor was 6 hours from start to finish, we get a lot of “You’re so lucky!” But it didn’t feel lucky. It felt overwhelming and very out of control. I have made peace with it, simply because I don’t blame myself. I blame the L&D staff who did nothing other than honor a scared woman’s request for drugs. I blame the system. Like you, I feel like maybe my complaints seem whiny and trivial compared to other mothers’ experiences, but it’s hard when everyone just assumes that a short labor means an easy one.

      Thankfully, the part I remember most clearly is pushing. The epidural had worn off for the most part and I felt like Rocky during the big fight, with my husband offering me water and my doctor and nurses cheering me on. I loved pushing without being TOLD to push, just feeling it out. Sebastian was born with his arm up around his shoulder, so it took forever to push him out, but I felt more fierce than I ever had. It’s the moment I choose to hang onto.
      Janine’s last post … Why I am an Attached ParentMy Profile

    13. 34 weeks! Wow! That’s how far along I am right now!!! It would be quite an adventure if my baby girl arrived today! Your second birth sounds like perfection to me:) but I do understand what you mean: sometime we feel that we will be happy when we win the lottery or when we go on that vacation or get that surgery and then we are puzzled by the fact that when we do achieve these things they do not empower us at all. I think it’s because happiness and empowerment is an internal thing and we can decide to feel blessed no matter what the circumstances are. Thank you for sharing your stories – so touching!
      Alinka @ Baby Web’s last post … First Stage Of Labor – ActiveMy Profile

    14. Thanks for addressing this. My first birth was lousy and I thought that was why I had no “birth high.” But my second birth was everything I could possibly have wished, and I still didn’t. I didn’t feel like a goddess. Once it was over, I was happy that it was as not-bad as it was. But all it was was less bad than it could have been … I didn’t enjoy it. It’s kind of odd that I had expected to. Birth hurts. It’s messy. It isn’t easy. And it’s so hard to keep any sort of focus in your head about the way you wanted to birth. Though I love reading those ecstatic goddess-y birth stories, it might have been helpful if I’d read more that said, “It sucked, but everything went smoothly, my choices were honored, I was treated like a human being, I’m not in PPD over it, we’re both healthy.” Because that is a “good birth” too.
      Sheila’s last post … Two beautiful birthsMy Profile

    15. With my first, very long birth, I remember distinctly thinking, “I don’t like this, and I will never do this again.” People said I’d forget that in the post-birth amnesia, but I didn’t — I just overcame it.

      During my second birth, I thought, “Ugh, this is awful. Everyone’s going to think I’m such a weenie for saying this, but this really doesn’t feel good, and I wish it were over.”

      I still felt euphoric at the end of both of mine, but it stayed with me that the labor part isn’t exactly fun. Overwhelming is a good word for it.
      Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last post … Giveaway: Everyday Minerals – $41 ARV {6.23; US/Can}My Profile

    16. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post since I first read it at carnival time. I’m glad to learn that I’m not alone in my ambivalent feelings about my second birth, which (to my surprise, actually) ended up going according to plan. Thank you for sharing your reflections here!

      (The much longer comment that has been going on and on in my head has clearly turned into a post. I’ll let you know when it’s posted, but it won’t be for a while….)

    17. Thank you for this. Just thank you.

    I love comments! If yours doesn't appear immediately, it was caught by my spam filter. Drop me a line and I'll rescue it.

    Trackbacks

    1. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    2. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    3. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    4. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    5. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    6. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    7. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    8. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    9. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    10. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    11. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    12. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    13. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    14. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    15. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    16. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    17. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    18. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    19. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    20. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    21. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    22. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    23. [...] Be Careful What you Wish for in Birth — Amber at Strocel.com had two births, and it was the one that went to plan that she struggled with embracing. [...]

    Share Your Thoughts

    *

    CommentLuv badge

    Subscribe to followup comments