8 Things About My Labor & Delivery I Wouldn't Even Consider Changing
Once I decided I wanted to have children someday, I started learning about pregnancy and childbirth. It wasn't long before I started imagining my own dream birth: a quick, exciting labor, at home or in a birth center, without medication. Instead of being stuck in a bed, I'd push standing up and I'd catch my own baby (my prize for birthing like a badass). For a little while during my actual labor, it seemed like that might actually happen. In the end, things didn't go exactly like I'd imagined, but I wouldn't change a thing about my labor and birth.
In reality, the first part of my labor progressed rather quickly; some combination of my own and my son’s stubbornness prolonged my transition by a lot. (My birth class teacher and all the doulas I’d ever spoken to said that transition is the hardest part of birth, but if you don't resist it and just surrender to the intensity, it goes by quickly. I worked really hard to internalize that message during pregnancy, but I just couldn't. Surrender is not a strong suit of mine, and I’m just fine with that. Now that my baby is finally out, anyway.) All told, my labor and birth took almost 22 hours from start to finish, and I ended up pushing while laying in bed, with my husband and one of my midwives each holding one of my legs because I was too tired to hold them up and push at the same time. I still felt like a badass though, because all moms are badasses, no matter how our kids come out.
If I'm lucky enough to get to have another baby, there are some wishes I have for that labor and birth. I'd definitely rent a bigger tub to labor in, and I wouldn't exactly be mad if it took less time. However, I wouldn't go back and change any of the following things about my last birth, because it was so incredible, just as it was.
How Long It Took
The story I used to tell myself, about myself, is that I'm a sprinter and not a marathoner. I lack endurance. I’m impatient. I start things, but struggle to finish them. My long labor taught me that's just not true. I am a finisher, and I do have endurance. I can do the hardest things I put my mind to, and I have way more patience than I give myself credit for.
Where It Happened
I am so glad, and feel so lucky, to have had the home birth I long wanted. Being in my own space, where I feel most comfortable, made me feel so powerful while I labored. Getting to take a shower in my own shower, then sleep in my own bed after working so hard, without having anyone coming in and interrupting us or rushing us to leave when we just wanted to relax, was the literal best.
Who Was There
I also feel really lucky to have had the chance to labor and birth among some of my favorite people: my badass feminist midwives whom I'm lucky to call friends now, and my amazing husband. (And occasionally my cat, who was a hilarious distraction at times. Even in the deepest throes of labor, she still demanded tummy rubs. Like, really? Kinda busy right now.)
How Intense It Felt
Being in labor was the most intense, alive feeling I've ever experienced. The moment when I fully understood that it was me, my own body, generating all that power and sensation and force, made me feel like I could do literally anything.
How Peaceful It Was
Even though the inside of my body felt like it was hosting a hurricane riding a roller coaster, I simultaneously felt really present and peaceful (and looking at photos of the experience, I look so much calmer and in control than I felt). Birthing in our home, surrounded by candles, good music, images of our wedding, and people who intuitively knew how to hold space for me, was so much more peaceful than the images of birth I was raised to expect.
How Raw It Was
Sometimes, it feels like human life revolves around a constant attempt to deny the fact that we are animals. However, letting myself just feel totally present in my body, succumbing to whatever movements, groans, and howls occurred to my body while I moved my baby into the world, was a powerfully satisfying and primal experience.
How Healing It Felt
I had to deal with a lot of trauma after the horrible way I was treated while I was hospitalized when I lost my first pregnancy. That trauma was compounded by the way my former OB-GYN approached the beginning of my pregnancy with my son. Meeting my incredibly supportive, understanding, and empowering midwives, and getting to experience how it feels to have a healthy pregnancy and birth supported by respectful care providers, was truly amazing.
I wasn't looking to this birth experience to redeem the last bad experience, and I worked really hard with a therapist to resolve those issues so that I could be OK regardless of how my pregnancy and birth went that time around. Still, my labor and birth really helped me in ways I hadn't expected, and I am so grateful for that.
How Triumphant It Was
I felt so broken and at a loss after losing my first baby, and so angry at the way I'd been treated during the experience and by my next doctor. Giving birth to a healthy baby, totally centered in my own power, at home on my own turf, felt like a giant, “F*ck you! Look at me now!” to them, and to the part of me that they'd almost succeeded at convincing that I was less capable than I truly am.
My labor and birth really helped me reclaim my sense of personal power, which had taken such a beating in the previous year. I wouldn't trade that feeling for anything in the world.