Saturday, February 2, 2008

What I Learned About Life Through Childbirth

This is one of those pieces that has been rolling in my head...

I have two daughters, ages 2 and almost 4. When I was pregnant with the first one, I elected to birth at a birthcenter with a midwife and (gasp!) to receive no pain medication! Originally, I leaned toward this option for less-than-noble reasons--I don't like hospitals. But, I found natural birth was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life--enough so that I repeated it with daughter #2 (in a hospital, even). The lessons I learned have had a profound impact in shaping how I view the rest of my life.

I need support
It is hard for me to be exposed and vunerable. And, boy howdy is birth exposing! And yet, as my dear friend held the container while I threw up during a contraction, I remember thinking, "I am SO glad she is here." I could not have labored sucessfully without my husband and other support. I need people who love me to stand with me. I am not an island or even a peninsula. I am built for love and relationship.

I have a voice and ask for what I want
I really learned this from my second birth. After my wonderful birthcenter birth, the hospital felt scary and foreign. But I was able to stand in my strength and express my desires for my labor. I chose my experience and was able to have a beautiful birth. I am not subject to those around me creating the atmosphere, I have choices and can express them.

I am capable of doing a hard physical thing
Up until giving birth, the hardest physical thing I'd ever done was run a few half-hearted wind sprints. I was much more likely to curl up with a good book than scale a mountain. And yet, in all my couch potato-ness, I was able to run my personal marathon and survive on the other end--twice!. Yes it was hard, but I did it. And I even got an endorphin rush! In the last four years, I have lived less afraid of my body than in the twenty-whatever years prior. I still love to read but walking, hiking, getting to the gym and dancing with my kids are ways I connect to my physical part.

I don't have to understand everything
I like to know things, have all the info, be in control. Birth doesn't work like that. Sure, there are lots of things to learn about pregnancy and birth but at some point, enough is enough. There is no way to "think through" a birth. It is body, emotion, soul and spirit. I didn't have to know how my hormones were making my cervix soften, I had to believe it would dialate and open enough to allow my baby to be born. While knowledge is good, trust and faith are equally important in life.

I have feelings and they matter
Birth involves two people very directly: mother and child. There were things I rejoiced in about my births and things I had to grieve. I have heard "Well, you have a healthy baby and that is what matters." But the baby was only half, and she had the easy part! I have feelings, they are important, and they are good! :) I am often tempted to minimize but when I do that I deny a part of me.

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