motherhood

The (Birth)day Lessons

Today my daughter turns three!  I have to admit, I’ve been a bit nostalgic.

Yesterday I wrote about how pregnancy taught me skills that have served me as a parent. Today I thought I’d write the same about my daughter’s birth.

Not the BIRTH STORY story. That would take a novel. My daughter’s birth was the equivalent of baptism by fire. A big ol’ metaphor for the wild ride to come. At times unexpected and intense, always driven by a curious and determined child, and scattered with tiny miracles.

For now I thought I’d share a few take-aways* that three years later still stand out.

Birth Lesson One: Listen to Your Gut

At 8pm on the night before my daughter was born I could be found dashing around a nearly-empty Target store in Des Moines, Iowa. I was like a mad woman, determined to pick up the final remaining odds and ends on my baby list. Loaded with infant nail trimmers, newborn diapers, a thermometer, and who knows what else, I then headed to the airport to pick up my husband, who was flying back from a job interview.  We went home and headed straight to bed.

At 4am I woke up, waddled to the bathroom and realized water was seeping out of me. But I wasn’t peeing. It was one of those moments when you think, THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING. 

Oh it was happening. My water had most certainly broken, there was no doubt about that.

I was 35 weeks, 6 days pregnant.

The next hour was like something out of a cheesy sitcom: my husband and I were running around the house, throwing things into a duffle bag willy nilly.

I remember early in my pregnancy when I asked my higher self, what will my birth look like? The answer I got was “comical.”

I wasn’t laughing. I was, however, glad that I listened to my gut and made that final run to Target.

Birth Lesson Two: Trust Thyself

I come from a long line of women who have a high tolerance for pain. (Is that a good trait? I don’t know.) My mother would famously tell the story about how when she was in labor with me, she asked for an epidural and the nurse turned to her and said, “Honey, it’s too late! You are about to push out this baby!”

Like mother, like daughter, it turns out.

About seven hours into my labor I was DONE. I could not stand one more minute of it. I cornered my midwife and pleaded with her, please, just look and see how far dilated I am.  Because if I have a long road ahead of me I NEED AN EPIDURAL.

This entire time nobody had examined me to see how far dilated I was. The midwife didn’t want to risk infection since I hadn’t yet been screened for Group B strep (and they had to proceed on the assumption that I had it). Since I was a first time mom, and since apparently anyone who isn’t wailing and gnashing teeth is assumed to only be dilated to 3cm, the scene was very laid bad. Everyone was all, “Well, let’s wait on the tub, you don’t need it just yet!” and “Hey can I put an IV in your arm while you are in the middle of a contraction?”

When the midwife finally examined me, the look on her face said it all.

I was 9 cm. I was almost ready to push.

Turns out this rookie mom wasn’t taking her sweet ol’ time. Funny thing was, I knew my body and I suspected that I was progressing faster than expected. I had a feeling that everyone—the nurse, my midwife, even my doula— were all misreading my cues. Birth may have been new for me, but my body wasn’t.

Trust thyself.

*To be continued – I will follow my own advice and trust myself to know that I need to sleep off a particularly nasty cold I caught from said three-year-old. More to come once I’m feeling better!

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