Giving birth is a powerful, wholly unique, and strange experience. It has the power to shift your perspective, empower you, create, and deepen connections in ways you never know possible. The people I felt instantly connected to the moment I gave birth surprised me because, for the most part, I had a meaningful relationship with these people already. Still, birth suddenly created a new way to identify with and relate to them. It was like finding a hidden tunnel system under the house I'd lived in for years.
My baby is not one of the people I felt instantly connected to, though. I honestly considered lying about this fact, because even I am not immune to the pressure to have an instant connection with your newborn. However, I think it's important to be honest about the fact that motherhood does different things to different people and there's no "one way" or "right way" to react to it. That's not to say I didn't love my children right away, because I did. I just didn't gaze into their eyes and see someone I felt I knew. I saw someone I wanted to know, desperately. They were instantly beloved strangers.
So who were the people who immediately, and through no real action of their own, knitted themselves closer to my newly mommy-ed soul? Well, here are just a few:
The fact that I chose to have a child with this dude is proof that we were already pretty close, but having our children made me feel even closer. I mean, hot damn you guys: we made a human together. (Granted, I did the vast majority of the heavy lifting, but he was always there.)
Our baby is part him and part me, which is humbling and amazing in and of itself. More impressively, though, is the fact I knew we would both be dedicated to raising this very tiny human together for the rest of our lives. Thinking about that automatically flooded me with lots of happy, bond-building hormones.
My mom is one of those adorable, gushy, demonstrably affectionate moms. In her mushiest, most dramatic moments, she always told me that I would never understand just how much she loved me until I had a baby of my own. Yeah, she was right.
Like, I always knew she was basically obsessed with me, but even though I didn't feel an instant connection with my babies, I instantly completely adored them and I knew I would do anything for them. This, in turn, made me feel super precious and loved, because I knew in a way I hadn't before the crazy depths of my own mother's adoration.
While I'd had a really positive experience for someone who had an emergency c-section, I knew I really wanted to try to give birth vaginally. My quest to do so led me to the care of a midwife during my second pregnancy. Sadly a distressing number of OB-GYNs, are not "VBAC friendly," even if someone is considered a good candidate for a vaginal birth after a cesarean.
I loved the OB who attended me for my first pregnancy and birth, but I loved my midwife. The quality of care I received already made me feel close to her, but after I actually pushed a baby out of my lady bits (like we'd be talking about for months), I felt even closer to her. I knew her expertise and belief in me was a huge factor in my success.
This woman was absolutely amazeballs during labor and delivery. Where my midwife was everything you'd imagine when you hear the term "midwife" (gentle, calming, soothing) my nurse was like a personal trainer who yells at you in a good-natured but tough way because she knows you've got one more push in you. They were a fabulous team.
After delivery, and after my midwife stepped out and my partner accompanied our daughter to the nursery, it was just me and my nurse hanging out and recapping the birth together. It was a really lovely bonding experience (plus she delightedly showed me my placenta). When you gaze at a raw steak-looking temporary organ with someone you can't help but grow closer.
Super Pregnant Women Who Still Had To Give Birth
Because, my dears, you have so much in store for you. Some of it sucks and some of it is cool and overall it is a humbling and life-changing experience.
Other People Who Had Given Birth The Same Way I Did
I still feel a special kinship with c-section and VBAC moms. C-sections are super common but, in general, members of the Sisterhood of the Scalpel are still in the minority. On top of that, there's a lot of stigma often attached with c-sections and it's always really great to talk to other mamas who actually know WTF they're talking about. Shortly after my son was delivered via cesarean, I actually started thinking about how there was a community of women who knew exactly what I had experienced and that was a nice feeling.
If c-section moms are a (sizable) minority, VBAC moms are damn unicorns. Having a vaginal birth after a c-section doesn't happen all that often, so the small numbers alone make being a VBAC mom feel like being a member of a club. Plus, "VBACing" is almost always an intentional, determined decision, too often made in the face of opposition and complicated constraints. So once I successfully gave birth vaginally it was like I sent a beacon of good vibes out into the universe to my fellow VBAC moms, like "I did it! I'm in the club now!"
Hospital Kitchen Staff
I was hungry AF after pushing out that baby. I'd also been denied my favorite foods for months due to gestational diabetes, so I was ready to go to town on some carbs. All I had to do was call the hospital kitchen staff and tell them exactly what I wanted and they brought it. French toast, chocolate milk, ice cream — just like I'd dreamed it, you guys! They got me on a deep psychic and spiritual level, and for that I felt as close to them as siblings.
My In-Law's Dog
Years before I had my human puppies, my in-law's dog, Bu, became a mom of seven. We were living near them at the time, so I got to see Bu's journey to motherhood up close. To say she was a natural would be a lie. Bu had no idea what she was doing and a lot of the time she seemed really confused by her babies. She loved them (as evidenced by the time one of them got hurt and she cuddled up with him), but by and large she was a bit hapless.
After giving birth and being presented with my children (especially my firstborn) I thought of Bu because I, too, was like, "OMG, OK, now what? What do you want me to do with this? I have no idea what I'm doing."
Bu, I feel you, girl. I'm picking up what you're putting down.
Women Without Access To Maternity Care
This whole "getting a baby out of you and then worrying about it for the rest of forever" is scary, stressful, and crazy enough under the best possible circumstances. After my children were in my arms and I knew they were safe and healthy, it didn't take long for me to think about how lucky I was and feel instant empathy, love, and connection to those around the world (and around the corner) who will not see a single professional throughout their pregnancies, labors, or deliveries. Women with babies will not receive neonatal care.
It's not like I was a shallow and unfeeling monster beforehand, but having experienced birth myself deepened my feelings (and inspired me to deepen my commitment to organizations committed to maternal health and family planning, financially and otherwise).
Literally All Mothers That Ever Were Or Ever Will Be
This is the hippie in me coming out, but I don't even care. After having babies I felt a meaningful kinship with all mothers — good moms, bad moms, past, present, and future moms, animal moms. I know motherhood isn't a universal experience. I know that not every person to have a baby steps up to the title of "mother." However, there are experiences we have that connect us in powerful ways and, for me, motherhood is one of them.