Today is my first Mother’s Day with little Audrey. She’ll be one year old a month from now. As her birthday approaches, I think sometimes about her birth, how it doesn’t feel like it was eleven months ago. I remember my labor so distinctly. It probably helps that I took the time to write out my full birth story soon after she came home.
I am lucky that I was able to have a drug-free natural birth after my first birth was a c-section. Most women in this country don’t even know they have that choice. And I have learned that each birth is so personal. Freya was born surgically because it was the safest for her on that night. I gathered all the information and made that decision. I try not to dwell on how it could have gone otherwise — for better or for worse. Because of what happened, I try hard not to judge other mothers’ birth experiences. I’ll admit I did so more before I even had my first baby; “There’s no way I would have a c-section! (epidural, induction, etc).”
When Audrey came along, I felt in my heart that I wanted to experience labor and birth in a different way. That is my story, and I know others who have different, fully valid desires for their subsequent births. I think what is MOST important is that the mother is fully engaged and present in choosing what she feels is best for her and her child. To be bullied into an induction or unnecessary surgery seems all too common.
My blessing is that I got what I wanted. I prepared as best I could but ultimately was fortunate that my body and my baby cooperated. I went into labor at home spontaneously, two weeks early so in the window of safe term. My labor was only eight hours total, which was completely manageable for me as my sense of time passing disappeared anyway and it never seemed to “stall” at any point. I had tremendous support from everyone; Brian, Kristina (my doula), the nurse who was present for the latter half of my active laboring, and of course my OB who supported my VBAC once she knew I was committed to its success.
I am so lucky. I get to look fondly on Audrey’s arrival. Particularly the sense of triumph and pride I felt so totally when I delivered her. It is amazing how that rush of endorphins can erase the pain that preceded. One moment I was uncomfortable beyond description, trying to maneuver into a position so that my doctor could catch her, blinded by the pressure in my pelvis, exhausted from pushing, and then, when she emerged, it all vanished. It was like the pain had never happened, it was GONE, and I had done it, I was okay, I didn’t need any interventions, I was no longer pregnant and never would be again. It was the opposite of Freya’s birth, it was almost redemptive.
To be honest, I still do feel pangs of sadness thinking of when Freya was born, how so much went wrong. But her birth was what made me into a mother. It happened how it did, and I learned from it. We were separated for an hour (only an hour! could have been worse) and we still bonded, we still nursed for 26 months and co-slept for 30 months. The trauma of her birth was an unfortunate stumble out of the gate, as it were. But it hasn’t ended up defining motherhood for me. I wouldn’t let it.