“Remember, you didn’t have a normal birth.”
I was told this in recovery by my care team as I was trying to grapple with what just happened to my body, why nurses were physically punching me to help get my baby out, why my baby wasn’t breathing, why my recovery was taking forever, why it was all so … grueling.
I had prepared endlessly as much as one could prepare for labor. I had a doula, a midwife, I attended prenatal yoga, I read books, and attended a natural childbirth class. I surrounded myself with other moms who didn’t mind sharing their birth stories. My mantra was “My body was made to do this,” and this was how I conquered my fear of childbirth. I reminded myself that it really was, for lack of better words, a normal process.
So it was very reassuring to be told afterwards that what I experienced was not normal, because what I experienced was fearful; the pain was more than I could handle, and it was long – so damn long. I didn’t really process this afterwards, though, because I was exhausted with a newborn. I tucked it away as my normal and just stopped thinking about it. I got a beautiful, healthy baby from it, and I was ready to move on, or so I thought.
As my stitches healed and my memory blocked the bad, l felt empowered in many ways because what I did conquer was a hell of a lot at the end of the day.
Until I was faced with having to do it again. Then, I didn’t feel so empowered. The fear came back alongside all sorts of underlying emotions that I’m realizing now I never allowed myself to fully process.
And it runs deep, even though everyone tries to diminish these feelings by telling me that I just shouldn’t have written a birth plan. That I just planned too much. That I had way too high of expectations in thinking I could possibly have a natural childbirth. This is so off base, and it frustrates me how common we as women try to encourage this idea of “ignorance is bliss” as we go into childbirth. I have no regrets in the active role that I took with my pregnancy and labor. It was not my planning, my hoping and my research that failed me. It was just my body. And I have to learn to be okay with that.
I am proud that I went into it with so much knowledge, strength and support because these are the very things that helped me get through it when it didn’t go according to plan.
But I missed something huge in all my preparation. I allowed myself to get arrogant. I only trusted my body to do the “right” thing. I didn’t trust that my body could handle the wrong. So I turned to defeat when my body turned on me 14 hours into my labor.
Had I been more humble – confident, but not over-confident – then I wouldn’t have stopped trusting my body just because it was turning on me. That’s when my body needed me the most, and I’m so angry that I failed to show up for that. It’s like having a friend who is there for you, cheering you on, only through the good. Suddenly when shit hits the fan, they just bounce. I never want to give up on myself again.
As my amazing doula sits with me one-on-one to prepare me for labor again, I’m reminded that not much has changed. My preferences, my beliefs, my hopes – they’re all the same. She asks me how I’m feeling and I admit that I’m fearful again. That I don’t want to count on getting a redemption birth if I don’t get a redemption birth. It has taken me all 24 weeks of this pregnancy to understand what a redemption birth even means to begin with, and I realize now that it’s absolutely something within my power.
Out of something that broke me to my core came something really beautiful – inner strength. Inner strength is all we have left when we physically fall to our knees. I’m realizing that my redemption birth isn’t about trying to get the physical birth I didn’t get last time (although that is certainly a goal), more than it is learning to love my body and trust myself relentlessly, so that no matter what happens, I am enough. I am enough because I will always have my inner strength.
I think that might be my mantra this time. “I am enough.”