Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Birth Day

One year ago today, I went into labor. And while this Thursday will be all about celebrating Sadie and this first, amazing year of her life, I think today will be a day for me to celebrate her birth.

It's surprising to me how often I think about Sadie's birth. I would say at least a few times a week I find myself remembering something about those four long days of labor, the hours of pushing, the unwanted c-section, and the foggy days of recovery and new parenting immediately after she was born.

Words cannot describe the wonder of growing a child inside your body and going through the hard work of bringing that child into the world. Perhaps it's because I became such a "birth junkie" during my pregnancy that I find myself recalling the experience so often. Perhaps it's because it ended in the one way I absolutely didn't want it to end. Perhaps it's because as a nursing mama I have a lot of time to sit quietly and ponder the wonder of my daughter, and that inevitably leads me to remembering her birth. Perhaps it's just because it was the starting point to this wonderful first year of Sadie's life.

When I wrote my birth story in the month after Sadie was born, I meant it when I said that I had no regrets, and that I felt like I had a positive birth experience. I certainly didn't experience the trauma and depression that so many women in this country go through after an unwanted or possibly unnecessary c-section. My feelings about Sadie's birth are still positive overall; however, over the past year I've found that my feelings about it are very complex. And I'm definitely still processing all that we went through during those long days of labor.

I'll admit that every time I hear about a woman who casually agrees to pitocin to induce labor, continuous fetal monitoring which keeps her on her back in a hospital bed, and an epidural so that she doesn't feel a thing (and I seem to hear these stories VERY often), and still ends up with a smooth, easy, vaginal birth....I have a very strong physical and emotional reaction. My feelings range from anger to disappointment to sadness. Again, as Brian said so well in the days after my c-section, it just doesn't seem fair. Every time I look in the mirror and see the scar from my surgery, or feel a twinge of pain along my abdomen when I get really cold, I am reminded of how unfair it is to work so hard (SO HARD!) for something and not get what you want.

I know that Brian and I prepared as much as we possibly could have for the birth we wanted. We were educated and mentally prepared. We chose a birth team including our midwives, doula, and a wonderful hospital which gave us a great chance of achieving a natural hospital birth. I try to not let myself dwell on this train of thought too often, but I do wonder what, if anything, I could have done differently to have a different outcome. Is there anything else I could have done to achieve the natural, drug-free, gentle and peaceful water birth I envisioned for Sadie? What if I'd spent more time during my pregnancy positioning Sadie for labor? What if I'd stayed home and never gone to that hospital? What if I'd stayed calmer and slowed my breathing and focused more on communicating with Sadie during labor? What if...?
I know that is the lesson of's unpredictable. And what a good life lesson too. You don't always get what you want, even if you really want it, even if you really deserve it, and even if you work really hard for it. Many people may brush these feelings aside with a comment to the effect of, "well, all that really matters it that Sadie is here and she's healthy and happy". And of course that's the most important thing of all. But I do not discount the importance of a woman's birth experience and the central role it plays in her life as a mother and in her life as a woman.

I still feel joy when I remember Sadie's birth. And I feel joy when I remember her labor. Even the scariest, hardest, messiest parts of Sadie's birth journey are some of my fondest memories. Brian seems to remember the hardest parts of labor and pushing in a very different light than I do. Just recently, when asked at a party about when he was the most scared he's ever been, he mentioned those hours when I was blacking out between each push. I suppose because I wasn't seeing myself as an outsider, I still get a sense of my strength as a mammal, as a human, as a woman, and as a mother from those moments. As hard as it was, and as weird as it sounds, I miss that. I miss those moments. They were the most genuine, real, powerful, spiritual, loving moments of my life, and sometimes I find myself wishing I could experience them again.

I'm glad that Sadie's birth is still so prominent in my mind and in my memories. I think I'll probably take this day every year to reflect, remember, process, and celebrate the miracle of birth and the miracle of my Birth Day.


nikki's spot said...

Beautifully written, Rachel. Unpredictability and disappointment is incredibly difficult to swallow. I admire your strength and insight more than you will ever know.

wooly daisy said...

happy birthing day both of you!!!! i just celebrated my son's 12 bday-i still remember my labor very well. for years i was sad about my birth story. we planned a home birth to make a long story short(i'm sure you understand that one!)we had to transport to the hospital where my son was born with the aid of the vaccuum(a very unpleasant experience!!!!!)it's not how i wanted it. but the bottom line is-our son son arrived safely to us and is the joy and love of my life-that's what counts.

i still miss breast feeding and changing diapers!!! enjoy!!

Gratefulmom said...

Happy Birthday Sadie and Rachel! My oldest is 8 and I had the same goals as you. No drugs, totally natural. The best for the baby and in the end after 40 hours of labor I had a c-section and it turned out the be the best for the baby. I still have moments of sadness that I didn't experience natural birth because all three had to be born by c-section but I also thank god that it was available to me because who knows what would have happened to us otherwise. You always have such a positive outlook on life and that will be something that sticks with Sadie. Hugs!