Sunday, November 6, 2011

What scares me about birth

It’s not what you might think.  I am prepared for the intensity and the pain of childbirth.  I have spent the last several months training for this marathon.  I am mentally ready for sure and physically ready I hope.  But there is an emotional and psychological aspect to birth that also comes into play.  And this is where I still have work to do.
A few weeks ago, I went to my final childbirth class.  For this last class, the teacher invites former students to come back, show off their cute babies, and tell their stories.  The point, I think, is to remind us that all our preparation pays off and – no matter what happens – we get a baby to bring home when it’s all over.  The mom and dad who came to our class were a lovely couple with a very adorable baby.  But when the woman started her story by telling us that she ended up with a c-section, I braced myself.  This was not the story I wanted to or expected to hear.
I held back tears and debated leaving the room as she described all the interventions that she had hoped to avoid but ended up having, culminating in surgery to bring her baby into the world.  She strongly emphasized what a good partner her husband was throughout and how much she felt respected, not pushed, by her doctor.  The moral, I believe, was that if you feel like you’re able to ask questions, collaborate with your provider, and make decisions on your own timeline, you can still feel positively about your birth.  That the unexpected can happen no matter how hard you try, and there is still a way to make the best of it.
As I cried to John on the phone on my way home, I tried to articulate why this experience was so upsetting to me.  I lamented that this woman did everything I’ve done to prepare for her birth experience, and it didn’t save her from the outcome I’m most hoping to avoid.  Finally I put my finger on why that was so terrible.  It reminded me greatly of the struggle of infertility.  It brought me back to a place where I had to face the fact that “doing everything right” does not guarantee you the outcome you desire.  What a struggle that was to accept when we were trying to conceive and failing month after month… 
Pregnancy has afforded me the luxury of ignoring that undeniable truth.  For 7 months now, I have done (almost) everything right, and I have been rewarded with things going exactly as planned.  My baby and I are both happy, healthy and growing.  I don’t truly believe that I have had that completely in my control, but I have been able to blissfully settle into the ignorance of thinking so.  But here comes birth.  Wild, unpredictable birth.  It forces me once again to acknowledge that I am not in control.  That as much as I have done to prepare for this life-changing event, it may not go as I plan or hope.  In fact, there are a million ways that it could derail me.
I know people say “as long as you have a healthy baby in the end, that’s all that matters.”  True.  But there is more at stake for me here.  Of course the healthy baby is paramount.  But learning to trust my body – or more, learning to be proud of what my body can accomplish – is also a key outcome for me.  I’m choosing natural birth not just because I believe it’s best for my baby.  I’m also choosing it to help me write a new story.  One where I am strong and capable and successful.  One where I feel like I did something amazing, completely on my own.  Right or wrong, that is important to me.
A wise, dear friend reminded me that I have already done something amazing on my own, by creating this beautiful being inside me and keeping him or her safe and healthy for 7 months (and counting).  She warned me not to focus so much on the final moments but on the true end result.  I know she’s right.  But this post doesn’t get wrapped up neatly with a bow, as I often am able to do.  I’m just not there yet – I’m still scared of not getting what I want.  Like I said, I have work to do.

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6 thoughts on “What scares me about birth

  1. Carrie Brondyke

    Great post Lisa! I admire you in your birth prep. Although the healthy baby at the end is the true gift, your birth story is important too- for all the reasons you listed. But do remember that you can only control things to a certain extent. If things don’t go exactly as you hope, you are still just beginning an exciting journey and your body is still uber-powerful regardless of how the birth progresses. Stay positive. Stay prepared and focused. And mostly, stay flexible. You’ve never done this before and neither has your little baby. Its an exciting journey. I’ll be praying for you!

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  2. Kate

    Beautiful post, and so relatable. One of my teachers says “the only thing we know about birth is that we don’t know” and that makes me crazy, but also releases something for me. This not knowing and giving up control of the outcome is prepping you for parenthood. Remember to surrender. Your journey is VERY important and its going to be beautiful. When we talk, Remind me to share a chant that you can use in labor to help you remember to surrender and to help you through contractions. Xo

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  3. Willow

    I have the same story as the one you heard at your birth class: I did everything “right,” but right before it was time to start pushing, baby’s heart rate starting dropping dramatically with each contraction (umbilical cord was getting constricted), so it was too dangerous for her to continue thru the stress of labor. So I had a c-section, which I really, really didn’t want. But in the moment, it really was all about what was best for my baby, and at that point it didn’t matter at all how she got here, as long as she was safe & healthy. And it hasn’t bothered me since, either. I understand the urge to change your story–after 4.5 years of ttc and finally giving up on my own eggs in order to get pregnant, I really needed to feel that my body could do something right. But you know what? It turns out, I feel pretty awesome about having nourished and grown this amazing little person and now being able to provide for her well-being by breastfeeding makes me feel great about my body and its abilities–better by far than I’ve felt since before my infertility diagnosis. The birth didn’t go like I wanted and I’m still physically recovering from that fact, but really it turned out to be such a small thing compared to the sheer wonder of having this miraculous, healthy baby in my arms. The birth part is scary, losing control is scary, but it will work out, and I wish you peace with however it happens. Hoping it goes exactly as you want it to though 🙂

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  4. Giselle

    Lisa, thank you so much for allowing us into this journey with you. Yes, this is scary, and I wished there was something magical I could say to make it easier, but I can’t, no one can.

    You have to come to peace with your body, with your ability, and be so proud and humbled by the struggle you have already overcome. Your incredible body that has created and nourished life within, what a miracle. And will now embark on the ultimate scary but magical journey of all, parenting.

    Losing control is a terrifying, but really parenting is all about losing control. The first time you have to take them out of the safety of your home and arms and strap them into a car seat, to take them away from the best nourishment of your chest to solid foods, to say goodbye in preschool, to lose him/her to friends and hobbies and to see this little miracle inside of you grow into an adult. It’s all about losing control, trusting yourself, and John, that you can provide the best for your baby no matter what circumstances life throws at you.

    Your birth story will be incredible, no matter what, simply because it’s you. Because of how much you have wanted, how hard you have struggled, and how much love is welcoming this child. Know that overcoming the “what can go wrong” birthing fear is only the beginning of the worry,heartache, but incredible love and joy of being a parent

    Stay strong, stay peaceful, and trust yourself. John and you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Sending you much love through this worrisome times <3

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  5. Kayla

    I’m not even pregnant and I am scared to death of the delivery!

    I love reading your posts, they’re so well written. Good luck with things, I’m sure you’ll deliver like a champ (when the time comes!).

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  6. Jackie

    Good luck with everything Lisa! I hope everything goes smoothly for you. My two deliveries did not go as planned following my hypnobirthing classes and I ended up with two c-sections. My anatomy was not fit for birth and after pushing 10 hours for the first one and 6 for the second, I had to understand that the birth is important, however what you do every minute following the birth is much more important. This took me a while, good friends and some good cries to realize. But I was happy to be able to nurse my boys for a year or more each. But no matter how one becomes a parent- it is truly about the love and care you give your child. I know people who have had natural birth and parents who adopted…and really it is the parenting styles and love and life you give to your children. You are going to be that amazing mom no matter what happens in the delivery room. The love and life you give to the little one will be forever and will make any delivery worth it! Wishing you the best in 2012!

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