[All Photos by Kaitlyn Walters Photography]
One year later and I still can’t articulate fully what a meaningful experience bringing our boy earthside was for us.
When people hear that I had a great birth experience they usually want to know all the details or share how they had hoped for a similar experience, but unfortunately didn’t get it.
I have now seen first hand just how impactful birth is for everyone who experiences it. We are all connected to birth. We were all birthed and many of us will birth. It is powerful, it is vulnerable, and it is normal.
Exposure to all of what birth can and does entail is part of what lead to me having the amazing experience I had, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Before John and I even decided to have a baby I started researching what all options there are for getting a baby here. I have a complicated relationship with the medical world and years of medical trauma. The first thing I did when I moved to the area was to find a doula. I knew a good doula would be an advocate for me and help me find a path forward to the care I needed. I searched Instagram for local doulas and had an immediate gut feeling about Julie✨
Long before I’d welcome my first baby, Julie generously agreed to meet me for coffee and answer all of my burning questions. The one warning she gave me was not to have a December baby because she wouldn’t be in town then, I chuckled and in all seriousness said, “oh I’d NEVER have a baby anytime close to Christmas”.
I have to believe Julie laughed when I texted her months later saying I was pregnant and likely due the first week in January.
My pregnancy was uneventful, but challenging. I had no real complications, but was so sick the entire time. It was grueling and truthfully unenjoyable the whole way through. I did not glow and if I did it was likely an unflattering shade of green.
I did however get through it and put all the energy I had into preparing to meet my baby. John and I took a birth class with Julie, read books, watched videos, asked questions, wrote affirmations, and let go of expectations.
I also grieved. I missed my mom my entire pregnancy and was surprised at the role that played in my experience. I asked Julie if grief could stunt labor in the same way fear could and she was great to invite me into making space for what I was feeling in the weeks leading up to my due date.
Speaking of due dates, the only real concern I had was not having a baby while my doula was away or on my actual due date. December passed, my doula was back, and babies rarely come on their actual due date.
Despite my plans for a day full of pampering before baby came, in the wee hours of the morning I woke up to my water breaking and the onset of contractions, on my actual due date, just like my mother had with me.
I had planned to watch a classic Steve Martin movie in early labor, a favorite like Cheaper By The Dozen or Father of The Bride, but instead I curled my hair while John timed contractions and I complained about the sensation of slowly losing my waters.
I can’t tell you just how quickly I became lost in labor land. I had no concept of time and even struggled to tell John when a contraction would start or stop, not because things were immediately intense, but because of how effectively my body drew me inward. Each wave of contractions my body would tell me exactly what to do, “Sway slowly and give in”, “Bounce on the ball and talk to your boy”, “Back in the warm bath on your side.” At times I didn’t want to change positions because I was coping well with contractions in my current position, but I worried labor would stall if I resisted, so I trusted my instinct and moved when my body said move.
I quietly whispered to my baby that he was safe and doing so good. John and Julie took turns applying heat and counter pressure to my back as I felt pressure and experienced brief back pain. I never felt that my body and baby couldn’t do this. I did express at one point that I wasn’t feeling as on top of contractions and Julie simply validated that that was because they were so close together and perfectly ok to feel that way, just focus my breathing. I’m so glad that no one pitied me or overly directed me, but purposefully created space for my body and baby to do what they knew to do.
I know for some this won’t resonate, and I can’t fully explain it, but I do know birth offered me an invitation to hear and believe and follow my body’s cues. Society, religion, and trauma have pitted me against my body my whole life and while I have knowingly fought against those affects for years, nothing has been more impactful than the invitation of birth to follow and trust my body. All of my and John’s research, preparation, and careful choosing of our birth team lead me to experience birth in an environment where I could fully surrender and follow my bodies knowing.
And while birth was this spiritual, profound experience for me, it was also funny. I had extremely specific requests in the throes of transition about everything from songs being skipped to a soda in a specific glass with a specific straw.
I did think about my mom, but not really about how I missed her, but how right it was to think she was badass for birthing seven babies and how close she felt as I walked through the threshold of motherhood.
One transition thought I had was how proud I was to be a woman and how proud you should feel no matter how you bring a human into the world. I also may or may not have alluded to me never ever EVER doing this again, but John wisely chalked that up to transition talk and said we could cross that bridge when we come to it.
After 12 hours of labor I felt the weight of my baby on my chest for the first time. I rubbed his back and saw the little lips and nose and cheeks I had tried to picture for 9 months.
Some of the things you fear while pregnant happened. Stitches were needed thanks to a compound presentation and breastfeeding didn’t come naturally among other things, but one thing that was true in labor and in this last year of motherhood, was that I was capable of facing those challenges.
“Women all over the world have been doing this for thousands of years”
“I am supported by my partner”
“I am who my baby needs”
I can’t guarantee that things will go the same way for myself or anyone else in future births – birth is normal and natural, but it is wild; what I can say is it is possible to be prepared and supported in such a way that birth can and should make you feel proud of what your body is capable of doing.