I remember the first time I saw a birth. It was on a video that my mother used when she taught Lamaze classes. I'd always been interested in pregnancy and birth, and when my mom was pregnant with my little brother, I wanted to know absolutely everything. I had this great book about life inside the womb. I happily played with the baby doll my mom used in her classes, complete with an umbilical cord and placenta (which all fit neatly through the stuffed pelvis she had). Because I was so interested in it all, my mom let me watch the process unfold. And it didn't faze me one bit. I think that by not making a big deal out of it, or assuming I couldn't handle it, my mother set me up to really believe in my own body and my ability to give birth. And because of that, I am so glad that my daughter got to watch her little brother's birth.
I remember watching another birth video during my freshman year of high school. It was part of the biology curriculum, and I remember feeling embarrassed. Not because it grossed me out, but because everyone around me was seemingly grossed out or traumatized by the visual of a baby crowning. I didn't want to admit that I had seen a birth before, and I definitely didn't want to admit that I thought it was cool. Surely, as a 15 year old who thought birth was awesome, my peers might have thought that I was some sort of sexual deviant. So even though I watched along and kept quiet, I thought giving birth was absolutely incredible.
The third most memorable birth video viewing was during the childbirth preparation classes my partner and I attended when I was pregnant with my first child. One of the other partners in the room looked a little pale as the messy baby emerged. He called out, "Oh my god, what is that?" when the placenta was delivered. The man had never heard of a placenta and didn't realize that his partner was going to be delivering an organ not long after their child was born. That guy clearly didn't have the thorough biology curriculum I did.
My daughter, who was just as enthralled with the process as I was as a kid, wanted a front row seat. She perched at the edge of our bed and watched in amazement as his head appeared and the rest of his body came swimming out.
My kids will never be that guy. My oldest child thought umbilical cords were the coolest when his sister was born. He didn't want to be in the room when she was born, but he wanted to see how the umbilical cord attached to her belly and to the placenta. He walked in the room shortly after I gave birth and didn't even flinch at the image of my placenta sitting in a bowl. He just thought it was cool that that was where belly buttons come from and that it was how his little sister ate and breathed while she was in my uterus.
But by far, the greatest experience involving birth and my children came just four months ago when my third child was born. My kids both wanted to be in the room when their brother was born this time. My son is 6 and my daughter is 3. My son was still a bit squeamish, so he wanted to stay up by my head, so he snuggled in with me as his brother was born. But my daughter, who was just as enthralled with the process as I was as a kid, wanted a front row seat. She perched at the edge of our bed and watched in amazement as his head appeared and the rest of his body came swimming out.
While I was happy my oldest son was there to celebrate the newest member of our family, there is an extra special layer to having my female child there.
She squealed in delight as he was born. She said proudly to me that, "you pushed him out of your 'gina, straight away." Not only did this make me feel like a total birthing badass, but I was so happy that she might feel empowered about all that her female body can do one day if she chooses. She'll always know that her own body is amazing. That a vagina is not something to feel weird and embarrassed about. That her body works in a cool way. That she won't one day get her period and just feel like it's a burden. That her vagina is not there to be just a sexual object, but is a powerful, even sacred part of her body. Both of my kids already accept breasts for their role in nurturing children. Yeah, someday they might see them as sexual, but they will remember that they feed children.
I'm glad that my son was there when I gave birth. If he ever has a female partner, he'll know these same things. He is in awe of reproduction in his own way. He's fascinated by genetics. He knows that his dad contributed the Y chromosome that made him male and that his dad gave him his green eyes and I gave him his curly hair. And while I was happy my oldest son was there to celebrate the newest member of our family, there is an extra special layer to having my female child there.
Something that blows my mind a little: While my daughter was growing in my uterus, she was growing her own uterus and ovaries and eggs. If she has children one day, she will have grown the egg it comes from while she was still in my body. There is something so cool about that.
I do not at all subscribe to traditional gender roles. I couldn't care less if my male child is into "boy things" or if my female child embraces all things feminine. But there is something so cool knowing that my daughter and I share our femaleness. When I found out I was expecting a girl, I was so thrilled, not because I had already had a boy, but because I hoped that one day she and I would share a bond like I had with my mother. And the bond I have with my mom deepened a million times when I became a mother. She was my first phone call when I found out I was having a miscarriage. She was the person I wanted in the room while I labored and birthed. She was the person from whom I wanted advice and nurturing as I entered motherhood.
One day, I hope my daughter and I will have something similar. If she chooses to be a mother, I hope she'll enter that role with the same sacred excitement that I did and that hopefully I'll get to nurture and empower her the way my mother had. Maybe it sounds hokey and new-agey, but looking at my mom and my grandmother and my daughter, I feel so proud to be a part of a female line. I'm proud to be a mother and to experience the same things as my mother and grandmother and great-grandmother and millions of women throughout the world. Something that blows my mind a little: While my daughter was growing in my uterus, she was growing her own uterus and ovaries and eggs. If she has children one day, she will have grown the egg it comes from while she was still in my body. There is something so cool about that.
I hope that among the many things I'll teach her in the next few years, she'll remember being there when I gave birth. That she'll remember thinking of her mom as capable and strong. She is only 3 years old, so I'm not sure if she'll remember the specifics. But as she gets older and starts learning about puberty and sex and birth, I hope she'll face those topics with confidence and comfort, not embarrassment. Even if she hides her interest so her classmates don't think she's weird. But I sort of hope she speaks up and says, "Guys. Come on. It's just a vagina. Your moms all have one."