“How were you changed by the process of growing a human being inside of you for 9 to 10 months?” “What was it like to meet that brand new soul for the very first time and to know that person came from you?” “How has motherhood transformed you as an individual?”
Those aren’t questions that are normally asked when people are chatting with moms, are they? Instead, birth stories are often shown as much interest as personal accounts of learning to drive- they might come up in certain circles but not on a regular basis. When birth stories are discussed, they are often summarized in basic facts and descriptions with emotions and thoughts omitted. But no pregnancy or birth is ordinary; each one is miraculous and unique.
This indifference towards the miraculous process that keeps mankind from extinction varies in intensity from nonchalance to hostility. One subtle indicator of our culture’s attitude about motherhood is evidenced by how quickly the new mom is shoved out the door in those early postpartum months. I remember the accolades I received after my first babies were born when I resumed a normal pace and routine as soon as possible. It stroked my ego to hear, “You’re amazing! Only 3 weeks postpartum and you’re already hiking?” It made me want to do more faster. The same could be said for the new mom returning to work a mere 6, 8, or 12 weeks after delivering her child. She is praised for not resting, not allowing her organs to settle back in place or her blood volume to regulate, not giving her emotions and body a chance to adapt to nurturing a tiny human outside her body, not getting a chance to enjoy her baby every hour of the day as it begins all those firsts. Instead, she is assured that pushing herself is worth it; that slowing down and savoring is an indulgence, not a necessity.
In an era that boasts the catch phrase, “My body, my choice,” mothers can recognize the empowerment that comes through pregnancy and childbirth. She can learn to not be ashamed of the way her body changes but to be awed by it. She can exchange fear of birth for anticipation as she awaits the new persons within: both her and her child. And in the midst of the grueling labor of motherhood, she can welcome the invitation to rest, to make home her haven and to embrace the abundance of rewards that her efforts have earned: the firsts, the hugs, the discoveries, and the satisfaction of being the one they run to.
It is my belief that when we minimize the portal to motherhood, that is, pregnancy and childbirth, we are robbing ourselves of the heartbeat of our society. When mothers are equipped to determine the direction of their pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery, their birth stories will become their crowning achievement.