I believe in birth. I believe in my body. I believe in our innate knowledge and wisdom.
Immediately after my daughter was born, five years ago, I felt like the queen of the world. I wanted to scream from the highest mountain, “Look what I just did!” and hold my beautiful, pink nine-and-a-half pound baby up high in the sky in triumph.
No one ever told me I would feel this way after giving birth. On the contrary, many stories I heard compared labor to a terrorist attack, or getting hit by a truck. My own mother never told me much about my birth. She didn’t seem to remember much, aside from the fact that she’d had time to shave her legs before heading to the hospital. She died before I got pregnant, or even thought about having children, so I hadn’t conceived the questions I now wanted to ask her: Were you scared? Did it hurt? Did you feel powerful…? or victimized?
Now I work with women as a doula, a trained labor assistant who supports a woman and her family through pregnancy and birth. My friend says I am like a Sherpa in the Himalayas, a guide who has made the climb before-showing you the way but not doing it for you.
Most of the pregnant women I meet don’t look forward to giving birth. They view the experience as a terrifying hurdle between them and meeting their baby face-to-face. I understand why they are scared. Late in pregnancy people I barely knew asked innocent questions like, “Who is delivering your baby?” I know they were referring to my midwife but a part of me wanted to scream, ”Look at me, who do you think is delivering this baby?” In truth, the knowledge that I was responsible for getting the baby from the inside to the outside baffled, perplexed and at times terrified me.
Ultimately, I realized that I trust my body. Surely a body that has grown this huge, squirming, poking being that is bumping around in my belly will not abandon me in the eleventh hour. I just couldn’t accept that my body might at some point say to me “OK, I’ve taken you this far, now you’re on your own.”
My mind, on the other hand, I wasn’t so sure I could count on. During the nine months of pregnancy, if all is well, the body marches on, steadily nurturing, sustaining, creating life. The mind lurches and leaps, wishes and worries, rejects and reassures.
There are some things for which our minds are essential and there are times in life when it is best to find a safe place for our mind to vacation.
I try to remind my clients of this. I believe women should have options, and access to a full array of resources. I believe women and families should get the help they need and want. I also believe that our bodies have their own wisdom. Birth reminded me that sometimes letting go of what I think and surrendering to what my body knows is the best choice. Certainly, it is hard work. But parenting demands a commitment above and beyond any other that I have chosen in life. It is a long, rough climb, but, I believe the views are worth it.
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