Yesterday our doula Holly came over for our two-week postpartum visit. I can hardly believe it's been two weeks. It, at once, feels like 2 days and 2 months since V arrived in our lives.
Holly came over at 4pm yesterday — the same exact time she arrived 2 weeks ago to see us through my active labor. Yesterday we talked about the birth, how we all felt it went, what was surprising about it and if there was anything any of us would have done differently.
While there were some surprising aspects of it for me (finding out that I was already 8cm when we arrived at the hospital), there is nothing I would have done differently. I continue to feel incredibly grateful that it went the way it did. There are few things in life that I'll admit to being proud of myself about, but giving birth to my daughter naturally is easily one of them.
Natural childbirth has been something that I've been interested in for a long time. It's something that several of my good friends have done and it's something I already knew a fair amount about, even before I got pregnant. I don't know that there was ever a time when I considered giving birth any other way.
After I became pregnant though I truly delved into the world of natural childbirth, reading books, watching dvds, taking classes and workshops and talking to other moms who had chosen this route. The more I learned, the more resolute I felt about this approach.
And while it was wonderful to immerse myself in a community of such like-minded people, I still met a lot of resistance to my decision. It's partly why I didn't write much about it here — I wanted to keep any criticism of it out of my head. Throughout my pregnancy, when I would mention my natural childbirth plan to certain people — coworkers, family members, other moms — I would often get responses along the lines of, "Oh, you just wait until those contractions really start. You'll be screaming for an epidural."
I learned to just smile quietly in return and not press the issue further, hoping that my actions down the road would prove them wrong. And as I've gone along in this process, I've become deeply saddened by the way American culture approaches childbirth — the extreme medicalization of it all lends itself to intense fear and a lot of unnecessary procedures and interventions.
(I also want to point out that childbirth is a tricky thing and no matter how much you plan for it, all sorts of things can happen. There are plenty of women who do as much work and research as I did and still end up having c-sections and getting induced, for one reason or another. Again, why I'm so grateful that things went the way they did for me.)
I think in some ways I'm still processing the whole birth experience, but as each day goes by, I feel prouder and more grateful to have had the experience I did. I have a new appreciation for my body and for what I'm capable of working through. And I know that Greg has a new respect for me as well — I can tell just by the way he looks at me when he tells people about the birth experience and about how amazed he was by the way I handled it. (Our friends Sandy & Sarah also had a wonderful natural birth experience recently and Sandy writes eloquently about his awe of his wife in this post.)
When I'm asked about why I chose a natural birth it's easy to cite all the facts about c-section rates in the country and the effects that epidurals have on mother's and babies, but the real reason is that I just wanted to be as absolutely present for the experience as possible. I've been through a lot of hard things in my life — things that I was forced to breathe through no matter what — so having a baby, while hard, was something I wanted to face as consciously as possible.
And I did. And sometimes I still can't believe she's here.