A week ago I gave birth to my daughter, a glorious culmination of years of research and preparation. Here are some reflections on the labor and birth:
1. Nearly everything I had specifically visualized about the birth came to pass. I was careful not to put time restrictions on my birth affirmations. For example, I would say to myself, “my birth will go smoothly and at just the right pace” rather than “my labor will last 5 hours.” Here are some of the affirmations and visualizations I used. I didn’t ever write them down or say them out loud; I would just let them play through in my mind:
- My body will go into labor when the baby is ready.
- The baby will get into the perfect position for birth: head down, chin tucked into her chest, her back facing my stomach, and the umbilical cord tucked safely out of the way.
- I will move my body to help the labor progress smoothly and to help the baby get into the best position.
- I will feel joy, anticipation, and excitement as my labor begins.
- My husband will be exactly what I need him to be during labor. He will be calm and collected, and be able to watch me labor without feeling fearful or anxious.
- I will embrace every sensation of labor, without judging them. I will also let go of the sensations once they are finished.
- I will take one contraction at a time, and will remember that “I can do anything for one minute!”
- My cervix will thin and open at just the right pace.
- I will enjoy the rest periods in between contractions.
- I will ease the baby’s head out with my hand as it emerges.
- I will give birth to my baby kneeling down, cradling her head and body with my hands as they emerge.
- After the baby’s head is born, her head will rotate and her shoulders will slip out easily with the next contraction.
- My uterus will clamp down quickly and firmly after the birth.
- My placenta will release cleanly and all in one piece. After the placenta is out, my uterus will continue to clamp down.
2. I hate to give my birth experience a label, because it’s not just one of many ways to give birth. It is THE true standard of normal. There were no outside influences to disrupt or derail the physiological process. Just pure, raw, spontaneous, instinctive birth. This is a tricky thing to say without slipping into Mommy War mode: My birth was better than yours. Nah nah nah boo boo. The kind of birth a woman has is sometimes beyond her control, so I do not mean to say that a person is any less or more of a woman if she birthed unassisted, or via cesarean, or with an epidural. This is not about personal judgments. However, a spontaneous, autonomous birth is an unparalleled experience and should serve as the standard against which we judge and measure all other births. How can we know if a birth practice is healthy or harmful unless we know what birth REALLY looks like, stripped of all interference?
3. Giving birth seems like a dream. If there weren’t a beautiful little girl nestled on my chest (okay, and a sore bottom too), I would almost think it never happened. I wonder if the endorphins I felt played a role in making the memory hazy and distant. I have had a few times where I remembered the birth physically, in my body, almost as if I were reliving the sensations. Once I felt the endorphin-induced buzz. Another time I relived the sensations of pushing. What makes these windows of clarity appear?
4. While preparing to birth unassisted was definitely a difficult path, birthing the way I did was the easiest possible way. There was nothing any person or institution could have done to make it better or easier or more satisfying. I am willing to do the hard work of preparation and planning. I am NOT willing to make the labor unnecessarily difficult!
5. A perfect birth does not occur by accident. It is something you work for. I poured almost four years of my life into preparing for this birth. I have the luxury of being a PhD student in American Studies, which means I could choose my course of study. I focused on...big surprise...childbirth, and my dissertation is about unassisted birth. I have read hundreds of birth-related books, journal articles and birth stories; trained as a doula; apprenticed as a midwife; attended many home and a few hospital births; read tens of thousands of entries on various internet birth groups. I educated myself about variations of normal. I examined the assumptions I held about birth and found that many of them needed changing.