Where do I even start when writing about my birthing experience?
Honestly, the first word that comes to mind is traumatic.
I hesitated to use such a strong word, but then I read this from Baby Whisperer: “It’s not just the physical trauma, which would be enough to debilitate anyone. It’s the exhaustion, the staggering cocktail of emotions, and the crushing feelings of inadequacy that overwhelm you as well. And that, lovey, is normal.”
Yes, and oh my goodness, yes.
To prepare for birth, Nick and I attended a 10 week birthing class (the last session which we missed because I was in labor), interviewed friends and family about their birthing experiences, and met with a doula. We developed a birthing plan and went over it with our Obgyn. I tried to stay active going for walks and doing my 7-minute workout circuit, pregnant yoga, and tons of squats. I read several books, and Nick read parts of some.
Fortunately, all went as planned- We labored at home for awhile (I took a bath while we watched the Michigan State – Louisville game, we went for a walk, we reviewed class notes, we danced in the living room in hopes of speeding things along…) and arrived at the hospital hours later, four centimeters dilated and 80% effaced.
We walked the halls as I breathed through contractions leaning on Nick (Nick was AMAZING) and having our doula, Deann, massage my back. I had an IV in my hand for penicillin (I hated how many times I was stuck with needles throughout the process) due to my testing positive for Group B Strep.
I remained calm through most of it, and Nick and Deann were the dream team. In my mind they were Paulie and Mickey rooting me on in my fight for heavyweight champion of the world- in “my corner” offering water and cold washcloths throughout the night (from Rocky for those of you who had a sad childhood and don’t know the reference).
However, during the pushing phase, I lost my mind and started screaming and crying hysterically. Hysterically people. I embarrassed myself, and fear my six week check up when I have to face my doc again. (I’ll spare you the rest of the nitty gritty details)
But giving birth to my beautiful daughter was only the beginning. The days and weeks after coming home from the hospital were also physically and emotionally difficult. I was so, so beyond blessed to have my mom come spend two weeks with us, and my husband’s constant support and encouragement. Without the two of them, I think I would have ended up in a psych ward somewhere.
And of course it is true that it is totally and completely worth it (even though I spent a better part of my time in the hospital trying to figure out how to have more kids, but never, ever have to go through that experience again), and that giving birth is beautiful as well as traumatic. How could a human body emerging from my own human body- and made by my husband and my human bodies- not be the most amazing and miraculous thing?
But it took days for this to sink in. It took days for it to sink in that this was a human life, lent to us from God, made from my husband and I, and she was- is- our daughter.
Many women talk about the instant, overwhelming love they feel after giving birth…but for me it took longer. I loved her for sure, but it was sort of a surreal, intangible love until I had time to get to know her and bond with her- which is ongoing.
The entire experience really did feel like a fight. I had to fight to get her out, and I had to battle the intense “cocktail of emotions” that came afteward- humility, shock, anxiety, sadness, fear, overwhelment (in case you’re wondering, that’s not really a word). Everything felt exhausting, but there were breaks and support and beauty in the pain.
My team never left my corner- Nick, my mom, Deann, friends and family who prayed and visited.
I didn’t win a fancy belt (like Rocky did- at least in second, third, and fourth movies;), but I get to be mom to the most amazing and gorgeous little girl I’ve ever met- and I have the chance to continue to get to know her every day and every year as she matures into an even more beautiful, strong, and intelligent woman, who I’m sure will run for president one day.
It still feels super hard and overwhelming, but I can’t wait for Nick and I to continue to do life with her.