As the first anniversary of the day I gave birth to my son draws closer, I’ve been reflecting on the memories I have of the day. It doesn’t seem so long ago, really. Yet like every other memory in my head, his birth has gotten those fuzzy edges, as has the pregnancy itself and how it felt to hold a newborn baby in my arms.
He still seems like this tiny thing until I set him down and my back aches to straighten, my biceps sore from walking, bouncing, rocking him in them.
But that will all be better written in the big birthday letter, I think. What I wanted to mention a little bit today has more to do with me.
Before I had my son, I prepared to give birth in as natural a way as my circumstances (including my husband’s comfort level) allowed. We both got on the same page, and I found many ways to make myself ready physically, mentally and emotionally so that when the time came, I would have the best chance of things going the way that I envisioned. I got to a point where I was confident in myself and my body, my health care providers and my husband, that whatever happened would be just fine. And I answered anyone who asked that my plan was to just say no to drugs.
Sometimes, people got that look on their face or that tone in their voice that led me to believe they didn’t think I could do it. I mostly knew that this had more to do with them than with me. I knew me better than they did, anyway, so I tried not to let those little things get to me much, even though they occasionally ended up getting to me a lot. And I’m pretty sure that the hormones are cool with taking the blame for that effect. For the most part, I did get a lot of support, encouragement, and genuine curiosity about how I planned to achieve the birth I desired. Good for me. Every expectant mother should be so lucky to have her own ideal birth, though unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way. And also, every woman’s ideal birth is going to look different than mine did. That’s why I still love reading birth stories, and it’s what makes us individual and beautiful human beings.
That said, one certain phrase in response to the natural birth plan still sticks in my head. The one that goes, “They don’t give you a medal…” for going natural, for suffering through the pain, for refusing treatment that might make things go smoother, what have you. The thing is, my choice had nothing to do with external recognition like medals, awards, praises, certificates, parades, etc. My choice was about doing what I felt was best for myself and my baby, doing what made me most comfortable. If someone wanted to write an epic poem about it, that would just be gravy. As it turns out, though, “they” do give you a medal.
Not really, of course, but I’ve noticed that there’s a certain amount of awe that comes in response to my sharing my birth experience with others who may not have been so lucky. Maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that I did it without drugs, without pain for that matter. Or maybe it does, I’m not in anyone else’s head but my own. But perhaps it has more to do with the fact that so many women don’t get to have the birth experience that aligns in any way with the romantic visions they’d had in their minds. Some brides go to great lengths to ensure that their wedding day is as perfect as they’d imagined in childhood, adolescence and beyond. It’s kind of odd that the common birth leaves a lot of mothers’ wishes out of the picture when it comes down to the wire.
The birth of my son made me feel powerful in a way that I didn’t know I could feel. Not because of the specific details of my “plan,” but more because I knew myself, I trusted myself to know what I was capable of, what I wanted and did not want in order to make the memory a special and happy one. And I made it happen. I had help, support and cooperation from the people around me, but ultimately, it was me. I did it. And I brought this little person into the world in a way that makes me smile every day when I think about it. My way.