When I began preparing for Whit's birth, I knew I wanted to go as naturally as possible. I had read the books, seen the videos, done the research. I'd watched The business of being born and read a few books. Natural birth was best for mother and best for baby. Plus, everyone said birth was difficult, painful, hard! If I could do it without the drugs everyone said I would need, surely that made me special, stronger, better (I'll admit, not a very noble thought.) During the 3rd trimester Kirk and I took a birthing class, I spoke with several doulas about childbirth, I wrote a birth plan which I shared with my doctor and had placed in my file at the hospital.
Still, I was nervous, if not scared, about the upcoming labor and delivery. Kirk and I had gone through so much to get to this point, we weren't about to let anything get in our way of becoming parents. Plus, I had very few resources and being the introvert that I am preferred to research on my own rather than reach out to the one or two people who may have been able to help. In my family, very few people have had "natural" births. Both my mother and mother-in-law ended up with last minute c-sections with their first children and planned c-sections with their second. The one close friend of mine who had given birth had a c-section just the previous week and most of the other women in my family had epidurals (and loved them) or planned epidurals and didn't get them. I know my mother was born at home, but it wasn't intentional and my grandmother did not offer many details about any of her 8 births when I asked. I did get the sage advice of "babies come when and how they come," but no details. I'm sure if I had tried harder I could have found someone I knew who had planned a natural birth and got it, but that wasn't the case.
So I was on my own (or better yet, we were on our own). I won't go into the details, but you can read Whit's Birth Story. To summarize, I experienced what my obstetrician considered a successful birth after the complications of an extended labor and large baby. Had I been giving birth 30 years before (or even 5 years before) I would likely would have had a c-section for failure to progress or too big of a baby. Thankfully, I had an obstetrician delivering me who respected my birth plan and was "slow to section" to quote the labor nurse. And yet, my biggest fear had come true: the inability to control anything.
In the end, I was satisfied with Whit's birth but knew that the next time something would need to be different. Just six months later I witnessed my sister's labor, the only labor I'd ever seen aside from my own. It was beautiful. She clearly "got it" and seemed to have such a different reaction to the contractions than my balling up in fear of the unknown and anxiety that everything would "go according to plan." It would be another 18 months before I would hear my first inspirational birth story from a friend who planned, and got, an intervention free birth at a hospital. I texted my support to her throughout the process and, knowing how important a natural birth was to her, offered to come to the hospital if the need arose. She was lucky to have a very supportive staff and husband and sailed through her labor and delivery beautifully. Although I cannot recall the exact words she used to phrase how she felt after accomplishing this feat, I do remember her saying that if she were to have additional children they would all be born the same way. I know she will be a valuable resource in the weeks to come.
Just last week I was visiting with a friend who labored at the birthing center and delivered just an hour after transferring to the hospital, completely naturally. She suggested that I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth as she found it the most helpful in understanding the psychology of birth. I've been devouring the text over the last few days and I must say it is very empowering and an important read for anyone considering a natural birth (at home or in a hospital setting).
So what have I learned in the two and a half years since the last time I was in this place? It is important for some people to plan. I'm one of them. I'm a planner. It's not something about myself that I can, or really want, to change. Yes, I will have a birth plan again. This time it's more of a wishlist or a guideline for a hospital staff that just doesn't see a lot of "natural" birth.
But I am changing my outlook on childbirth. I'm not trying to have a natural birth because it's best or because that will make me stronger than someone who didn't have one. I'm having a natural birth because it's just that, natural. God made me capable of delivering a baby. I know this because I've done it already. It's true that some of the fear of childbirth has been relieved by the knowledge that I have delivered a 9 pounder and can do it again. But it's more than that. My attitude has changed. Labor and delivery, birth, is not something to be tolerated, survived, or managed, it's something to be experienced. As with everything else in life, it's about the journey. Like my sister before me, now I "get it" too.