Even as I write these first few words I hesitate to continue on. I fear this post may be taken the wrong way. But it’s not meant to offend or attack. It’s meant to open hearts and minds, and think carefully before we speak (or post). It’s a topic that has been on my heart the last two years and just now the words are coming to me. I think it’s because there has been an explosion of babies at the start of 2014 and when ever I hear about a new one’s arrival, I always wonder what the mother’s story is. When I write a more serious post it’s my need to be real and honest and speak on behalf of those (mothers) who have been made to feel like they failed, when they haven’t. It’s similar to my breastfeeding post here.
When I was pregnant with Benjamin I had an idea in my head about what childbirth would be like. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t know what kind of hurt. I also “knew,” or thought it would be text book. My labor would start at home, we would go to the hospital when the time was right, I would labor there, throw up and push out my baby. And of course it would all be without any intervention; cytotec, pitocin, epidural, cesarean, and so on. Our childbirth educator taught us that it may not always go as we plan. I agreed, but never thought that applied to me.
Little did I know what was ahead of me. I was 4 days late with Benjamin. It was 8 o’clock in the morning when I jumped out of bed because my water broke. We called the midwife and she told me to call back when my labor was going. Well, it didn’t start. I had random contractions on and off during the day until we found ourselves at the hospital at 10 o’clock at night ready to be induced. They gave me a half a dose of cytotec and told me to go to sleep. During that first hour, my labor took off. I labored for 9 hours on the floor and in the tub until I couldn’t take it. I was discouraged by little dilation and was exhausted since it had been 24 hours since I had slept. So I went for the epidural. My body relaxed and things progressed quickly. But as I was pushing, my heart rate began to sky rocket. They told me to stop pushing. They got a doctor (male, ugh!) and that doctor had forceps (ugh!). With a little pushing on my part and a little pulling on the his part, Benjamin arrived. After he arrived all the memories of labor pains, needles in my back and everything else faded away, because here was my baby. Don’t get me wrong I relive that story (in greater detail) all the time, but in that moment it was forgotten because my little boy arrived.
So when I was pregnant with Gilbert I thought the next time would be different. I thought labor would start on it’s own, but I did my best to remind myself some kind of intervention could happen. But of course I was wrong. Labor never even had a chance to start on it’s own. I found myself getting induced 2 weeks early because I had cholestasis (the over production on toxins from your liver). It can be dangerous to you and the baby. Yet again labor didn’t start on it’s own. But I had hope of no epidural. We got up early for the induction. But the hospital was understaffed so they kept sending us away. My 7am induction turned into a 7pm induction. So I was going into labor after 12 hours of anxiety and anticipation. I took the cytotec, which started my labor. I had lots of contractions, but even after walking the hospital for hours the contractions weren’t strong enough. So they gave me pitocin which chained me to the bed. I did that for a few hours and after such little sleep and the inability to position myself the way I wanted, I was done. I got the epidural. But that didn’t make a single difference. My legs were dead, but all the pain went into my left hip. It felt like an elephant was standing on me. Thankfully, the stronger the pain got the quicker it got me to pushing. Eight minutes after calling in the midwife and lots of tears, Gilbert arrived. And again, all was forgotten, my little boy had arrived.
I write my story to give it strength. I write my story to give it life. I was induced, I had epidurals, but I also had pain and sleep deprivation. I worked my butt off for the entrance of my babies. I have spent the last two years feeling bad about my birth stories. Things like certain morning talk shows, Facebook posts, various conversations with friends and acquaintances have made my story feel invalid, like I cheated or something, or didn’t put in the work, or harmed my baby. They weren’t meant to be on purpose, but, man did they still sting. I felt like I had to explain why I had an epidural and still felt the blank stares. But now I love my stories, no matter what. And there are days those voices creep back in, but I look at my boys and remember the day they came into my life.
I write this for all the mothers out there who assumed labor would be text book and all would go as planned: no induction, no epidural, no cesarean…no intervention. You didn’t quite get what you wanted. But, your labor was hard, you worked hard and your baby’s arrival has a story worth telling. It doesn’t matter if you you had pain relief or were cut open or pumped with drugs. You didn’t have a choice, your body did what it did and your baby came the way it did. And your baby is beautiful and it is here.
But even though we mothers know that, society loves to make us feel like we have failed. We didn’t go natural, so obviously we did something wrong. Don’t get me wrong, if you went natural, that’s awesome. Your baby is here and it is beautiful. My sister did all 3 of her babies natural. Her last baby was 11 lbs. 6 oz. and she pushed him out without any drugs. I think she might be Wonder Woman. But she knows, like I do it doesn’t mean she is better than me, or her story is better than mine. Her body did what it did and my body did what it did. We both have beautiful babies who made beautiful entrances into this world. Some of our stories may be more painful to tell and they may have a longer lasting emotional impact on us. But it is the story of how your baby made it’s entrance into the world.
I write this, not only to you moms out their. I write this to everyone. I write this to the mom’s that make it a competition about how natural your birth was compared to that mom on the playground. I write this to the those out their who ask a new mom if they had an epidural or not…it’s none of your business. I write this to those who think a cesarean isn’t childbirth.
When I was pregnant with Benjamin I was at a party where I found myself in the most awkward conversation. One mom was telling me how relieved she was when she got her epidural during labor, when another mom chimed in and told me natural was better and that that’s what I should do. She meant well, but I’m not sure she realized the crushed look that was on that other mother’s face. The story of her baby’s entrance was minimized. Her sweet baby’s story was squashed, all because she didn’t do it a “certain” way.
Mom’s, it’s okay to be proud of your natural childbirth, you did awesome. Your baby is here and it is beautiful. But please, please don’t brag about it to downgrade the stories of moms who could not have that experience or chose not to have that experience. Let’s share our stories to bond. We share a bond that can bring us together and help us connect and support one another. Since having my own children, I love hearing other peoples birth stories, every gritty detail. Because I know the blood, sweat and tears that each mom goes through to get that baby out.
And to all those out there who find themselves judging mom’s who didn’t go natural. You don’t know their story, you were not in that delivery room. So you you don’t have the right to crush the story of their baby’s entrance. Epidural or not, cesarean or not, that is how their baby arrived and it’s a story that will forever be with them.
I also acknowledge there are more painful stories with outcomes are not what was hoped for. And that is why we need to be especially sensitive to every mother’s story. And those mom’s can choose or not choose to share that story. But it is their story and we need to be careful with our words.
So, when you talk to a mom who has just given birth, don’t ask; did you get an epidural? Ask, how was your labor? And if your are close enough to them and feel comfortable, ask them to tell your their story. It’s an important story that will stay with them forever, and will shape and mold who they are as a person. It’s the story of their baby’s entrance into this world.