Several months back, my friend and I were catching up over coffee outside on a patio at a nearby coffee shop. It was the first time we had gotten together after the birth of her son, and we were having the inevitable birth story discussion. Don’t get me wrong. I love talking to other moms about their birth experience. I love the vulnerability and connection it brings when two people share the tale of how they brought life into this world. But after that particular day when we had said our goodbyes, I walked back to my car in tears. Maybe I was a bit on the hormonal roller-coaster, and honestly, I was about to get my period, but I was emotional and I knew I wasn’t seeing my therapist for another week. I love my friend. She has a good heart and is busy raising a now four-month-old infant. But I’m jealous that she got the birth she wanted.
I’m jealous that she got to experience her ideal labor and delivery and her doctors followed her birth plan picture perfectly. I’m jealous that she walked away from the birth center healthy and glowing and couldn’t wait to get home and sleep in her own bed after a night and a day away, because my story was so different.
She brought her own baby up to her chest and was able to start nursing immediately, the cord still attached for a bit longer, per her birth plan.
She labored at home for a few hours until the contractions become closer together. Her husband rubbed her back and she bounced on an exercise ball during the worst of it. Her birth doula arrived at the same time to the birth center and her midwife was there to check in frequently. She was able to get into the tub and her photographer was able to capture that perfect moment when she son floated peacefully into the world. She brought her own baby up to her chest and was able to start nursing immediately, the cord still attached for a bit longer, per her birth plan. Lit candles surrounded the birthing suite and her favorite music played. She told me it was an “emotional experience.”
I thought back to my own birth. My water broke in the early morning hours and the elation that I didn’t need to be induced because of my blood pressure issues was quickly overrun by back-to-back contractions, ripping through me repeatedly. My birth plan was forgotten on the counter as we rushed out the door, the smile on my face replaced with a grimace.
I held my breath as another contraction tore through me, holding as still as I could while the anesthesiologist inserted the needle into my spine. I laid on the operating table, terrified the anesthesia would be too light, terrified my baby wasn’t really going to be coming home with us. It all seemed enormously unfair, going through years of infertility and wondering if the baby they’d be taking out of my body would be alive or not. I hollered to anyone who would listen that my husband still wasn’t in the room, as the doctor prepared to cut, conversations about the hospital’s Thanksgiving party floating over my head.
I spent six days being figuratively tied to the bed and trying not to die as doctors tried to get my blood pressure stabilized. I couldn’t have visitors. I cried a lot.
My daughter came out screeching and pink, and if half of my body wasn’t frozen in place, I would leaped off the table to grab her as the nurse took her across the room to clean her off.
Once in recovery, IV bags of magnesium were hooked up to me, and four nurses surrounded me. My baby was taken to the warmer, her slightly premature body losing heat. I spent six days being figuratively tied to the bed and trying not to die as doctors tried to get my blood pressure stabilized. I couldn’t have visitors. I cried a lot. When I was released, my body was de-conditioned from the bed rest. For months after, the hospital stay stuck in my head, reminding me that nothing about having a child could come easy for me.
That day at the coffee shop, I listened to my friend talk about her water birth, the very birth I researched extensively years before I even got pregnant, and struggled to keep those feelings of bitterness pushed down. I didn’t want to seem whiny. I didn’t want to seem like everything about it was unfair. My daughter was healthy. I lived in modern times and with modern medicine that saved my life. I didn’t have a NICU stay and most important of all, I still got to come home with a baby. Many moms don’t even get that chance.
But I’m still jealous of her. And I know I still need to work through my own birth story and process those emotions. I need to keep telling myself that everyone has a different story and the joy she felt for hers doesn’t negate my own. Of course I wish things would have gone better for my labor and delivery. Of course I am happy that my friend had a safe, uneventful birth.
We're moms. The stakes were high. It was the beginning, and it wasn't just about what we wanted for ourselves — it was the first thing we wanted to go right for our babies.