Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your story matters

Around this time last year, I was starting to think about the idea of a “birth story” and how that would impact my self-image as well as my relationship with my baby.  I was afraid that, despite my preparation, things wouldn’t go as planned and that I would feel let down by my body again.  I wanted to write a new chapter, one where I was capable and full of pride. 
As it turns out (and maybe as I should have expected) things didn’t go as planned.  And although I ultimately felt proud that my body was able to push out a beautiful 9lb, 4oz little boy, the process of getting there was long and grueling for all involved.  The fact that he then went to the NICU and didn’t quite feel like “mine” for the first day and a half of his life also impacted my experience.  It wasn’t the peaceful, natural birth that I had been longing for.  And I dealt with a lot of judgment – from others and myself – because of that.
Recently, I told my therapist that someone suggested to me that your birth story doesn’t really matter.  That once you hold your baby in your arms, you are so happy and in love that it doesn’t matter how they got there.  Her response was, “and yet here we are, months later, still talking about it.” 
My conclusion:  Your story does matter.  It is part of who you are and how you see your relationship with your baby (and your partner). It’s the unique memory of your first struggle and accomplishment as a family.  I would add that, especially for those of us who had trouble getting there, your conception story does matter, too.  Your baby is a result of every hoop you jumped through, every prayer you sent up, every compromise you made to bring them into the world.
When I look at my boy, I see the beautiful result of my effort to create him.  When I am feeling particularly sentimental, I think back on all the times I spent crying over a negative pregnancy test, feeling a pit in my stomach looking at pregnant bellies and baby clothes, wondering why her and not me.  He is a manifestation of not only the hopes and dreams that I had for him, but also the loss, the emptiness, the struggle.
I think that’s okay.  That the story of how he came to be is not neatly tied up with a bow.  The heartache that John and I went through to become parents is a unique part of our identity.  And now it’s part of his, too.  I believe all children are an amazing gift from God.  But when you really have to work for them, you see that gift in a different sort of light.  I hope to always carry that story around with me, never forgetting the details.  Especially when he is found finger-painting his bedroom wall or playing drums at 5am.
My relationship with him will be different for what we went through, both before and during his birth.  And when he asks me how babies are made, boy will I have a story for him!

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