Labor and delivery are both romanticized and demonized in our society. I don't want to spend any time on the whys and the hows, though. What I want to talk about is my own experience with childbirth. I know my experience is mine alone, and something as personal, taxing, and intimate as labor and delivery can mean a million different things to a million different people. But individual storytelling is a profound tool for self-exploration and connection with others, which is why I'm sharing the labor and delivery moments I wish I could relive over and over again.
My first unmedicated childbirth was, thankfully, only about 15 hours long. I say "only" with as much sarcasm as I can muster, because at least 10 of those 15 hours were the most painful hours of my entire life. But the thing is, dear reader, that they were also some of the most devastatingly beautiful hours of my life. From testing the limits of what I'd ever imagined I was capable of, to seeing my partner in the most amazing and supportive light I'd ever seen, it was all truly a life-changing, overwhelming experience.
Maybe there is something about excruciating, out-of-my-control pain that opens up portals of my spirit, soul, and self that are otherwise unreachable. I imagine that splitting open of spirit is why some people do recreational drugs, go on silent meditation retreats, or dedicate themselves to other extreme spiritual endeavors. These expansive, seemingly spiritual experiences of labor and delivery are ones I'd love to live over and over again, along with the following:
When I Was In The Calm Before The Storm
When I realized I was in real labor there was this long, silent pause before labor really got going. Like an inhale, held, as it awaits the explosive exhale. The stillness as I waited for the unknown process of labor and delivery to unfold was a fertile void, impossible to relive but for in the moment immediately preceding labor. A little seed of magic seemed to be waiting in the garden of my soul. Deliciously abundant quiet shot through with reverent anticipation, and a twinge of fear.
When I Had A Heightened Sensory Experience
OK, OK, I know what you're thinking and no: I'm not a masochist who longs to relive the most painful experiences of childbirth. But did anyone else experience a heightening of all their senses? I mean, the colors around me were brighter, the sounds more stark, the softness more soft, and the roughness more rough.
I'd like to relive, in a less accompanied-by-horrendous-pain sort of way, that experience of a dull, flat world coming to vibrant, sensory life.
When I Chose The Epidural
I once did, but no longer, buy into the idea that the "natural" pain of childbirth must be "suffered" by the laboring person. I used to worry that choosing the epidural, or any pain relievers, would make me feel like I failed childbirth in someway. Spoiler alert: it didn't.
I remember vividly my mindset during my third labor experience when I chose that epidural. I don't know if I can accurately describe the clarity and empowerment through the blinding glare of pain and exhaustion from which I made that decision. Even before the epidural came (which took 30 damn minutes) I was actually proud of myself for screaming: "Give me the f*cking epidural!" As someone socialized as female I'd been bombarded with all the messages of the sacred sacrifices of mothers. Deciding to call bulls*t on those patriarchal messages in the middle one of the most personal, archetypal moments of my life? Phenomenally powerful and priceless.
When I Saw My Partner's Inner Doula
With my first labor and delivery experience my partner channeled his inner doula. He was so gentle when he needed to be gentle, and tough when he needed to be tough. He was with me every step of the way. He held my hand, held my whole body when I lost the use of my legs, held my leg when I needed him to. Several hospital staff actually asked him if he was a doula by profession. Color me the proudest I've ever been, even through the debilitating pain.
When I Practiced Mindfulness
By the time I had my first childbirth experience I'd been meditating for 13 years. But I'd never had an experience that matched the complete present-centeredness that takes hold during labor and delivery. This was true for each of my childbirth experiences, too. I often reflect on how I can practice cultivating anything close to that level of mindful-awareness in daily life.
When I Made The Final Push
The moment of the great flood, my friends.
This is the breaking of that final wall where labor becomes delivery. The indescribable release of nine months of waiting and countless hours of contracting and pushing. It was like everything inside of me, and everything inside of every being in the whole damn universe, came rushing out of my birth canal all at once. This was a physical experience of elation and release way beyond what could ever be considered an emotion.
Each one of my three births, though unique, fit within the umbrella of what I've dubbed "The Cosmic Separation." Profound, transformational, beautiful, and sorrowful all at once. I'd relive that transformational moment in a second.
Don't get me wrong, there are many, many moments of labor and delivery I'd never want to relive if I had the choice. But these ones? I'd relive them over and over if I could.