Just under 5 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. It was my first birth sans epidural and I was stunned by the force and pain that came with transition and delivery. When I cried out to the OB, “What is happening to me?” The cold reply was, “This is what you asked for.”
Flash forward to 6 days ago. I was laboring with my seventh child and preparing to have my fourth home birth. After nearly two months of health issues and unique stress in our family, I wondered how this labor was going to go. I battled anxiety, concerned that my body simply wouldn’t relax enough to deliver or that I would have the energy to do so. But i combatted the anxiety with hope and confidence from having done it before: I could do it again!
Labor began around 5:30 am and by 7:00 my birth team had arrived. I was eager for a 5 hour labor and smooth delivery just like the one last year. But as the hours ticked by and contractions progressed but oh! So slowly! I began to feel discouraged and bewildered. What was I doing wrong? Was there really going to be a baby today? I felt bad about taking people away from home for what seemed to me like a false alarm. Perhaps I had made the call prematurely.
Throughout the day, no matter how disheartened I felt, my birth team cheered me on. Jared strummed the ukulele and sang to me. He prayed over me and whispered affirmations into my ear. The ladies surrounding me continually encouraged me and pointed out the progress being made. As the morning turned into the afternoon, I could feel my energy flagging. At this point, genuine fear begin to creep in. What would happen if I couldn’t push the baby out? My midwives saw the fear and immediately stepped in. They told me what needed to be done, positioned me to best facilitate the baby and then left the room so my body could finish the job. Within 10 minutes a baby was being born.
Pushing that baby out was the most exhilarating and liberating experience! I welcomed that pain because I knew what it meant: the finish line was within reach. This baby I had nurtured inside for ten and one-half months would be in my arms within moments. I delivered that child with a reserve of energy I didn’t even know I had. Truthfully, it wasn’t my energy or strength that brought Tehillah into this world; it was God’s. He promised me all along that He would carry me through. I had myopically assumed that meant He would make it easy, pain free even, so that I could do it. That was the farthest thing from the truth; I felt every nanosecond of that birth and difficult hardly begins to describe what happened. He brought me to the end of myself so I could experience His sustenance and faithfulness.
In those last moments of labor I had flashbacks to the traumatic birth of our second daughter and I pondered how this one was different. The major difference was that nearly five years ago I was blamed for my pain and told that my agony was a bad thing. This time, those providing my care were celebrating my strength and assuring me that I could do this. Pain wasn’t viewed as bad in any way; it was viewed as a channel of empowerment. My choices for this birth gave me an opportunity to see what my body could do. What a difference it makes how people interpret our pain!
There is no question that our birth stories become a part of who we are. I, for one, place great weight on my births and what they reveal about me. But this one in particular taught me that hard doesn’t always mean bad; perfect doesn’t always mean things go as planned; and beautiful doesn’t always mean easy. Life, babies, and births are unpredictable and embracing that fact makes me a stronger, more resilient person.
As I hold my miraculous new daughter and reflect back on my freshest birth story, the dominating emotion which colors it is gratitude.