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.