On Birth and Other Positive Things

Please know that I've been nervous to write this post, but I've thought about writing it for a long time. I've tried to be thoughtful and to not be biting or accusatory. Please please do not take any of this in that spirit. I only wish to address a concern and hopefully spread some awareness.

I haven't shared much of my pregnancy/birth experiences online. This is partly because I know so many who struggle with fertility and don't want to see another pregnancy post on their feed (I apologize for the millions of photos I've posted of my boy if that also isn't fun to see all the time--that's an obsession I should tackle later) and partly because there are so many stories out there! I don't want to invalidate anyone's experiences by saying my way was a better way, or that my story is the way yours will turn out. If you've birthed a baby, you've done one of many amazing things! If you haven't birthed a baby, you've done other amazing things! So now that we get that disclaimer out of the way, here are my thoughts....

My first pregnancy with Theodore was a transforming experience for me. I'd initially gone into it thinking I would have my baby at the hospital and try for no epidural, but after biting on a wooden spoon for hours, I'd be open to one if I couldn't "handle it." I went to a wonderful doctor recommended by a wonderful friend and asked this doctor for suggestions for a birthing class. She recommended hypnobirthing. I'd known a few friends who had gone that route and I'd heard positive things, so Stephen and I jumped into it, not knowing it would completely change our path.

Hypnobirthing is not about hypnosis. It's not some guy waving a watch in front of your face. It's about relaxing your body so that it can birth the way it knows how, and it's also about empowering your mind so that your negative emotions/experiences won't color the situation at hand. What I took from that class more than anything else was that I knew what I wanted for my body and my baby and that I should listen to that. So, at 32 weeks, I switched doctors, and at 36 weeks, I switched doctors again, only this time, it was to a midwife, and we'd made the decision to have our baby at home. (NOTE: I'm not saying everyone needs to have a home birth--goodness knows some pregnancies aren't as low-risk as mine was--but it was the right choice for me because hospitals make me anxious, doctors make me feel slightly stupid, and the most calming situation I could imagine was being in my house with my husband and a midwife. So that's what we did.)

While planning for this first birth, I'd heard so many expressions of surprise, discouragement, defensiveness, and sometimes ridicule, mostly from other women.

Maybe I'd unknowingly prompted this in my zealousness for a natural childbirth--anyone who's given birth has done something huge! (I've said that already, right? Have I emphasized it enough? HUGE!) And I hope I've never communicated that if someone's birth was medicated that the birth wasn't as significant. I apologize if that ever seemed the case.

However, whether due to a need to defend our experiences, or to prove that we're tough, or to show that we know more than someone else, I've noticed a frustrating trend of sharing the worst of our birthing experiences with others--most often with new mothers. This is not helpful! The birth of my first ended up being a calm, beautiful experience. It was hard, but nothing about it was negative. I wouldn't change a thing.

So, I had the baby! I had a baby! I no longer felt stupid speaking up in conversations about childbirth because (here's my badge) I DID IT! But during conversations in which I've participated, I still haven't said much about this frustrating trend, and I hate confrontation, so I'm getting all my thoughts out here in the interwebs. (:

Let's stop scaring each other.

Let's stop defending ourselves to each other.

Let's stop laughing at others who want to do something different.

You may laugh at me because I've only had one baby so far, and that birth was a friggin' piece of cake compared to yours. But what if it wasn't just because my body is lucky? What if my positivity helped a little, too?

Again, this is something I've never talked about in a public sphere, because it is so sensitive. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or make anyone feel inferior. I only want us ladies to have each others' backs--in birth and any other sphere of life.

During this second pregnancy, I've dealt with a whole new set of fears in having two babies under 2. This second baby was a big surprise, so I've had my own negative/anxious thoughts I've had to address and try to meet with fairness and positivity. I'm in a much better place now in managing something so unexpected, yet, during this journey I've continued to notice other women communicating negativity to me. "Ugh! You're braver than me!" "Wow! Good luck with that!" "Your first was an easy kid? Get ready for a hellion."

Why do we do this??? Why do we spread misery to those who need to be uplifted?

Now, before anyone feels that biting or accusatory tone I mentioned in my preface, let me emphasize that I know I do this in other spheres of life. I think about all those times I said to a college kid, "If you want a masters, get it right after you graduate, otherwise you won't ever want to go back!" Or when I've heard some tween is entering middle school and I say, "So glad that part of my life is over!" Definitely not promoting positivity there!

Being pregnant again has just reminded me to check myself and to try to temper these habits because I'm currently at the other end of that experience and realizing how not fun it is to be the recipient of all that negativity. But we all do it. It's a human thing, right? When we've known a hardship, we tend to snuff out the positivity around us. Maybe we want to defend our experiences. Maybe we want to help others not be blindsided like we were. Maybe we don't know why the heck we do it and it just comes out of us without prompting.

