I’ve been a mom for exactly four days. With Laszlo coming quickly, eight days past his due date, it’s still a bit surreal that my wait is over and I’m finally getting acquainted with the little human I’ve so intimately kept to myself for 41 weeks.
As I think back to the recent events that got me to this sore, sleep-deprived, and infatuated place, I do mourn the pregnancy and anticipation leading up to the labor that I was so ready to shed. Since coming home from the hospital, I’ve realized that it’s not just a pregnancy full of expectations and unknowns that I’m processing, but a lifetime spent speculating on what is now my reality.
A Birth Mothers Feel Good About
I have always known that I wanted to be a mom. As a college student, I come across a documentary called The Business of Being Born that sparked a fascination with all things labor and delivery. From then on, I wrote every possible psychology paper about the impact of birth hormones on bonding and development. I reached out to a local midwife about what I could do locally to get involved in the birth community and became involved with the Fargo chapter of a national organization called Improving Birth.
I got to know midwives, doulas, and passionate mothers who all wanted the same thing: women to feel empowered to have the kind of birth experience they wanted. It didn’t have to be a hospital birth, a home birth, a vaginal birth, or a birth free of pain medication. It just had to be a birth the mother felt good about.
I decided that when I was pregnant myself, I wanted an experience that treated pregnancy as a natural human process rather than a condition to be managed. For birth, I wanted to be free to choose what positions and coping mechanisms I felt best supported my labor. And I wanted to be free of pain medication to maximize the natural hormone release between myself and the baby.
41 Weeks of Preparation
I found out I was pregnant the day after Mother’s Day 2019. Overnight, it was like my energy had been drained and insomnia was going to take over my nights. As I assume happens frequently, I took a pregnancy test at 3:00 AM. Kept company by my nosey dog and cat, I confirmed my suspicion and spent the rest of the night alternating between cautious excitement and terror of the unknown. It took until the 20-week ultrasound to finally allow myself to get excited. Most of my early pregnancy symptoms were behind me – including my strange inability to look at baby products, even those in my house, without getting nauseous.
Up until this point, it was easy to focus on the daily needs of pregnancy: eating healthy, staying physically active, etc. Revisiting my personal expectations for birth was something stashed away for fear of committing to something that could be taken away. Now that we were ready to announce our pregnancy, it was only a matter of time until it was my turn for unsolicited advice and birth stories. I dreaded being asked to justify why I wanted to avoid an epidural or why I chose midwife care over an obstetrician.
As 20 weeks became 30 weeks and familiar faces at prenatal yoga were replaced with newly expecting women, I became conscious that more and more of the conversations I was having involved undertones of criticism about going into labor with any sort of expectations. For such a personally transformative experience, it’s amazing that there can be so much discouragement of wanting a say in how the experience unfolds.
Expectations Become Reality
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, I waffled a lot between feelings of empowerment and self-doubt. The doubt was increased by each all-knowing spectator who seemed to know better than I what my body is capable of. As my due date came and went and the talk of induction became more serious, I started to lose hope that my desired birth approach was going to be an option. I tried to prepare myself for what adjustments I could make and still feel confident entering a delivery room.
And like so many others, that’s all my body needed. Eight days post-due date contractions began about two and a half minutes apart. After only eight hours of labor and about ten pushes our little guy was here. Our time at the hospital was largely uninterrupted. My husband and I faced each contraction in the position I found most comfortable, my water broke while I labored in the tub, and my son was born while I hugged a stability ball. My labor was short, intense, and largely private.
So despite being told I should go into labor with zero expectations, I think that my personal goals and confidence in what’s best for me and my body ultimately helped me obtain a birth experience that I’m proud to call my own.
Did your birth experience go as you had expected? Share your story below!