Sunday, April 29, 2012
Reflecting on My Birth Experience, and Why My Views Have Changed
You may have read Eisley's birth story. It was an intense experience. Over 4 days of natural labor, intense contractions, very little sleep, no drugs, and my body just not progressing. Eventually we had to transfer from the calm warmth of our birth center, to the sterile and unwanted environment of a hospital. It was a hard decision, but both my midwife and myself knew that I was just one of those unlucky, and very small percentage, of natural-birthing moms who just wasn't going to be able to finish the process of birth naturally. It was pretty devastating to me, I am not going to lie. I cried about it. A lot. When my midwife told me what I was already feeling, that it was time to transfer to a hospital, I bawled. This was not what I wanted for me, or for my little girl. I wanted my beautiful, peaceful, natural water birth. I wanted to claim my womanly strength, and the experience of bringing life into this world on my terms. I had done four and a half days of hard work all on my own, no drugs, no interventions, but unfortunately also no sleep. My body was shutting down. I had used all the energy stores I had.
Sleep was really not an option. We'd broken my water after I stalled at 7 cm, thinking that would get things going again. It didn't. I closed back down to 4 cm and stayed there. For a couple of hours. Contractions had been so intense for those 4 days/nights that I woke up for every single one. That meant that I had been sleeping maybe ten minutes at a time for over 100 hours. Brutal. If I'd been able to sleep more, and for longer periods of time, I think I could have done it. I think I could have gone on. But my pain threshold had been reached. Exhaustion saps you of your ability to deal with pain, and I'd dealt with quite a lot, for quite a long time.
By the time we got to the hospital, I was practically ready to beg for an immediate epidural. I needed sleep, and I needed some relief from the now constant pain. It was an inner death. I was giving up. I was weak. I was unable to do what my body was designed to do. I felt guilt, sorrowful, inadequate. Instead of a peaceful water birth, my daughter was brought into this world with drugs, pitocin, epesiotomies, and vacuums. I planned on guiding her head out with my own hands. Instead, a vacuum did that work.
Of course, when she was born I forgot about everything for a while. It really wasn't for a couple of weeks that I started to process what I'd been through. I didn't really know what to make of it, or how to deal. I felt cheated and disappointed. Then one of my friends from church made a comment that made me grateful, for the first time, for all of those medical interventions that I had been through.
"Just think" she said, "if you had been giving birth a hundred years ago or so, you and Eisley probably would have died."
I'd never thought of it this way. I'd never stopped to be grateful for modern medical technology. I'd looked at modern hospital birth as something of an abomination. Hospitals make women feel that their bodies aren't capable of birthing on their own. For the record, I still do believe this to a degree. I think 99% of women are perfectly capable of a natural birth if they trusted themselves and gave it a try. But for that other 1%, that small group of women that I found myself a part of, modern hospital births can be a life saver. Instead of feeling shame and self-imposed condemnation about the way things worked out, for the first time I was able to see how very very lucky both Eisley and myself were.
We could have died. If not both of us, probably one of us.
Since this realization, I've wondered if God let me go through this because He knew I would learn a very important lesson. One that I'm sure I'll keep learning for the rest of my life.
I've got to stop judging people. I don't know their story. I don't know the extenuating circumstances. I don't know where they've come from, or what they've come out of. I judge people all the time. It's what we do. It's ok. You can admit it to yourself, you probably do it too. You probably do it a lot. I know that I do.
I've judged a whole lot of women for the way they've gone about having their babies. I've felt superior about something that I had no experience with whatsoever. I watched documentaries, read books, and thought I had it all figured out. And I was a fool.
I worked hard for 4 and a half days. I labored. I mean, I really labored. I may not have been able to have my daughter naturally, but I did something difficult, amazing, and life changing regardless of the help I had in the process. It doesn't make me less of a woman, any more than your scheduled induction, c-section, or epidural-aided birth makes you less of a woman. What I did, what you may have done, is the most difficult thing any woman can do. Sometimes in life we need help... sometimes it's just not possible to rely solely on our own strength. There's no shame in that, but there is a lesson in it.
I rely on my own strength far too much. I think I've got it all figured out. I think I can save myself, do it myself, find my way all by myself. The thing is, as a Christian I should know that all of that is crap. I can't save myself, I can't rely on my own strength to get me through. Without help, without intervention I would have died.
It's amazing to me the way God shows us what we need to see, and how capable He is of helping us learn multiple lessons through one situation. For me it was that I needed to stop judging others, especially other women, and that I need to stop thinking I'm strong enough to do it all on my own. Sometimes I need help, and that is totally ok. It took my daughter's birth going completely the opposite of the way I'd planned to once again see the goodness of God. It took my daughter's birth to see how lucky I am to have been saved when others have perished. My daughter's life is a gift, a beautiful wonderful gift... and so is mine.
It's taken me a long time to realize this and to come to terms with the way my daughter's birth went. I went through all the stages of grief. I cried when I saw other's beautiful photos of their water births. I was angry at God for taking something away from me that I thought I deserved. It's taken me 9 weeks to realize how blessed I am to be alive, to have a beautiful healthy daughter. I could have died. Eisley could have died. I am so thankful now for modern medicine and a midwife that knew when to call it. I'm unbelievably thankful for a God who saves me over and over. I'm thankful for life and love and the fact that I even get to be here to tell my story. It may not have played out the way I wanted, but it played out the way I needed it to.