I am so ridiculously blessed in my life. I have just given birth to yet another perfect, beautiful little miracle. How this is possible, I just don’t know, but I am luckier than I deserve to be. And man, this little girl is loved. She is just a little slice of heaven, a newborn bundle of warm, delicious-smelling bliss. I can’t get enough of her. Literally. My hands are shaking a little as I type this because I can barely bare to have her out of my arms, even for a few minutes. But I need to write this down now, before the “big kids” come back from the park, life returns to it’s normal level of busyness and chaos and noise, and I still have a peaceful moment to reflect on this birth. Baby Hattie is less than 48 hours old, yet the intense memories of birthing her are already fading a little bit, and I don’t want them to be gone before I have time to write them down.
Delivering a baby naturally, without any medical interventions, is at once the most challenging, the most terrifying, and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Years ago when I’d hear of moms delivering naturally, I’d look at them with a sense of awe, yet a distant one. I’d think, “That woman is cut from an entirely different cloth than I am” and let it go. Now that I think about it, it was sort of like I felt when I’d hear of someone running a marathon. It was like, “Either a marathon isn’t as hard as I think it is, or that person is completely nuts!” Fitting, that just at the time in my life where I’ve put running a marathon on my short list of to-do items, I also decided to deliver my (last?) baby naturally. Funny that now that I’m a runner - and actually do have a sense of just how hard it would be to run 26 miles - this is the time that I know I can and will do it. Similarly, after birthing all my children while enjoying the benefits (?) of an epidural - and thinking it was quite challenging nonetheless - it’s at this point, with baby number four, that I decide to have a natural birth experience.
In the beginning of this...um, journey, I guess I’ll say...I tried to think of giving birth without drugs as an athletic feat (being in the best shape of my baby-bearing life, I kind of hoped it would help to be fit and strong), but that really wasn’t the point. The more I learned - the more I read - the more I realized there was a bigger component, an almost spiritual one to experiencing birth in it’s real form. A few short hours into real, drug-free labor, I would have realized that athleticism wouldn’t get me far enough. What about sheer will? Trying to think childbirth as an act of sustained willpower wouldn’t have cut it either. Whether I thought of birth as something I could somehow muscle through or as a process of mind over matter, I came to realize that both tactics were mere attempts to keep myself at the steering wheel. What I realized, what made this experience so much more than just a triumph of body or spirit, was that I accepted birth as a surrender.
See, for an admitted control freak, there’s nothing scarier or more frustrating than knowing something really big is about to happen to you and that you have absolutely no idea when or how it will happen. My sister, at the end of her pregnancy, used to call herself “the ticking time bomb,” and I felt about the same way. I had the good fortune of going early with each of my first three births so I had set myself up for disappointment thinking this one just had to be early too. As the tick tock of my belly bomb grew louder with each and every hour that passed, creeping me closer to my due date (or beyond?) without any signs of labor I got pretty grumpy. So, one day when lamenting about my situation to a friend at the park, the always wise Jennie said, “Beck, you’ve got to surrender - birth is just something you cannot control.”
Surrender? So this brings me back to Hypnobirthing. If I told you I enjoyed a pain-free birth experience, it would be a big, fat lie. I did not have a hypnobirth. That said, I freely admit that I didn’t give it the old college try. I read the book. I bought in to the idea - but only so far. I didn’t even listen to he accompanying CD much less take a class. I just practiced the breathing and tried to imagine such a thing was possible. I’m sure that Hypnobirth is feasible, but to accomplish it, one would have to jump in with both feet, buy in completely and do it all the way. I did not do that. What I did do was put the breathing techniques in my tool belt and call on them when necessary.
At the point of my labor in which I was approaching 8 centimeters’ dilation (late active labor or early transition?), I was on an exercise ball in the shower for about an hour and a half. Left alone in a quiet place, not worrying about what I looked like or what my husband/OB/nurse thought of me, I started feeling a little more....hmmmm, primal? I groaned and moaned and chanted to myself through the contractions and reassured myself verbally in between (“You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay...”) Also, I did some visualization from the Hypnobirthing book, breathing in and filling my belly with air, then exhaling and envisioning a balloon detaching itself from my body, then being blown away. If I recall correctly, the “balloon” was meant to be the pain that I was blowing away. But in my mind that day, the balloon was my head (yes, my head, with a long string attached to my chin) that I blew off my body and watched drift away, getting smaller and smaller like the little pink balloon that shrinks away as you turn the pages of Good Night, Gorilla. I pushed away the thinking side of myself and just tried to go with it. Surrender. Good practice for what would come next...the really hard part of labor.
Transition. There was nothing hypno about transition. Hell on earth more like. The scariest, worst, most horrifying thing I’ve ever done. I thought I wouldn’t survive. I screamed, “Somebody help me. I can’t take this!” I repeated (sometimes at the top of my lungs) that “I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE. I JUST CAN’T DO IT.” But I did do it. And, looking back, I’m so grateful for the books I read, the women I talked to, the seminar I attended at Blooma, the video clips I watched. Because, in hindsight, I see that I could have been reading from a script, my words were so cliche. That’s what most women do during transition: yell and scream, cry, throw up, shake uncontrollably...and say, “I can’t do this anymore.” It’s sort of the earmark of transition. It’s how the other people in the room know the mother is on the verge of pushing, that her labor is almost done, and it’s time to catch the baby. And it truly is, if you’re in the state of mind to recognize it in yourself, the very brink of what you’re capable of handling. The pinnacle of pain, the worst it’s going to get. It’s right then, when you’re on the precipice, at the very edge of what you are able to stand, that you’re there. THERE. You’ve earned your miracle. You let your body guide you, push with all the might you have left and you’ve done it. You’re done with the hell and it’s time to deliver yourself of your pain and give the world - and yourself - your baby. It’s amazing. There are no words.
The part of having a natural birth that I didn’t really think about much was the after. You see, I only got to the Get the Baby Out part in my brain and no further. So it was so rewarding to discover the perks (in addition to the fact that I got a baby, of course): the immediate...and I mean IMMEDIATE...end to my pain. The doctor placed the baby on my chest and I was euphoric, in heaven. All images of...well, dark and scary things...were long gone and all was right in the world again. I loved nursing my sweet baby and bonding with her at my leisure before she was measured or weighed. I loved being able to get up and walk right away afterward, not having numb legs. No IV to trail around with me to the bathroom. No itches. No shakes. No headache. No backache.
Okay, so today I feel a little like I got hit by a truck. Sore and achey everywhere. But that’s okay. One expects to feel a little sore and tired after running a marathon.
I wrote most of this right after Hattie was born. Less than two days after. But today I edited the story for grammar and interjected some non-birth story anecdotes. It’s funny, in re-reading this now, I already feel so much distance from the experience, I can barely remember it. I think it must be something to do with nature - survival of the species or something: when it comes to all things pregnancy, birth and baby I see the world through rose colored glasses. Morning sickness? Nah, it wasn’t that bad. Delivering a sunny side up baby after 12 hours of active labor? Aw, that was nothing; it was a snap really. Or maybe it’s just that when the doctor places a perfect little baby on your belly and you know she is all yours, that she’s the one who’s been with you all these months, it’s so amazing that it’s impossible to think about anything else. Either way, I’m in trouble here if my memory doesn’t improve; I’ll be pregnant again before you know it. (Kidding).