I love reflecting. In fact, I struggle to live in the moment because I spend so much time thinking about the past (and dreaming about the future). But I think it can be healthy to reflect on the past, especially when it was a momentous time in your life and you want to hold onto the memories forever. So here we go, down memory lane…
I remember thinking I was going to die, and that I just couldn’t do it anymore, but at the same time feeling stronger than any other human on earth in that moment. Labour is like lifting a car off of someone. You don’t know you’ve got it in you until you do it, and there’s no way you could summon that strength under ordinary conditions. I remained more afraid of an epidural than of the pain of childbirth throughout the whole thing. And I prevailed. I remain incredibly impressed with myself for giving birth without pain management of any kind, because that was an experience I really wanted under my belt. I would have liked to have had a completely unmedicated birth, but the pitocin wasn’t so bad. It kept things on track. In hindsight, I remember the midwife saying that my contractions were petering out part way through pushing, so I am thankful to have had an easy way to pick them back up again. Losing the strength of your contractions after having pushed for a while is one reason for ending up on the operating table. Thankful.
That’s a word I often used to describe my birth experience to people. I’m thankful that my high blood pressure and family history of pre-eclampsia didn’t end up in pre-e for me. I’m thankful that I got my favourite midwife (Martha), and that she delivered Avery, even though it was SUPPOSED to be the OB. I’m thankful that labour was short (only 10ish hours). I’m thankful we got to go home the day she was born. I’m thankful everyone was extremely healthy, we didn’t need the NICU, and I peed on my own without needing a catheter.
Birth was a haze and like most people who have given birth say, I forgot the pain almost instantly. I know that it was the pain that had me in such a haze, though. It’s a natural mechanism to get you through it. I didn’t know if the room was bright or dark, if it was night or day, or who was there with me. I was completely inside my head. I remember being told to go to the bathroom to pee every hour. That was horrible… What felt like gallons of bloody water gushed out of me at every step (post-water-breaking), I was tangled in tubes and wire from the IV and blood pressure cuff, and I couldn’t see straight. But I obeyed my midwives because I had all my trust in them.
I remember knowing it was time to push when I suddenly felt my body heave up off the bed with the strength of a contraction. I lost all concern about pooping in front of everyone (which I don’t think I did, actually). I was determined to get the baby out and get it over with. The midwives were surprised at how efficiently I pushed her out, given that she was posterior (bulging forehead facing up, which is technically an upside down way to be born). I remember planning to try to push slowly to avoid tearing. I had practiced my J breathing (from hypnobirthing). I had wanted to be zen and calm and gentle.
Between pushes I alternated between screaming bloody murder and begging for sweet death, and going into instant deep relaxation to gear up for the next contraction. So hypnobirthing semi-worked.
And then it was over. I felt the gush. I felt her body squeeze, fumble and pop out of me. I felt the excitement and love instantly fill the room. In an instant, her wet, sticky body was plopped on my chest. In an instant, the pain was a distant memory and I was overcome with joy/love/gratitude/amazement. Our bond that had started during pregnancy was suddenly taken to the next level. She was real. She needed me in a whole new way. Instantly, I loved birth because of what it brought me. My sweet and perfect daughter.
And birth, dear readers, was the easy part. Stay tuned for my deep and personal reflections on my post-partum experience next.