Now, some people really do have good intentions. I had a conversation with a neighbor early on in my pregnancy where she told me, "It's okay to feel anxious about this. You're doing something hard! It's okay if you need help." That was advice I needed to hear while feeling guilty about all of my negative feelings. The key difference in this interaction was that it was said in a spirit of love, and not in a spirit of flippancy.

So, in practicing my hypnobirthing techniques again this second time around, I'm reminded of the need for confidence, positivity, and solidarity. This second birth is going to be awesome. I'm going to have two kids so close in age that they will be best friends. My husband and I are capable people who will have joy and thrive with two young babies. Those are my much needed positive affirmations.

To you expecting mothers, I affirm this-- Your body is capable of amazing things. You are strong. Nature made your body able to give birth smoothly, calmly, and beautifully. Your body and your baby know how to work together in harmony. You will have a positive birth experience.

To all women, I affirm this-- You are powerful--more powerful than you realize. You can influence the people around you.

Let's choose to influence for good.

Love you all.


Makayla said…
This was a good post. I don't have kids (and frankly, don't plan to), and I admittedly, unapologetically, unabashedly find the process of labor and delivery terrifying -- even in theory. That said, I also know that the majority of women in the U.S. survive the experience. Some have really scary, hard, painful experiences, others (like you) are surprised and overjoyed at the fact that it perhaps wasn't as bad as they thought. I think all of those people (and those of us who interact with them) can benefit from more positivity. And flexibility. My sister-in-laws most recent nurse said that in her experience the women who do best are those who are open to changes that come. Maybe the plan was an epidural and it doesn't work out, or there isn't time. Maybe the plan was at home but there's a complication and we need to move to the hospital. Maybe the plan was to have the baby at 39 weeks but it comes six weeks early. The nurse said that the key in mother's who fared best was resisting the impulse to freak out. Which might be another way of saying those who succeed are those who stay positive.

As for having two kids close in age? I can see how it would feel overwhelming, but there's an element of fun in it too. My nephew was born when his sisters were 6 and 16 months. And it's been a challenge in some ways (my sister-in-law still nurses both babies, for one thing), but nobody would stay it's a drudgery. My brother and his wife are tired and they've got a lot going on, but they also REALLY adore their new little dude, and are glad to have him, even though he, too, was a COMPLETE surprise. We anticipate that he and his sister closest in age to him will have some GREAT and probably super mischievous times together, and probably some solid screaming and pinching matches, because... that's life.

And yeah, you might have a hellion. But you know what? Your first one could have been a hellion too. Or maybe you'll have six who are never hellions, or one calm on and three in a row that are hard. Ain't nobody can predict that. I think our best bet is to do what Elder Wirthlin says, "Come what may, and love it."

I'm excited for you, for your husband, and for the future big brother. Hard or not, easy delivery or not, sweet personality or a little more spitfire, new life is precious. One way or another, it's gonna be awesome.
Makayla said…
*Clarification: sisters were 6 YEARS old and the other one was 16 months old.
Launi said…
What a beautiful post. It is kind and gentle and incredibly respectful--but more than that- it is very important. We do need to gather each other up and be a light and support and safe place for each other. I wish you would consider sharing this on the HBUC FB page--if you wouldn't mind. I believe it would help a lot of other people see the value in kindness.
It was so good to see you today. :]
Meridith said…
I have three children (4 years and under at #3's birth), born in the hospital, and I LOVED your explanation of why you chose homebirth. That makes perfect sense to me. I enjoy the hospital and have had wonderful nurses and doctors, so your post has made me realize that that is probably the best place for me. And I love the idea of hypnobirthing. Aren't our bodies amazing? Wishing you all wonderful things with your second pregnancy and birth! These babies will have SO much fun together. In the thick of two babies, remember it gets better and so many people are cheering you on!
Julia said…
So excited for your second little one! I have 3 boys, all two years apart, and have 3 different both locations; hospital, home and midwife birth center. All beautiful and amazing, although the last was undoubtedly the easiest, in a gorgeous tub. Prayers for a healthy pregnancy and delivery!
christinajensen said…
I'm so glad you're back. I believe that if a baby was a surprise, it is also a gift from God you didn't yet know you needed. My first two were so close for those early years. It really is a blessing when they play together and you get to take a breather. I didn't go natural, my two sisters did and my daughter used hypnobirthing. She also dealt with ridicule (actually, she was a bit of a wuss growing up, we were surprised.) But I told her she can do whatever she puts her mind to and she did it. Women who go natural are Rock-stars, in my opinion. When two people as sweet and you and your husband have a child, it seems like a good thing for the world.Congrats on your next one.
Your pregnant again?!?!?! Yeah! Congratulations!

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