My daughter was born on October 2, 2016. When I reflect back on the birth, what I see, or think, or hear, is not what I’d prepared for. Labor did not provide the magical experience I’d hoped, nor was I connected to mother nature. Instead, overwhelming pain ripped through me. I felt betrayed by my body. All the meditations and affirmations were for naught. Breathing through would not suffice. PAIN BECAME THE ONLY THING I KNEW.
The entirety of labor, from early to active, then transition to delivery, lasted nearly 13 hours. According to my midwives, this is fast, something you see more often with a third child, not a first. Of course, no exact calculation exists for timing the birth of a baby. Though it seems a shorter labor may be ideal, for me it meant each stage ramped up considerably. The intensity of every single contraction grew substantially, and the breaks in between were short lived. With no time to cope, so I became scared and anxious. I BEGAN QUESTIONING WHETHER I’D MADE THE RIGHT DECISION. In despair, I cried.
Not only did I cry, but I screamed. “Blinding white pain” doesn’t begin to characterize my contractions. During transition—when many women hit their wall and want to give up—I gave up. I said, “I quit.” To which my midwife replied, “too late.” I’d broken a promise to myself and finally said out loud, “I want to transfer to a hospital for pain relief,” but I was told I was too far dilated to travel. We’d never make it in time.
When you hear some women say it felt as though they were being ripped in half, it is not an exaggeration. I don’t remember how I managed to push her outside of me. Other than I just did it. There was no choice but to continue what I’d started. I genuinely cannot find the adequate words to describe feeling myself stretch open. It was hell. But a very fast hell. My chart states, “Baby born in one push – crown – head – rotation and body within 5 seconds – born en caul – membranes removed after baby delivered fully – caught by (midwife).” Her birth is rare, less than 1 in 80,000 have their sacs fully intact (1). I try to focus on the incredible: after less than an hour in the final stage, IN ONE PUSH, my daughter came Earth-side.
The first couple days postpartum, I held my little girl, astonished this wiggly PERSON used to live inside my belly. Her tiny nose, her fingers just like her dad’s, the act of breastfeeding, was laughably surreal. On day three, alone in the bathroom, changing bloody pads and using the wall for support, I cried again. Disbelief and awe simultaneously beard down on me. I acknowledged pushing a human out of your body is not something you can fathom until you try it yourself, no matter how many books you read or classes you take.
My narrative is not meant to scare. A quick online search and you’ll find inspirational stories of women powering through birth, many encouraged by their physical, and emotional, process. You probably know women whose experiences of birthing their children are revered and cherished.
That is simply not my story. So, I remind myself to be kind to me, be patient, though I don’t always listen. I wanted to love labor and delivery, and I did not. Yet, I grew a healthy, perfectly adorable baby, and that is what I LOVE. Her, not her entrance.
Today, I struggle with guilt. I’m not proud my need for relief took over in the end. I tell myself I’m a fraud. Intellectually, I recognize my accomplishment; I reached deep within me, unaware of an inner strength I possessed. Emotionally, I’m convinced I failed — even though I birthed my daughter all by myself. I shot her out unmedicated. I battled my body and walked away victorious. I’m not there yet, but I look forward to believing I AM A BADASS.