It happened again the other day. I was in a conversation with two women who had both delivered their children vaginally, and as soon as the conversation steered itself into birth stories, and I shared just a little piece of mine, I was strategically steered out of the conversation. I felt like the third wheel who was no longer welcome, yet who no one was actually going to ask to leave. It was that awkward moment, where you want to just walk off, but feel you need some sort of reason to exit stage left.
As a child, and even into adulthood, the majority of my education related to the process of giving birth came from television. I would watch as a laboring soon-to-be mom would yell and scream at her husband on a favorite TV show. The screams would most certainly lead to that moment when she was told it was time to push. And, well, you know the rest. It would be a miraculous and almost magical experience, followed by tears and snuggling of the baby. I learned that this was what birth was like through shows such as Bones and Friends (two of my favorites). Bones had her baby in a barn, and even Rachel was able to give birth ‘naturally’ despite being told her baby was breach.
So I was very happy to finally go into labor on my own at nine days overdue with my first son. I had the experience of arriving at the hospital in pain after my husband frantically drove me there in the middle of the night. I chose to labor naturally and paced the halls for hours to ‘move things along,’ stopping only to grab a hallway chair rail during a contraction. I ate ice chips and Jell-O, and felt it was all going according to plan. And I saw all the gear set up in my room, waiting for baby’s arrival, including a cute little hat in the hospital bassinet. Yet I was never told to push, as I never made it to the illustrious and much anticipated 10 centimeters.
I have two sweet healthy boys and I am so thankful for that. But both were born by cesarean section. With my first, my husband got to hold him before I did, as it was an emergency C-Section and doctors had to make sure we were both ok. Luckily, my second was a scheduled C-Section, which went much more smoothly. I got to hold my son right away, and I am, again, quite thankful for that.
But, when I am in one of those mommy conversations about our labor stories, I often feel less than. This is especially true when I am the only one who didn’t give birth the natural way. It could just be that people gravitate to sharing mutual experiences and shy away from the unknown, thus leaving me to feel that, in this type of situation, my story isn’t as important. Or it could be that, since they didn’t go through being told they needed to have a C-Section, they simply believe I had a choice and could have tried harder. Somehow, it just feels like others are judging me, and for something I truly had no control over.
Luckily, more and more women are coming forward with telling their birth stories, no matter how imperfect. This willingness to tell things like they really are gives those of us who didn’t have the ‘typical’ birthing experience feel a little less isolated. It helps us to get rid of some of that completely uncalled for guilt, some of the first pangs of guilt we feel as moms. By coming together as moms, and acknowledging that we each have our own journey, even if drastically different than the next mom’s, we can begin to feel peace with that story. After all, who wants to feel that bringing their child into this world – giving them life – however that happened, is less than.
Check out this new podcast I just discovered, Startup Pregnant. This episode, featuring Tamsen Webster, is especially fitting, based on the above topic. I commend her for speaking out about her own birth experiences, which (spoiler alert!) didn’t go as planned.
What was your birth experience like? How do you own it, despite any outside judgments?