Natural birth is a topic that I feel passionately about and after sharing Tai's birth story, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the experience and share why is was so influential to me.
“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth.” — Dr. Christiane Northrup
As women, we're constantly sent the subtle message that our bodies aren't good enough-- that we can't bring our babies into the world without drugs and/or surgery. Few of us ever get the opportunity to witness a real birth in person. Our only perceptions of birth comes from movies and TV shows-- where it's shown to be a crisis situation-- the birthing mother flat on her back in a hospital bed, screaming hysterically while doctors and nurses shout at her to push. We almost never see birth being presented as beautiful right of passage-- and without first hand experience, we never get to feel the magical energy surrounding birth.
I'm grateful that my mom instilled in me trust in my body and in my ability to birth babies. In recounting our birth stories (something she did every year on our birthdays) my mom never once used the word "pain" to describe her experience. She talked about the strong sensations, followed by incredible joy that marked the births of my brother, sister, and me. Thankfully, the popular belief that birth is scary, painful, and unbearable, never penetrated my psyche too deeply. Rather than fear it, I looked forward to Tai's birth as an opportunity to see what my body was capable of. I wanted to feel--to be present and aware of each rush as my baby came into the world. While the contractions were not "enjoyable," I knew that each one was doing a job. Unlike the pain of a cut or a broken bone, labor pains are productive-- each contraction means that your body is opening and preparing to bring the baby down. As long as I focused on that fact, I found the pain of my contractions didn't overwhelm me.
Like many people I know, I've spent a good portion of my life trying to escape pain-- both physical and emotional. I became very good at tuning out, running away, and hiding from any sensation that made me the least bit uncomfortable. Finally, through the (sporadic) yoga and meditation practices I started in my late teens, I began to grasp the concept that pain can open doors for us-- that some of our most powerful growth can happen when we stay present in our discomfort. Tai's birth was the deepest, most beautiful demonstration of this for me. At the peak of my labor, as the contractions crashed, one on top of another, I went deeper into myself than I'd ever been. A primal force controlled my body, and I knew that trying to run or hide away in my thoughts was no use. There was no way to "escape"-- fighting the contractions only made them worse and I realized my only way out was to surrender to my body and the intense sensations washing over me.
I was able to surrender to the experience because I wasn't afraid-- I had been given the incredible gift of trust in body-- passed down to me from my own mother, and from wise women in the books I read and researched. I went into labor trusting that my body was created to birth babies and that it knew what to do.
And, I brought my son into the world, free of any drugs or pain medication, in the beauty of our bedroom.
My hope is that more women can reclaim trust in their bodies that we begin to question the medical model of birth that so often convinces to be afraid of this beautiful, natural process.
*Note-- my intention in this piece is not to judge or criticize ANY mother for her birth choices. I realize that we all walk different paths and that how/where we birth is an incredibly personal decision.