Birth. The Experience

By: Laura Kate Whitney

“First moment of life = Life’s greatest gift”

Who was it that said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”? Oh, yes. It was Dickens and he was introducing a plot that involved contradictions and war and the human spirit.

That epic opening (of a book, I’ll admit, I’ve never read) details the beginning and end of my own recent story, one that tells of my second son’s birth. This, too, involved a number of weighty paradigms: It was primal and vile in its process; it was exquisite in its victory. It was a fight to the bitter end; it was a beautiful journey. It was a screaming match between nature and nurture. It challenged my inability to withstand utter pain; it was utterly peaceful. It was, to date, the single most prolific moment in my life.

This particular birth experience was important. To me. To my son. To our family. And now that some time has passed, I feel the urge to reach some level of closure by writing about it and sharing it with you, my fellow mommy warriors.

But let me backtrack a little. Let me put it in perspective.

When I was eight months pregnant with my first child, and my doctor urged me to lose the notion of “natural”, insisting that “there’s no medal at the finish line” and, therefore, ”no real reason to endure the suffering of childbirth”, I nodded my head diligently, lest not to offend this near stranger that I would soon share the ultimate journey with. All I needed to do was to make a reservation; they’d do the rest. Sounds easy enough, right? Well it was… kind of.

Paul Greyson was born almost three weeks early, at 8:48 p.m. on July 23, 2008, weighing a healthy seven pounds. And I, the proud new mama of this precious baby boy, could barely hold him in my arms. I hadn’t the sense to say “welcome to this world”. I was terrified. I was exhausted. I’d been hooked up to an IV for the majority of his journey, pumped full of this and that, left alone to rest (and sleep!) through active labor. I pushed for less than twenty minutes and, surprisingly to everyone in the room, delivered the little guy with no trouble. But now that the show was over, I was left to my own devices, to relocate the wind in my sails that’d been knocked down and “stabilized” just as soon as the laboring winds started to blow. At the nurse’s suggestion, I allowed myself, upon arrival, to “just get the drugs and relax”. My husband was there and he can vouch for me: delivering our first child was “easy as pie”. I barely felt a thing.

I barely felt a thing. And that lack of feeling just felt…off.

Something was missing. It was if I was more interested in eating the refrigerated roast beef sandwich that was delivered thirty minutes post-birth than I was getting to know my newborn son. The nurses had taken off with him and, surely, they were more qualified than me to nurture this tiny, squirming person. I just wanted to get some shut-eye, to relax and regain composure so that I could operate as I had before – you know, with precision and control. This little baby would be on my schedule, right?

I slept through labor. I had to be instructed throughout delivery. (“This is a contraction; you’ll need to push now”.) I’m assuming the hormones that Mother Nature intended a woman to feel post-delivery kind of got lost-in-process. My body was performing as needed, but I felt as if I’d missed life’s biggest performance.

But I got over it. He was perfect in every way. And life carried on and he grew and he grew and he grew and now he is already too big for me to toss high into the air.

So, not long after I found out we were expecting our second I revisited my first experience and considered what I wanted with this birth and decided that maybe, just maybe, I was entitled to a little more. I knew I didn’t have the authority to write my own Birthing screenplay (pain is required, unfortunately), but hey – I could be prepared, rehearsed, awake.

After roughly five hours of laboring at home, we pulled up to Brookwood Medical Center (Birmingham’s best hospital for natural delivery, in my opinion). I was met at the door with a wheelchair and, my bless- her-heart-she’s-amazing doula intervened and said, “That’s okay. She can do this on her own.” And with Birmingham’s best birth coach by my side, I signed myself in and walked with my own two feet in to the room where my husband and I would welcome our new baby in to the world.

It didn’t take long to settle in; I just dropped to a squat and we got to work. I’d been preparing for this moment for months, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I kept on my own clothes. I brought my own pillow and birthing ball. I found my own groove and I just went there, all alone, to a dark place, deeply internal, untouched by pain-relieving medication. I closed my eyes and felt every pulse, every core- wrenching wave. I moaned. I roared. I surrendered. And with the guidance of my doula, I moved to the
beat of my body and delivered an eight pound, four ounce baby boy, just one hour shy of Mother’s Day.

I owned this birth. It was mine. I knew when it was time to move. I knew when I needed to roar. I knew when it was time to push. I was present for every single tender and agonizing moment. I never let my baby leave my side. I knew how to care for him, and I knew what I needed to do to care for myself.

Life doesn’t always give us second chances. But to my luck, it did. Somebody once told me I couldn’t do something, and I believed them. Then I decided that, indeed, I could… And I did. And let me be clear: I’m not boasting or bragging. There’s equal glory to every birth. With the help of a patient and supportive husband (who overcame his fear of “gore”), an undaunted labor nurse, and a committed doula, I championed the best possible birth experience for our little family.

How was it you asked? It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the biggest moment of my life, to date. And interestingly enough, I did find that medal at the finish line…

Afterthought… No matter how I delivered my children, whether it via c-section, with forceps, or in a blue-tile tub, I get
to wear that medal. Childbirth (and the preparation prior to) is no simple feat. And I think that’s what makes it amazing. Giving life is a miracle. It’s the type of show you want to have front-row tickets to. It’s a really important date with somebody really special. It’s something you, Mama, are entitled to. And no matter how it presents itself, it means the world. Having a baby is The Best.

P.S. – Pregnant? Considering natural childbirth? Get informed about Alabama’s birthing laws. You might be surprised with what you find out, as expecting mothers aren’t offered quite the level of service you might expect. Also, hire a doula. Here’s a place to get started.

About LK:

Magic City maven Laura Kate Whitney is a full-blooded Southerner who’s found herself planting roots in Sweet Home Alabama. Life circumstances have brought her to Birmingham, along with husband, two young sons, and grumpy old cat. In her “free time” she enjoys long walks, long showers, lots of yoga, Birmingham history, culinary programming, and date night. You can follow Laura Kate’s adventures on Magic City Manifesto and also on Twitter.

One thought on “Birth. The Experience

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *