A Healing Birth

Since the explosion of  The Business of Being Born, the politics of birth have become  a hotbed for debate in the Mommy Wars. That film is what opened my eyes to a world beyond hospital births. In fact, before I ever watched it, it never occurred to me that anyone would ever have a baby in any place other than a hospital with a doctor…at least on purpose. But I didn’t stop with the BoBB. I read blogs and books, including Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth – a book that will make any woman want to start belting out I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar. Unfortunately, they don’t make superhero capes for a uterus yet (they definitely deserve one).

Armed with my new childbirth education, I carefully planned my daughter’s birth at a free standing birth center. The option of a water birth. Dim light. Home environment. Attended by a midwife. My desire for a 100% natural birth was only exceeded by my growing fear and suspicion of hospitals and the doctors chomping at the bit to cut my baby out of me. Long labor short, I ended up having to transfer to the hospital after 15 hours of unproductive and incredibly exhausting labor. I got an epidural. I got pitocin. And though I managed to avoid a surgical birth (in large part due to the efforts of the nursing staff and doctors), at the end of the 29 hour ordeal I was left exhausted physically and emotionally. I felt as though I had failed myself and my daughter. I felt my midwife had not properly managed my labor, kept me informed of what was going on or supported me – the exact opposite of what I thought I was getting when opted for a midwife attended birth. (Caitlin was in a posterior position, which can sometimes make labor much more difficult, painful and long. I didn’t hear anything about this until the midwife was updating the OB triage nurse at the hospital.)

Of course, the most important thing is a healthy baby, but that’s not the ONLY thing that’s important. It was a long time before I could think about my daughter’s birth without crying. Fast forward to this pregnancy and I still opted for midwifery care, albeit a nurse-midwife practice and a hospital birth.

My labor was fast and furious – 4 1/2 hours from the first contraction to the final push. I only spent an hour or so in the delivery room…I remember the midwife checking me the first time and was surprised I was dialated to a 9 already and telling me there wouldn’t be enough time to fill up the pool for a water birth. The pain was intense. Beyond intense. Even though I’d labored for only a short while, I felt as though I’d already run a marathon. But my midwife kept that, despite my cries otherwise, I *could* do this. She kept me updated on what my pushing was accomplishing…why I needed to try to push a certain way vs another. Where my baby was in the birth process and what work I still had ahead of me to do. She supported me resting when I needed to rest. And pushing when I needed to push. She was my partner.

And in the end, she was right. I COULD DO IT. I did it. I pushed my baby out into the world. And in that moment,  I felt the amazingly triumphant…the best natural high I imagine life can give you. And it wasn’t just because I did it without an epidural. And once again, I didn’t have the birth experience I’d planned. There was no water birth. I didn’t “embrace” labor and savor every contraction (unless by savor you mean shouting expletives and/or the occasional vomit). There was no music or back rubs. But this birth healed my soul because I was able to stay in control. My birth partners (husband and midwife) were truly partners…not dictating, not ordering. Helping, supporting and <most importantly> telling me what was going on when I had no idea because I was too busy being in $@&%*!# pain.


First photo: Mom and Baby Jack

Leave a comment

Your comment