Here’s my suggestion for those who intend to be parents but aren’t yet: Never say you won’t do something. Only a year and a half in I’m eating crow on plenty. Yes, my kid watches TV, plays on my phone, and eats store-bought baby food pouches.
I always swore my kids would be screen-free ‘til two and would only eat homemade baby food—not because I’m a hippie but because those pouches are so dang expensive! A lot of parenting is about picking battles, and making baby food and refilling reusable containers to save $2 a day ended up more hassle than it was worth to me.
Another aspect of parenting that I made lots of declarations about involved childbirth. I was all about the epidural. About three-quarters of the way into my first pregnancy, I became a natural-birth fanatic and I still am, two natural births later.
The natural birth world can be a bit over the top and definitely fanatical at times. Folks have their kids present at their birth in a pool in their living rooms and eat their placentas. Despite being a natural birther, for now, that’s a line I haven’t crossed. Eating my own (or anyone else’s) placenta is definitely not my jam, at least for now (notice how I never say never).
One fad of the natural-birth world is birth photography. Before my daughter was born I didn’t think that was my jam. I’ve eaten crow on that, as well. When my daughter was born, my doula (not really with my permission) took a few grainy photos with my camera. She told me later it was a moment I couldn’t get back, and if I wanted to I could just delete the photos, but I should at least have the opportunity to look and decide.
I went through the photos and immediately had one regret: that I didn’t have more. When my son was born, I was drawn to doula profiles that explicitly stated they took photos. I wanted to capture those moments.
Although I’m not sharing most of the photos we have of my son’s birth, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to. What’s behind the impulse to take, then share these photos?
I made a person. Wrap your head around that. I made elbows and toes and fingers and heart ventricles where none had existed before. Out of nothing, my body formed an entire, perfect human being. Not only did I make a person, but I successfully ejected it from my body totally naturally, without drugs. I’m proud of that.
Regardless of how a kid comes out though, it’s an achievement to celebrate. With an epidural, you’re stuck six ways from Sunday and push out a kid. With a C-section, you put yourself through major surgery and are cut wide open just to give a kid life. I love a lot of people, but I wouldn’t volunteer to undergo (or even risk undergoing) major abdominal surgery for most of them.
The miracle of life is truly a miracle. The way the birth process works, from conception to the birth itself is nothing less than a miracle. In a myriad of ways things could go wrong, but most of the time, they don’t. One of the mantras I love from the natural-birth community is the declaration, “Your body was made to do this!” While society might try to hide the differences between the sexes, this is an undeniable way that the Creator made men and women differently; women were made to make life.
Since I was pretty busy during childbirth, I want to have a chance to fully appreciate this miracle later. Childbirth is a blur, and with these photos I’m able to remember moments that I was physically present for, but not entirely mentally able to process. Had I not had these photos, I never would have noticed the incredible pride and love in my husband’s face during labor and immediately following birth.
One of the best photos of my son’s birth was in the seconds after he came out. His birth was incredibly fast and intense (I was in labor a total of 90 minutes). This photo captured a look on my face as he was passed to me for the first time that was simply incredible. I was in total awe. Awe that he was here so quickly (when I woke up that morning I had no idea I would have a baby before noon) and that I had successfully weathered another birth. Above all, though, I was in awe of the miracle of the entire experience.
3.Remove The Fear
After both births, folks asked me in hushed tones, “So… how did it go?” I’ve written a blog post after each birth (here’s one and two) and I’m always amazed at how much traffic they bring. Last week, I made a baby meal for a person in my community I had never met. When she sent me a Facebook message afterwards to say thank you, she told me she had read my recent birth story. I find it kind of funny that anyone, let alone a stranger, would want to read my story, but both times, thousands did.
Why are they so popular? I think it’s because childbirth is such a mystery for those who haven’t experienced it or been present for a birth. Pop culture tells us to fear it. We see videos of women wheeled into rooms begging for help, screaming. Despite the somewhat scary nature of my stories (I’m clear there was pain involved), I hope that I portrayed one thing, if nothing else: I didn’t need anyone to save me or do it for me.
Childbirth is hard, I won’t deny it. Regardless of how it happens (natural, medicated, or surgical), it’s a physical and emotional challenge like nothing else in a woman’s life. Regardless of how it happens, I didn’t need anyone to save me or do it for me; there was only one person giving birth, and that was me. I got help (as does every other woman, regardless of how her child is born), but at the end of the day only one individual in that room is in labor, only one person climbed a mountain. To see other women achieve that is incredibly empowering for those gearing up for a birth themselves.
One of my favorite parenting mantras in the midst of the mommy wars is this: Different strokes for different folks. As long as other’s decisions don’t affect me or directly endanger a child’s life, I understand that my choices aren’t for everyone. Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone did the same thing? The days of my children’s births were positive cornerstones in my experience here on Earth. I’ve documented the other ones: graduations, my wedding. I revisit those photos afterwards and relive the experiences. While childbirth was a challenge, I’m proud of what I accomplished and am endlessly grateful for the end result. I don’t have photos of the day I met my husband, but I’m so glad to have them for the days I met my kids.