My Reflections on the Way Birth Shapes Us
Originally Posted 12/9/2014
Working in birth is a funny thing. When you dive into it, you start seeing birth everywhere you go. Kind of like when you get a new car and suddenly you start seeing that kind of car all over town. I had my very first vegetable garden last summer and I was constantly finding birth in the flowers, and even in some of the fruit.
Here is a picture of a tomato birth. I thought it looked like a woman’s hiney if she were on all fours, with the baby's head out. My friends all thought it looked like a penis, but from the side, it really did look like a birth. Sorry if you see a penis and are offended.
The other night I saw a movie that, for me, was TOTALLY about birth. My husband had rented Hercules (not about birth) from the Red Box and he had forgotten we had JUST rented it just two weeks earlier - I hate when he does that, and he does it often. And it fills me with rage. Anyway, he took Hercules back and brought home The Giver. It was SO good!
Here’s the trailer:
From here on out, this blog may have some spoilers about the movie. So, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, consider yourself warned.
Basically, the movie is about a community that has created a perfect Utopia where there is complete order. To do this, the people in the community are stripped of their ability to experience emotions. They also have no memory of anything bad in the world – no pain, no war, no death. But there are good things missing too. They may feel pleased about certain ideas or people, but they lack the ability to experience overpowering emotions such as joy or love.
In my head, the correlation between The Giver and my feelings about birth are really, really, really deep. I’m not that great with words, though, so it may not be that deep to others. On a very personal level, this movie resonated with me. It took me back to some of the moments with my own births. My first two babies were born with the use of an epidural. When those slippery, wet babies came out of me, I loved them. Their actual births were numbed, so I don’t have any deep or intense emotions about their births, but I sure loved those babies. At that point in my life, I didn’t feel like the births were missing anything. I felt complete. Things were good.
For my third baby, I had played around with the idea of avoiding the epidural altogether. I didn't really do any preparation either. Big mistake. I hit a point in labor where the contractions were right on top of each other and they were HARD. I was struggling. I begged for an epidural and the hospital staff quickly obliged. Once the epidural was in, they checked me and I was 8cm - almost there. My baby was born 30 minutes later. Once I got my bearings, I realized I got the epidural during transition and that I was really close to that natural birth. I was mad that I hadn't hired a doula to help me get through that part.
Being so close to delivering my 3rd without an epidural, and then caving for it at the end made me feel terrible. I didn't feel like less of a woman; nothing like that. No one else made me feel terrible. No one was guilting me or making me feel like a failure, but man, I just felt like I had made a decision that prevented me from feeling something special. There’s a quote in the above trailer, “I know that there’s something more. Something that has been stolen.” I don’t blame anyone for stealing anything from me, but deep down, I just felt like I missed something. Something powerful and spiritual. I had a deep desire to feel all of what birth had to offer.
With my 4th baby, I made a plan. I read lots of books. I hired a doula. I looked up empowering birth stories to prepare my mind. I’d like to say I ate healthy to prepare my body, but nope – I’ll be honest and admit to the nightly bowls of ice cream. I picked a care provider I trusted, who patiently answered my 5 million questions at each visit.
I had an amazing birth. It was hard. There were moments I thought I would surely die. Birth was surely going to kill me. And when I was pushing him out, there were moments I wanted to tell everyone in the room that they were crazy to think I could actually get the baby out – in that moment, the fact that I’d previously birthed three babies was completely out the window. But I did. I got him out. And then there was this transformative moment in which I actually realized I had gotten him out. And these powerful feelings I can’t even put into words washed over my whole being. And I sobbed. And I told my baby “We did it!” over and over.
Numbing the pain in our lives sounds great. Who wants to feel pain? If we have the option to numb it, why not do that? The idea of a world without pain sounds fantastic. This is going to sound crazy, but does anyone else think it is possible that buried deep down in the ugly stuff in life, we can dig deeper and discover immense beauty? Pain, loss and trauma suck. Man, do they suck so badly. But is there beauty in the ashes? I think there is.
There is beauty in the mother working hard to bring her baby into the world. There is beauty in a mother celebrating her wonderful birth. There is beauty in a mother mourning a tragedy or a trauma. There is beauty when wars are ceased and sons and daughters are brought home. There is beauty when someone holds a loved one’s hand as they drift from this world to the next. There is even beauty in a woman's rage when her husband rents a freaking movie they watched just two weeks ago and she decides to let him live (that was a joke). These situations may be pretty or may not be pretty at all, but they are beautiful. They are life.
The valleys in life make the mountains so much higher. Joy, Despair, Love, Loss, Happiness, Pain, Exhilaration, Regret – they are all key players in the human experience. Collectively, they are what make life worth living. They shape who we are and how we choose to live out our futures. I guess the movie wasn’t JUST about birth for me. But, I do think birth can be a pretty good metaphor for how we can find beauty in this wonderful, messy life.