This post is brought to you by The Baby Swing. My sister-in-law lent me her baby swing while she doesn't have any kids currently in the swing stage. Let me tell you - this post would not be possible without it. A shower would not be possible without it.
I was going to write a big, long, detailed birth story. I actually wrote a good bit of it already. In the weeks following E's birth, a few of my friends without children asked me to detail my birth experience. At first I was a little nervous to share because it hadn't gone how I wanted it to go. I didn't get my 100% natural birth. As I told the story and watched their faces, I realized that hearing about just the physical side of labor and delivery can be, well, horrifying. This is not what I wanted to convey to my friends about childbirth. While the nitty gritty of birth should be something that women getting ready to have children should be aware of, telling only this side does not at all reflect the deep emotions of the birthing experience. I realized the most important parts to share weren't about the drugs I did or didn't receive and the pain I did or didn't experience. I've read tons of birth stories like that on other mom blogs. While I am definitely willing to share details of the physical side of my labor and delivery to those who ask, what I want to share today is how giving birth to my daughter instantly the transformed my heart.
Like I said earlier, various circumstances made a completely natural childbirth unfeasible. During the early part of my labor, I mourned this. I probably had more tears because of this than because of pain. Lots of people kept telling me that all that mattered was that everyone was safe and healthy. Maybe that was the most important thing, but it definitely wasn't all that mattered. I didn't seek a natural childbirth because I'm a masochist. I wanted to actively give birth and not passively lay there while having a baby just...happened.
My labor progressed very quickly and intensely. Although I couldn't completely physically engage in labor the way I wanted to, I wasn't expecting how mental laboring would be. I mean this in a really, really good way. I couldn't control everything about the physical side of my labor, but I could control my mind. Once I was able to set aside my disappointment about how the labor started, the whole experience became so incredibly positive.
I had a choice with each contraction. I could let it completely overwhelm me, or I could dig deep within myself and pull out a strength I had no idea I had. It took awhile, but I think I finally got past the overwhelming feeling. I wanted my labor to be more than something just to "get through". I wanted it to be something beautiful. I had read about using labor as a time to pray and offer up our deepest intentions. Once I emptied myself enough, I was finally able to offer up intentions. What a peaceful experience!
The other amazing part of the labor was Chris. I wish every woman had a husband this supportive during her labor and delivery. This man prepared as much for labor as I did. He coached me, stroked my hair, held my hand. He was my rock during the part of labor where I really was emotionally wavering and doubting everything - my ability as a mother, my ability to even be able to push this baby out. I could not have made it through without him. It helped me to see how simultaneously strong and tender he can be. It improved and deepened our marriage to go through this whole experience together. And don't even get me started on what a phenomenal father he is :)
Another big part of my labor being a great experience were the two positive and encouraging women I had as my resident and nurse. They tried their best to follow my birth plan, making my birth as natural as possible. They were joyful and encouraging. While I knew I needed Chris in the room with me, I had underestimated how having another woman in the room would enrich my experience. The nurse shared her birth experience and was encouraging in a different (but complementary) way to Chris' encouragement. If I ever become a nurse, I know I will forever think back to the women who took care of me while I was in the hospital.
I had been nervous at how much birth would expose me - both my body and my heart. I was afraid I would feel scared and immodest, that being in that much discomfort would bring something ugly in my heart. Birth did expose me, but in the opposite way. My friend Erin and I were talking recently about this phenomenon of birth. I would have thought before that there could be nothing worse than laying there naked, exposed, in pain. In other words, completely vulnerable. Instead, I felt strong, assured, confident. It turns out that giving birth and being a mother has given so much more healing to my heart than years of therapy could ever give it.
My body has always been a source of shame for me at any size. I've been overweight for many years now, but even at my ideal weight, I felt a disgust about my body. Pregnancy, birth and motherhood have helped me feel - dare I say - a beauty about myself. With pregnancy, I loved that my body grew round because it meant that my little girl was growing within me. During birth, I felt strong and powerful and such a sense of purpose about my life. While nursing my newborn baby, I had a WOW moment. Look at what a woman's body can do! Create, support, deliver and sustain life! I firmly believe that this is the vocation of every woman, whether she does this spiritually or physically. I am so grateful that becoming a mother has given me the gift of this realization. I just wish it hadn't taken me so many wasted years to realize it. Sometimes when I'm holding Evie, I whisper all of the things I want for her. I don't want her to be any particular profession. I want her to have a pure, strong heart and a confident spirit. I want her to know that her vocation as a woman has so much beauty and purpose.
Looking back, I can't believe I was ever nervous about whether it was the "right time" to have a baby. There have been a million confirmations that E was supposed to come into the world precisely when she did. I'll share one huge one with you. A couple of months before we found out about E, my Dad shared with our family some earth shattering news. He has cancer. For the third time. And it looks serious. News like this has a way of overshadowing a family. It taints every conversation, every family gathering whether it's spoken about out loud or hanging damply in the air. The news of a baby balanced everything out - it gave us something positive to talk about and to look forward. Her name had been a favorite of both Chris and mine months before we were pregnant. When we found out we were having a girl, we took a few days to pray and consider whether this was the right name for this baby. I cried when I looked up the name and found out it meant "bearer of good news." I needed no more confirmation.
If I talked incessantly on my blog or bent your ears in person about my pregnancy, it's because the only thing I've ever been sure I wanted is to be a mother. When I gave birth to that little girl, a dormant part of my soul lit up in a way I never thought was possible.
God bless this beautiful little girl.
And God bless the baby swing.