All three of my births were far from empowering experiences. I never felt like some sort of superhero. I never felt strong. In fact, after my daughter’s birth, I think I just barely showed up for the others. I checked myself out, terrified of the pain and what was going to happen in the hospital. I mentally stepped out of the experience.
At the young age of 19, I gave birth to my daughter. I had spent weeks working on my birth plan. I wanted so many things for this experience. I had wanted a private room, with just her father and I, my mother when she got there, and the doctor. I wanted dim lights and soft music. Everything I wanted disappeared, because when they realized what was needed to get her into this world, the room filled with people, bright lights, and loud noise.
I had entered the emergency room with a harsh set of contractions that were barely giving me seconds between to breath. I was hyperventilating and my blood pressure was rising. I didn’t know she was stuck, that her head was twisted in my pelvis…that she, my dear daughter, was going to fracture my butt on her way out. I didn’t know that twelve hours of labor, an epidural, a vacuum, and forceps were going to be needed to get her into this world.
And she didn’t cry. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. All of that, and she was silent. The last shred of my birthing plan was tossed out the window as my daughter wasn’t placed on my chest, but instead whisked away to a table surrounded by nurses and doctors and I couldn’t see her. It took 15 minutes for them to bring her to me. Her lungs had been acting up and the cord had been around her neck and her poor head had the marks of the forceps on them, but they gave her to me finally, my quiet baby, and she were perfect.
So almost three years later, when I found myself back in the hospital to deliver my son, I hadn’t even bothered with a birthing plan. I figured they were a joke, and not worth my time. I just signed up for the epidural and lay and waited for my body to do what it would do. No one ever taught me how to labor. I didn’t have a clue what to do, except pushing. I remembered pushing and so when they told me it was time, I got to work. Mentally, I prepared myself for the vacuum and the forceps and the tearing that would come along with that. I prepared myself for them to take him away from me for a little while. I tried hard to focus on pushing and not let myself get upset about those things.
It was a surprise when instead, a mere six hours after entering the hospital, my son slid into this world and they laid him on my chest. And he was silent. There was nothing wrong with his lungs, and he had come out easily on his own, but he was quiet. My son looked around the room with his dark blue eyes, and didn’t make a sound. It was terrifying. I wanted him to scream his head off, but he didn’t. He was healthy and happy and we even left the hospital a day early with him to come home.
Now, fast-forward seven years and there I was, talking to the nurses as they hooked up my IVs and the doctor ran through the procedure for the Pitocin. I was barely a week overdue with my youngest son, but the doctor felt he was getting too large and that I needed some help to move him along. In hind sight, I should have let my body do its own thing, but I had no experience with trusting my body. All of my birthing experiences had been dictated by my daughter’s birth when I was too young to trust myself and I let everything I wanted be tossed away.
Two days of induced labor later and we were making little progress. I got to 6cm and they broke my water. I moved up to 7cm and froze there. Suddenly my cervix started to swell and we got back to 6cm, then 5cm. The doctor came in and told me we were going to have to have a C-section. I broke apart, right there on the bed. I completely fell apart. I’d never had surgery and I was terrified of what this meant. I watched my husband back away; sit on the couch and cry.
I don’t remember much from those moments of prep.
I remember a young boy, one who seemed far too young to be working there, coming to take blood work from me. I was sobbing and he kept patting my arm. I apologized for crying and he told me not to say I was sorry.
I remember one of the nurses saying, “Don’t worry. I won’t let him cut through your tattoo.” She laughed and I didn’t.
I remember telling my aunt not to call my mother yet, that it would frighten her and my children.
I remember them taking me away and into a freezing cold room and I looked up and told them to stop everything. “I want my husband. Where is my husband?”
And for once, everyone listened to me. For once, I got exactly what I wanted. Everyone stopped and they moved aside so I could see my husband outside the window as he slid on the blue gown and cap and shoe covers. They didn’t touch me again until he came in the room and then sat him down right next to my face.
I don’t remember my youngest son’s birth much. I don’t remember how it felt, but I remember these moments with my husband so clearly. They completely changed our relationship, opened it up to a whole other level, and made me fall in love with him in a deeper way.
Because when they finally pulled, that large baby boy from me, he cried and cried and I laughed.
“I’ve never had a baby that cried.”
I watched tears fall silently from my husband’s eyes. He barely even looked over at our son as they brought him around and they showed him to us. He simply buried his forehead against mine and cried. Our son was beautiful and screaming his little head off.
But when they asked my husband if he wanted to go with the baby or stay with me, he quickly said, “I’m not leaving her.”
He never took his forehead from mine, my hand clasped tightly in his. Our son was taken to our room with my aunt and best friend, while my husband and I sat together and marveled in one another.
I have three, beautiful children…and three different birthing stories. They don’t seem nearly as empowering as others I’ve read here. I didn’t go without pain management. I didn’t have much of a birth plan after my first. I just went with the flow of the doctors and nurses around me…
But I have that moment with my husband where he chose to stay by my side, where he showed every bit of weakness and strength and fear and love that was in him, and I had babies that were quiet and a baby who cried.
I wish I had an empowering story to share about overcoming the pain to have the delivery I wanted, but I truly believe that things happen the way they are meant to and that there is value in everything. These experiences will help me when one day I have a daughter or son who might find they are preparing to help bring a baby into this world.
I will tell my daughter to trust herself and her body and to learn from others how to handle labor.
And I will tell my sons to do as their father did.