For me, ‘childbirth’ is a misnomer. When my son was born, I didn’t see it immediately, but I’ve realized now that really it was my birth. I became a mother, and was changed more in that moment than at any other time in my life.
My husband and I were not going to be parents. I was unsure about kids. I felt that I was too selfish to raise children, and, well… I never was a baby person. To be completely honest, I just thought they were gross little poop/spit up factories. As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t know that babies were people. I thought they were little empty shells waiting for a personality to be dropped in by their parents sometime during childhood.
But then we met a couple that had a daughter. The mother was healthy and fit, and didn’t wear “mom jeans” (you know the ones… with the waistband at the arm pits). They went to friends’ homes and had friends over. They stayed up late and drank wine and margaritas, with their daughter sleeping in her bedroom down the hall. In other words, they still had a life. It hadn’t occurred to me before then that it was possible to have children and not give up having a life. God was preparing my heart.
We were surprised to find ourselves pregnant, and only months after meeting these hip parent friends. I was panicked. I forgot everything I had seen in our friends’ lives, and started believing my life was officially over. I was going to be a fat, boring mom, stuck in my house with a drooling poop factory for the next 18 years. And someone was going to call me ‘mom’ for the rest of my life… Oh the humanity!! How could this be happening to me? Why was God punishing me???
My poor husband. He struggled during this time, as he was ecstatic about having a baby, but trying to quiet the fears of his panicking wife at the same time. It didn’t help that I threw up everyday for the entire nine months. Friends would ask us if we were excited, smiling expectantly as they got a stone silent response from me. How could I tell them I was scared to death?
We took childbirth education classes – 12 weeks worth. And while this calmed all fears about pregnancy and birth (and in fact gave us a lot of confidence and empowerment, even over future parenting decisions), it didn’t do much for my fears of motherhood itself. What if I hated it? What if I hated the baby? What if I was an awful mother?
Labor began for me around 1:00 am. Contractions were a minute long and two minutes apart from the first contraction until his birth ten hours later. While they were strong contractions, I was relaxed and confident, and calm. My husband was an amazing coach, and being at the birth center with a supportive midwife was great.
As I transitioned into the pushing stage, the baby’s heart tones started dropping rapidly. My midwife was concerned, so we transferred to the hospital. I was not afraid, and trusted that it was God’s plan, even if we ended up with a still birth.
Thankfully, our son was born without complication… pink and screaming and perfect. And I loved him the moment I saw him. Suddenly, all my fears were gone.
Besides the frequent leaky diaper (I just couldn’t get the hang of that!), I found motherhood to be quite natural for me. We took our son everywhere with us, even snowshoeing at only three months old. We ignored criticism from friends and family who thought we shouldn’t be so relaxed. We were determined to make our baby a part of our lives, not make our lives about our baby.
We had parties and friends over and played loud games and music late into the night with Henry asleep in the next room. We went to friends’ homes and played cards until 2:00am with our son in a pack-n-play. We went to a bed and breakfast, and took him along. We planted the garden and took him to the farm. He played with worms and dirt and bugs, and got covered in mud. We were actually having fun! And best of all, even from birth, our son was a little person, waiting for us to get to know him… this boy was no empty shell.
We decided to do it again. This time, my fears were relegated to “How in the world will I be able to take care of two without neglecting one of them?” and “What if our son hates this?”
But my pregnancy was much better the second time around. I wasn’t nearly as sick after the first trimester, and I was able to say yes when people asked if we were excited. We decided on a home birth this time, and picked a wonderful midwife, Julie, to help us.
I expected to be in control, calm and collected during this labor and birth. I had been through childbirth once already, and I imagined that this second birth would be somewhat similar to the first. But while our son’s birth was ten hours long, this labor was probably a ten on the intensity scale.
The contractions I had this time, built slowly over hours of pre-labor. By the time labor was active, there was only an hour and four minutes of it, and the contractions were very powerful. And while I pushed for just seven minutes, I felt completely out of control, and quite afraid during his birth. My midwives were a huge support and very reassuring when I felt so uncertain, and my husband was calm and confident throughout (not to mention, quite unabashed about lying to me that these contractions were just like the ones I had with our son, no matter how many times I asked him if HE felt like they were just way more intense).
The strength of this labor and birth were perfectly contrasted by the serenity and peace of being at home in the calm of our own bedroom. The midwives treated us with so much love and respect, and really honored what we had asked for in our birth experience.
I had another perfect, pink baby boy. And again, my fears dissipated with one look at him. Our first son and my mom had come home from the museum while I was pushing, and were able to meet the new baby, right after he was born. Our older son was so excited to meet his brother, and even now can barely keep himself from hugging and kissing the baby all the time.
So now, I am the mother of two! I feel utterly transformed my becoming a mother. I don’t look at the world the same way. Some things that I thought were important before, just don’t seem to matter at all, and things that I had no idea about are monumental.
And I know that all my fears; being boring, having no life, being trapped with drooling poop factories – were completely irrational. I don’t feel nearly as selfish as I thought I would be. I actually like sharing my husband with our sons. I don’t mind loosing some sleep when one of them is sick, or when the baby needs and extra feeding. Breastfeeding is not at all gross, and I actually enjoy the quiet one on one time with my babies.
I’m excited to see who these little people become.
*originally posted on my personal blog on July 26, 2009.