I'm pondering the moment I became a mother, twice.
I labored with my firstborn, I was scared. I didn't feel safe. Some thing was off. I wasn't connecting with the people who were supposed to be helping me. My labor stalled. I came to that Rock and a Hard place with my firstborn, but it wasn't during her birth. Her birth? I remember snippets. I remember feeling exposed. Scared and panicky. I remember my neck was throbbing so badly (in a horrid spasm). I couldn't move my arms to relieve the spasm because they were strapped down to a table. I remember the clock on the wall to my right. I remember feeling like I couldn't breath, like I was sure my baby was going to suffocate me. I remember my husband coming in, pale and anxious. I remember him stroking my hair and talking me through. I remember tugging and the official announcement "It's a girl" I think they lifted her naked body over the curtain for a moment. I couldn't reach out to touch her. I remember them bringing this bundled little squinched up and unhappy baby near my face for a moment to snap a picture and then she left me. I remember falling asleep and having a hard time waking up for the next 2 days.
I remember the first time I held her the nurse "scolded" me for bending my arm and setting the blood pressure cuff reading off. I remember how pretty her eyes were, how sweet she looked. I could feel how happy she was to see me. She nursed readily and hungrily. In my memory I can remember the Roo-ness of her, isms and quircks I know so well now.
Those early months were the most painful and stretching I have ever experienced. Her birth was not what I had wanted. But it was what I needed. My birth as a mother did not come with stretching of my skin and the opening of my pelvis in the way I had expected. It did not come with a moment of exultation, the "I did it! Look at my baby!" cry was not on my lips. My birth as her mother was much longer. It came with many tears, and yes, some blood. It came through my giving myself to another human being in a way I had never experienced in my life. Through my breasts. Nursing did not come easily to us, I had some other health complications that made the whole newborn stage a hellish daze. I feel sad when I remember it. When my newborn was asleep at night, I was often up vomiting. Vomiting on my surgery site, ow. There isn't even a word for the level of sleep deprivation I was experiencing. I remember wondering "Can I do this? How have mothers done this? Will I ever feel normal again?" It all came to a giant climax when she was 10 weeks old when I landed myself in the hospital for a week. That week back (at the same) hospital changed everything. We got it that week, I got it. I started to advocate for my baby, for our nursing relationship, for that bond I had fought week after week to continue on with. It was probably one of the hardest, sickest weeks of my life. But we did it. I learned to fight for myself, fight for my baby. I learned, it's okay to be a Mama bear every once in a while. I realized I HAD DONE IT. When we left the hospital that Sunday evening I had saved some thing I was so scared I would lose: our breastfeeding relationship. My body wasn't broken.
And then 10 months later, I found myself pregnant with my surprise, Friendly girl. I had learned a lot about doing things my way. That my way was going to look different, and that's okay.
I chose to give birth at home, where I felt connected and safe with the people helping me. I knew they'd help me. I struggled my whole pregnancy. It sounds awful, but I didn't really want this baby. But boy, I can't say how much I needed her. She changed me. I wouldn't trade her for a million "planned" babies. But facing it all, I wasn't ready to face birth again. I wasn't ready.
That Rock and a Hard place? Well I faced it in labor. A lot of women do. That point where you realize you're stuck. You really have to go through with this. You are almost sure you can't do it, but you have no choice: you have to.
I remember that moment so clearly in Friendly's birth. I was in the birth tub floating, and then I was on my hands and knees holding on to the soft side of the tub. I couldn't do it. I just wanted to beg J to get a vacuum extractor and pull her out (not really an option with a HB) , I couldn't do what I was facing.
I could feel my heavy belly in the water beneath me, my skin stretched to the max. I felt my baby squirm, an elbow or knee shift, a foot press on some thing deep inside me. I remember the unbelievable pressure of my her body pressing on my hips, in my hips.
I remember the sheer despair that this would NEVER end. I was sure it wouldn't. And then the rational voice some where in there would pipe up, "Maybe only 15 minutes, you could be holding your baby an hour from now...You've waited so long. This WILL end."
Birth can be painful. It's not a bad "this is terrible, I'm in danger" pain...It is, overwhelmingly NEW. The sensations can be felt as just "pain". But when you can calm yourself down and be really in the moment...I felt them. My hips opening in a way they'd never ever opened before. The pressure of my 8lb baby passing through. I remember very clearly at one point when I was pushing, I felt my whole body curl around my baby. I met her in that moment, I knew it was a she, and I even felt like I got a peek at her some how. I knew we were working together, her determined little charge (she came out nuchal hand and asynclintic). I swear I could see her. I had moments of clarity when I knew where the sensations were coming from: The pain from my tired uterus contracting, that muscle had been working long and hard. The aching of my pelvis flexing and stinging of my flesh stretching. Birth.
Birth can be painful. The fear of what lies ahead, will I be able to handle this new person? Will we bond and mesh? Will I disappoint? Will I do this okay? Will we be able to hack it? Will we mess this child up? The What Ifs? The newness, the insecurities, the work you are facing. And yes, the joy....And yet, that is scary too. Or maybe I'm the only one that felt that way? I was after all becoming a mother...for the second time. I had held and cherished, and breastfed my firstborn for almost the whole of the 19mos before I arrived there. Facing birth, giving birth. I changed that day.
Birth can be painful. It always brings a lot of change, things can tear or are opened that will take time to heal. It can change the way you see things. Suddenly your standing on the other side of the experience, your point of view is not what it once was. And you have a new life with some one else. Your life will never be the same as long as you live.
How you feel about your birth changes every thing.
Friendly wasn't born 15 minutes after I hit that point, it wasn't an hour...But a few hours later, I was holding my baby.
I held her to my skin. It wasn't the birth I was expecting either, I didn't meet the woman I thought I would. There was no cry of exultation on my lips. But one of utter relief. I had done it. I had DONE IT! I want other women to know that moment, it changed me.
Friendly is almost 18 months old. And lately I've been facing another kind of birth, a labor of sorts. Change. Life is stressful, things are changing. I have never felt so overwhelmed in my entire life. I feel sad. Frustrated. Discouraged. Anxious. And just so ready to get this show on the road! I have been thinking back to those moments where I cried and I was sure I couldn't go on, and I did.
And I will.
I remember how God held me and sustained me in those hours and I know He's holding me now. Every one comes to a rock and a hard place now and again...And the wonderful part? It always brings NEW LIFE.
Hold on through the stretching, it hurts but you'll come to the other side a new person...With a new point of view. And maybe even a new mission. Because of my daughters births, because of the people they are, I am forever changed.
And I'll make it through the next few weeks.
One of my defining moments of victory: