I never expected childbirth—not actually meeting my baby, but the physical act of bringing them into the world—to be one of my favorite, most defining life moments. I understand that many women don’t see it this way, and view it as solely a means to a beautiful end. That is okay! But as someone who is practicing finding teachers in the everyday, I realize that I learned a number of lessons in labor that apply to both childbirth and day-to-day life.
We can (and should!) make informed decisions. I gave birth to our firstborn when I was just 23 years old. Because of my youth, I had very few peers who had gone before me in pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. I was left to explore this new and uncharted territory: Which prenatal vitamins are most beneficial? Hospital, birthing center, or home birth? Doula, or no doula? What childbirth classes would suit us best? Eye ointment, epidurals, circumcision, oh my!
What I ultimately discovered, though, is that I not only have a sound mind to make these choices, but I have intuition, too. Surround yourself with people who make it their goal to educate and support you. It’s obvious that delivering in a safe environment is essential, but finding a midwife that we connected with, who supported our birth plan, and who created a peaceful space to bring our child into the world was crucial as well. While many times our best-laid birth plans don’t come to fruition, I still think it’s important to have a firm grasp on what is happening to you and your baby, even in the middle of unforeseen circumstances.
What we let ‘in’ affects us. It’s a caricature as old as time: a pregnant woman is out in public taking a stroll, when suddenly, her water dramatically gushes to the floor, and BAM! Immediately, labor begins full-force. She’s screaming like a banshee, wild-eyed, sweaty and cursing her husband as they wheel her into the hospital room. We love the drama of it all; for that reason, it’s nearly impossible to traverse the grocery store while noticeably pregnant without someone stopping you to tell you about their 72 hour labor and near-death experience in the delivery room. Women wear their interventions and hours-of-pushing as badges of honor, and it’s nothing short of discouraging to expectant mothers.
One of my favorite aspects of Hypnobabies (our childbirth method of choice) is the creation of your own personal Bubble of Peace. Remove yourself from the war stories. Rather than entertaining the frightening possibilities, fill your mind and heart with realistic and encouraging truths. I feel safe, secure, and confident. I was made to do this. My body knows just what to do to birth my baby. So much of birth is mental; for that reason, halt the negative influences and feed yourself positivity and inspiration.
Our husbands make the best partners (so invite them to take part!). There are certain circumstances in life that open people up like a book: stress, grief, change. It astonished me how many facets of my husband’s character were revealed in those hours of bringing our children into the world. If we’re speaking of caricatures, the representation of men during labor is bumbling, grossed out, and unhelpful– think husband smoking a cigar in the waiting room, or passing out on the other end of the bed after glimpsing what’s under the sheet.
On the contrary, I witnessed a quiet strength from my husband; one that didn’t actively or vocally direct and guide me, but anchored me down and allowed me to instinctively bring our children into the world. I felt his pride and confidence. Because he was so well-versed in the natural progression of birth and our relaxation techniques (Thank you, Hypnobabies!), there was no air of fear or timidity. He was connected to me and our babies– so connected that he was able to reach down and catch them. Those are cherished memories.
I can trust my body. I’ve written before about how I lost faith and trust in my body as we experienced recurrent miscarriages. What I didn’t get to say, though, is that giving birth began a long process of healing that mistrust. One of the most mind-blowing things about labor is how utterly not in control you are of what is happening inside of you, much like how I felt in the middle of our pregnancy losses, except it felt right to let my body take control this time. To witness such unbridled, life-giving strength in your own skin is empowering and helped me to mend those past feelings of betrayal.
In my short five years of motherhood, I feel as though I’ve learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons (with a lifetime’s worth still to come!). If I could say one last thing about birth, it’s this: it seems to be the perfect portrait of raising children. In all of the fantastic physical and emotional discomfort and stress, we’re putting in the work that it takes to create life. It’s messy . It’s difficult. And it’s worth every single moment.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.