Reclaiming your Birth Story
When I became pregnant I found myself absolutely fascinated with birth and everything about it. I just kept absorbing information, and I felt like I could never get enough. At some point it’s possible that I thought more about my birth then the actual having-the-baby part of the whole process.
During my insatiable quest for birth information, I decided I wanted an un-medicated, hospital birth with an OB and a doula. I became very excited about this plan. I would often picture how it was going to happen, how magical it would be, how difficult it would be, how empowered I would feel. Admittedly (and embarrassingly), I felt prideful that I had chosen the “best” way to give birth.
I had myself so pumped up about this birth experience, that I can honestly say I was not scared. I was ready to see what my body could do. I was ready to embrace the whole experience that is birth. I understand that it may all not go like I thought it would. My doula did a fantastic job educating me about all the possibilities, and preparing me. I knew about the “other” ways that things could go down, but simply chose not to dwell on the other options too much.
My birth story is long. Six pages, in fact, I realized after I was challenged to write it all down. If it were a paragraph long abstract, however, it would sound like this:
After much back and forth and agonizing, I chose to be induced at 41 and a half weeks. I was induced on a Thursday night and Lucy Lynn Nitz was born via Cesarean section on Saturday morning at 4:31 a.m. weighing 7lbs and 15oz. Interventions included Cervadil, a Foley bulb (a.k.a. Satan’s tool), Petocin, breaking of the waters, a couple “morphine naps” as I would call them, and finally at midnight before the c section, an epidural. The c section, for me, was a very traumatic experience. I felt very nauseated and in disbelief that it was even happening. Worst of all, I couldn’t hold her. I couldn’t feel my arms, and I couldn’t hold her. My prize. My sweet, goopy baby was not on my chest. She was held next to me while I fought as hard as I could to keep my eyes open and just look at her. I watched her root around like crazy and I felt so powerless. I wanted to feed her. I whispered to her over and over, “I’ll feed you as soon as I can.” My magic happened 45 minutes later in the recovery room, when we got our skin to skin time and she looked at me with what I swear to this day could only be recognition. C section recovery was hard. It was painful and totally unexpected.
That’s the story of how Lucy was born. I told it much like a robot for a long time, as I felt shocked and unprepared to process it as my focus was entirely shifted to my newborn and her many needs.
Then, just as Facebook blows up with proposals when you’re single, or pregnancy announcements when you’re trying to conceive, everywhere I looked there were beautiful, perfect birth stories. Satan began to whisper a couple lies to my heart about my birth story:
One is that I had failed. I had done something wrong.
Maybe if I just wouldn’t have been induced…
Maybe if I had a midwife…
…it all would have been different. I made the wrong choices. I simply did this whole thing wrong.
The other lie is that my birth experience was exclusively traumatic.
I mean I needed a counseling session just to process it for heaven’s sake! It was scary and unpredictable and absolutely opposite of everything I wanted. It was a bad birth. A fail.
I took all of these beliefs and more to the most recent “Becoming Mom” meeting. The meeting had the focus of birth stories, and I knew it was important for me to be there. I was worried, however, that few other moms would be able to connect with the amount of pain and regret I felt about my birth story.
What we all found instead was recurrent themes voiced again and again about our birth stories.
I should have done this, but I didn’t…
I shouldn’t have done this, but I did…
I wish it would have happened this way, but it didn’t…
It wish it wouldn’t have happened this way, but it did…
Regret. Pain. Even shame and guilt? From nearly every mom. We all treasured our moments of beauty, but hurt collectively over our moments of unmet expectations. While all the “me too’s” and solidarity were incredibly comforting, I started identifying these lies that Satan likes to tell so many moms like me about their birth stories. You did something wrong. Your birth story is so much more troubling than “other” moms.
It’s not true though, is it? While we could have done things differently, it doesn’t really matter all that much, does it? While birth can certainly be traumatic, and that is so worth acknowledging and validating, it is so much more, isn’t it?
So what is the truth about our births?
The truth is that we had to be so brave. We were so brave. Maybe we were a little afraid, but that’s okay because the truth is that birth can be scary, and it is not weak to admit when you’re afraid. Our bodies did something amazing. They brought forth life. It was a miracle. We bled and cried and struggled for the benefit of another human. We were willing to do whatever we had to do to make sure that person was safe and healthy. We were forced into complete vulnerability. We felt like we couldn’t do it, but we kept going anyways. We worked so hard. The truth is we found out the strength we possess, and were astounded by it. Whether we had c sections or whether we had a vaginal birth, we did something God uniquely created our bodies to do—we were life givers. The very act of birth called us to selflessness, and we responded with a resounding, “yes.” We witnessed our child’s first breath of life. A human emerged into the world in our very presence. Maybe we fell in love immediately, and maybe we didn’t, but in that moment we were reborn as mothers. Maybe we felt out of control, but we remained in control because that’s what we had to do. The truth is that Jesus was with us. Oh, was He ever with us. He helped us make every decision, and He cared infinitely more than we did what happened to his daughter and the new life He was bringing into the world. We saw little eyes look back at us, and met people who would need us for everything and who we’d lay down our very lives for if it was asked of us. It was the first page of a lifelong love story. We thought incredulously, “this is my baby.” Our bodies sustained this baby’s life, and our bodies brought the life into the world. That is amazing. That is birth. That is home birth and hospital birth. That is birth with an obstetrician or midwife. That is unmedicated or highly medicated birth. That is c section or vaginal birth. That is birth when everything goes as you wanted, or when your birth plan goes out the window.