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A Mother’s Birthright

September 2, 2011

  “The dismantling of imagined boundaries is love”. – Deepak Chopra via Twitter

I can’t believe my son is going to be three months old in just a few days. On the one hand it feels like his beautiful soul has been with us forever, and on the other hands it feels like I just gave birth yesterday.  All babies are miraculous in their own way and ours is no exception. We thought we couldn’t conceive naturally and had begun the adoption process, when miraculously, unbelievably, that second pink line appeared on a pregnancy test.

Almost immediately after we discovered our pregnancy we began envisioning our birth. We wanted to be intentional about they way we welcomed our miracle into the world and so we started doing research. Lots of research. As we began to examine the birth we wanted, we had to take into account the influence our individual upbringings had on our views about pregnancy and childbirth. My husband’s mother was an Obstetrical RN for most of her career. My mother was a baby machine for most of her life, and though she never worked in the medical field, she is certainly experienced. My husband’s mother had all of her children via C-section, and my mother had all of us naturally and with as little intervention as possible. Interestingly, neither of us felt strongly about either of these two paths, mostly because we did not yet understand the whys and the hows of either.

After reading many books, analyzing statistical outcomes, watching documentaries, and examining the medical approach to birth and the natural approach to birth, we decided that the best decision for our family was a natural birth with as little medical intervention as needed. We decided to birth at a birthing center rather than a hospital, and we began to prepare by hiring a doula, learning natural birthing techniques for comfort measures (i.e. pain management), and watching a lot of videos of live, natural, unmedicated births.

Almost as soon as the decision was made I began to ask myself, Can I do this? Can my body do this? Can my mind do this? Struggling to get pregnant and then thinking it wasn’t going to happen had made me distrust my body very deeply. I felt betrayed by it, broken, unfixable. These are common feelings for women who struggle with infertility and I knew I wasn’t alone, but this lingering resentment towards my body made it difficult to believe in my ability to birth my child in the way that I felt was best for us.

My own self-doubts and concerns were not helped at all by the many people, who upon asking about and learning of our choice, proceeded to tell us how crazy we were. Once a woman is pregnant she is besieged by unsolicited advice from mostly well-meaning family, friends, and perfect strangers. I had already experienced a great deal of this, about what I should eat, and how much I should be exercising, and if I should have that one glass of wine or not. I had been duly warned and prepared for this. I was not, however, prepared for the onslaught of unsolicited opinion, advice, and outright judgment that was cast upon us for our very personal decision about how we would birth our baby.

I am sure, or at least I want to believe, that most of these people were well-intentioned. Unfortunately, it only served to reinforce my fears and doubts and distrust of my body. Intellectually I knew my body could do it. Women have been birthing naturally since the beginning of time. But emotionally and mentally, I had to work to truly believe it. My husband’s #1 job became to create a bubble of positivity around me. Only people who could respect – not necessarily agree with, but respect – our decision were allowed in the bubble.

With the help of our doulas, and with a lot of self-reflection and inner work, I began to face my fears and commit to learning to trust my body’s ability to do what it is designed to do, to trust my own strength as a person and as a woman, and to trust not only my intuition but my reason as well, which had led me to choose a natural birth.

When my birthing waves began and we knew it was time to meet our little one, we felt ready, confident and so excited. Fortunately for us, we had excellent and supportive care available to us. We had a doctor, midwives, nurses and doulas all respecting and supporting our choices and doing everything they could to give us the safe birthing experience we wanted.  After a long and hard labor (27 hours!), our son was born. His entry into this world was beyond beautiful. It was the most amazing and powerful thing I have ever experienced. There were several times throughout the labor when doubt began to creep up. I had to work to tap into that inner wisdom, that voice, which knew my strength. And each time that I found it, with the support  of my husband and other birth partners, I felt renewed, strong, and capable.

In the end, we were so happy with the outcome. All of our reasons for choosing to birth naturally were satisfied. The night he was born, after everyone had left the room and our son was asleep in my arms, we reflected on the experience with immense gratitude. We were and continue to be so grateful to each other, to ourselves, and to the Universe for allowing us to have the birth we wanted.

Early one morning, half-awake while breastfeeding, reading through my Twitter feed I came across the above tweet by Deepak Chopra.  It spoke to me very deeply. Dismantling imagined boundaries is exactly the work I had to do to prepare for our birth, and love was not only my motivation but the result as well. Once again proving that love begets more love. Dismissing the ideas and thoughts I had created about the limits of my body and my mind was essential for the success of our birth and I did it for the love of my child, myself, my husband, and our family. A mother’s love, though powerful during pregnancy, becomes a roaring lioness after birth. This loves confirms for me that we made the right choice for us.

I tell this story, not to advocate for natural childbirth, but to advocate for Mothers. My birth was not amazing and empowering only because it was natural. It was amazing and empowering because my husband and I were the architects of the experience. One of the most staggering things we discovered in our research is how little research expecting parents do when it comes to childbirth. Many people in our part of the world never discuss what they want or how they envision this most memorable moment. Instead they trust that their doctor or care-provider will just tell them what to do. And they will. But wouldn’t it be better if families were encouraged to be active participants in the decision? Wouldn’t it be better if mothers were supported and encouraged to trust their instincts, their reason, their intellects, their minds, and their bodies to help them make the choice that is best for them? Wouldn’t it be better to treat childbirth as the miraculous event it is, not only for baby, but for mother and father as well? It is not only the birth day of the child, but partners and spouses are born anew as mothers and fathers on this day too. So should we be allowing medical professionals to make this very personal decision for us? Wouldn’t medical professionals and care-takers be serving us better as consultants and guardians of safety?

Pregnancy and childbirth are undeniable proofs of the power of Women. Only women can do it, know it, and feel it. And yet many women feel powerless and inexpert as they nurture and bring Life into this world. Why? We have somehow convinced women that they ought to trust someone other than themselves to tell them the best way to do this incredible thing that only they can do. How can we change that? How we can we move towards mother-directed childbirth? How can we empower women to choose the birth they want? How can we as individuals and institutions support and respect their decisions?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. Talking about it is probably a first step. It is my wholehearted wish that every mother reclaim her birth right to welcome her child into the world in the way that only She knows is best.  I encourage all of us to dismantle our imagined boundaries and examine our attitudes towards women and their bodies.. Through love, we can learn to trust, nurture, and support them as they transform from wife, daughter, and partner into Mother.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2012 2:03 am

    What a powerful thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing your story, your vision, your thoughts on this. I wish I could’ve had that experience of natural childbirth. Precious picture collage 🙂

    • September 19, 2012 2:14 am

      Thank you so much for reading and for your kind comments. I really appreciate it!

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