I've been thinking a lot lately about giving birth. Suddenly, it's almost all I can think of, actually. I have about 9 more weeks before I expect that to happen, so it's not as if I'm running short of time to prepare myself, but for whatever reason the time for planning, processing and preparing is now.
Today it's gloomy outside, the second day in a row that it's been too cloudy to photograph what I've been sewing. So instead I thought I'd share some personal things, perhaps to give you a context for what I might share later on when baby comes or perhaps more as a way of working through these feelings myself. Let's imagine we're sitting together over some stitching, having a heart to heart. Shall we?
I gave birth to both Aria and Liam at home, planned home births with certified midwives, assistants, my mother, my husband, even little Aria attending that second birth. Growing up, I never would have thought that would be me. It didn't "run" in my family or anything! But, as it turns out, making an unusual birth choice was the first of many, many unusual lifestyle choices our family would embrace.
Why at home? Well, my research and my heart felt it was the safest, happiest place we could be. That's a very personal, complex decision and one I'd never want make for another woman. There are definitely many versions of a happy, successful birth. So props to all moms! (But, if you're curious about the why's and how's of home birth, consider these reads: Henci Goer, Ina May Gaskin and Jennifer Block, plus the film The Business of Being Born.)
Was I scared? Oh, yes. Going into that first birth, I didn't know if I could do it. I reviewed transfer-to-hospital plans carefully with my midwife and tried to keep an open mind about what would happen. I labored about 12 hours with Aria, all slow and steady. Lots of pain. I'll never forget those dark early hours searching in vain for a comfortable position in the water. And then how the morning light came, and it made me angry that I was still suffering. And, how my mom held my hands from outside the tub, letting me pull against her and holding me together with her strong eyes locked on mine. How I marveled that she had done this for me long ago. How I doubted I could. How I wished to be rescued.
That was "transition", the term they give to the last bit of dilation, before you start pushing. I did feel desperate then, but it passed. After 2 hours of pushing in the tub, Aria was born as soon as I came out of the water. Because of a low lying placenta, I hemorrhaged after birth. My capable and prepared midwives treated me with the same drugs that I would have had in the hospital to stop the bleeding and all turned out well.
I was glad I gave birth at home. I was proud of myself for doing what I felt was best for my body and my baby. So, I did it again with Liam. Only, it was so. much. better!
That second time around I truly anticipated birth day. I knew I could handle the pain. I expected things to be a little easier, being a second birth. And, most of all, I wasn't scared! One of my clearest memories from that birth is smiling between contractions as I thought about getting to meet my baby boy so soon. It was a happy night! Still 12 hours of labor, but I truly felt calm and purposeful the whole time. Liam was almost 2 lbs bigger than Aria, but his birth was a joy. Yes, it hurt, but I knew in every fiber of my being that it was worth it, that we were safe and that I could do it. Also, I had a great, hands-on doula. When it was all over, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment!
So.... in the years that followed, when I grieved being "done" having children, I also grieved being done giving birth. I had enjoyed my pregnancies. My births were experiences I treasured. And I guess that is why I am sharing this with you. It's part of who I am. Giving birth to Eleni is an experience I completely anticipate. I want to prepare well, and I want to do well.
These days I am wondering... would I like to have a birth tub? Will using hypnobabies (wide-awake, self-hypnosis for child birth) help to shorten my labor and/or diminish felt pain? Would I like to have girlfriends at my birth? How to prepare Aria and Liam to benefit from and enjoy the big day? As well as a few more sinister questions such as, will I make it full term at all? Unfortunately, there have been some minor complications with this pregnancy that could derail plans. It's important to be low-risk and very healthy to attempt a home birth. Of course, it's also important that baby is full term!
I know that some of you are pregnant, and even more of you have given birth in years past. Whatever your story or plans, we mothers are all part of a true miracle and a privilege. Birth is not an obstacle to endure so much as a rite of passage, a momentous event and, even... possibly, one of the best days of your life.
May it be so.