For me, labor and delivery were intense experiences. I've experienced childbirth three tines, each dramatically different and incredibly powerful in their own unique way. For me, there's something overwhelmingly special about hearing birth stories, which is why I asked moms to share the most powerful part of labor and delivery for them. At a time in one's life when fear and uncertainty can take hold, to hear these empowering stories is a wonderful reminder that while childbirth can be scary, it can also be a testament of true inner-strength.
I don't know if I could pick just one powerful part of each of my labor and delivery experiences, but since I asked others to share it's only fair that I do the same. With my first child the most powerful part of the excruciating, unmedicated 15 hours of childbirth would have to be a tie between two equally transformative moments. The first, when I lost my ability to speak and the earnest thought that kept spinning around in my brain was, "Why has no one shot me in the head?" The second, the indescribable, swooshing release of an entire, slippery human gushing out of my birth canal. No exaggeration, I felt as though the universe passed through me.
With my second child, the most powerful part was the uncomplicated trust I had in my body. I knew I could do this. No matter what happened, I knew that I could trust my body to birth my baby. A profound trust like nothing else. Finally, my third labor's most powerful moment must have been the forgiveness and letting go of expectations of the "perfect" birth. I'd never wanted to be induced, and I'd never wanted to have an epidural. In this birth I had both, but instead of disappointment I felt gentleness toward myself and gratitude toward medical science.
I'm honored to witness these mothers as they share their most powerful experiences of labor and delivery:
"The most powerful moment was the split second in which I decided to keep pushing instead of waiting for the next contraction. I was overcome with conviction and commitment to get that baby out. It was a moment of pride and strength followed by overwhelming relief and love when my daughter made her entrance into the world."
"The pain of back freaking labor for over 24 hours."
"Letting go of the fears of childbirth. Both of giving birth and of not doing so naturally. If I had clung to my birth plan it would have destroyed the joy, liberation, and miracle of having a baby.
I put the world aside during the delivery from then on. You never hear so many opinions as when you are pregnant, and subsequently as a mother about what you should be doing. My mental state was focused on the safety of the little one and for myself. The mom shaming dropped away and I didn't care about anyone else's birth process or story. This was my story and it would write itself. I was along for the ride. This letting go was the power because no matter what happened, I did what felt right. I went from a fear of birth to an eagerness for it and from a fear of not delivering as natural as possible to a peace about everything.
From the time my water broke and the Pitocin turned on the full force contractions, a lot happened. After 30 hours of labor and a lot of decision points, I did have a c-section. During the c-section the anesthesia did not work and while I had heard that a "window" where pain would remain was possible, I had no way to imagine the situation I found myself in with my legs moving on the table.
I broke off my nails under the metal arm rests, and could hear the scratching on the pads during other moments. I heard everyone run through the issues, the options were few, and I remained in charge. I had the option as soon as they realized my legs were moving to stop the procedure and be put under general anesthesia, but I refused until the baby was out because I needed to know it was OK.
As a health professional I knew there was nothing that they could do differently because my low blood pressure wouldn't allow them to do anything to support me but put me under. The option was to continue the delivery and put me under as soon as I said it was OK. Between the general anesthesia and the miracle of delivery hormones, I was supported when I chose to do it again. Recently, I had another child by planned c-section after the VBAC time window closed. Two healthy little ones and no regrets about it."
"I had a very complicated pregnancy with my son, who is my rainbow baby. The most incredible moment was during the final push. I remember my husband yelling at my to push with all my might (my son had gotten "stuck" and the doctor was worried). When all of a sudden it felt like all the pain and pressure lifted, kind of like taking off really tight pants. They were going to take my son to the NICU but my husband knew how important it was for me to just see and hold him for a second (I never got to hold my daughter while she lived). Seeing this gigantic, squishy, slimy baby coming right at me was so surreal. I could hardly believe it. Just remember looking into his big eyes and being surprised at his size (he was well over 9lbs). I knew they needed to check him out right after so I was OK with him being taken and I sent my husband to be with him and told him not to leave his side. I will never forget a single moment of that."
"When you feel like your whole soul is busting out of the atmosphere."
"For me the most powerful part of labor was my toddler's presence. With my new son, I woke up just after 3:00 a.m. in full labor. Everything went very quickly, and by 3:30 a.m. we knew we had to get to the hospital right away. While my husband fed our rabbits, I had to get my then 2 year old bundled up in her cold weather gear. At this point I was in transition, contractions back-to-back without breaks, doing up little buttons and laces on an excited squirmy kid. I was able to keep myself calm and together for her sake, working through it so I didn't scare her. There was no time to drop her off at my parents' first, so on the drive I calmly talked to her about what was happening. That feeling of achievement and control made me feel absolutely in charge of my delivery, and made me feel like a powerful mom. Baby was born on the hospital floor minutes after we arrived, and I like knowing that if she remembers that night, she'll know that labor doesn't need to be scary."
"The most powerful part of labor is when my nurse handed me a mirror so I could see my babies head as I pushed her out. The second most powerful part was when I was handed my living and breathing baby."