January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC-- Wisdom is certainly something I have gained through being a mother -- my ideas and thoughts change from baby to baby, or even minute to minute. As parents, we are always evolving as we find what works and what doesn't, and I think that is a good thing -- the ability to change and grow. As a doula, I love watching moms and dads prepare for and start their journey into parenthood -- what an amazing time! It is not something to enter into blindly, however, and I love educating women on all the choices that they have when it comes to birth. Below is a bit of information about my journey -- my journey to find something that felt just right.
What I wish I knew for my 1st birth:
- You only get 1 “first birth.”
- You have lots of choices—do your research.
- Listen to others and ask questions—don’t take what one person says as an absolute truth. Sample lots of people (friends and family members)—learn from their experiences.
- You have time. Although good prenatal care is important, not every decision has to be made by the time you are 6 weeks pregnant.
- Choosing your Primary Care Provider is more important than choosing a hairdresser—ask more than one person (even if she has good hair).
- Listen to your gut—if you don’t feel comfortable, move on.
- Read, study, learn, grow—devour information.
- These are not good reasons for picking a place to have your baby: gourmet food, new building or state of the art labor and delivery rooms, or distance (within reason).
- There is no reason to be afraid of the pain—the pain is manageable, exhilarating, and necessary for having a baby.
- Fear comes from lack of understanding—labor is natural and the female body was made to have a baby.
My first birth did nothing but set me up for failure in future births. That statement seems very harsh (so harsh I almost did not type it), but it is true. I was induced early, and despite a fairly uncomplicated labor, I was given a terrible episiotomy (after only pushing 3 times, so I doubt it was any sort of “emergency”). Breastfeeding was almost a complete failure, except for the fact that an amazing lactation consultant helped me and encouraged me. My baby had to stay in the hospital for almost a week due to jaundice, because he was born too early—this only added to my breastfeeding trouble and my baby blues. I never saw the doctor that delivered him again, and I am fairly certain that I cannot even picture her face.
My first birth taught me nothing—surprising—because people kept commenting on how well things went. That birth led me into my 2nd birth, which lead me straight to the O.R. to welcome my baby with my arms strapped to the table and my husband outfitted in scrub gear. I first laid eyes on my daughter as she was lifted over a blue surgical curtain.
I finally hit my birthing wall and wised up, however my 1st and 2nd births followed me. I desired to have my future babies in a Birthing Center; however, due to being a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean) I had to be monitored more closely in Labor and Delivery. (I won’t even mention that stupid episiotomy—scar tissue is not very strong, and even by baby number 4, he was still showing his ugly face.) Even so, my 3rd and 4th babies were welcomed into the world by the skilled and patient hands of an excellent midwife. Her face will always be etched in my mind, her calm voice in my head—she is a part of our family. When my 3rd baby was born and placed on my chest, I was so surprised by how calm and miraculous it was all at the same time. My husband said, “I love midwives!” while staring into the face of our new son.
If I could do it all over again, it would be so different. However, I can’t go back, only forward. There is no reason to sit around and think about all the “what ifs”, and likewise, there is no reason to blame myself or point fingers. That being said, I don’t want to sit back and watch women march blindly into birth—I want them to be informed one way or another. I want women to make choices that best fit themselves and their families, even if they are not the same choices that I would make.
My birth journeys have made me who I am today, and for that I am thankful. No matter what, I will never forget the emotion of laying eyes on my first born child—there are no words to describe the feeling, so I won’t even try. However, if you are a mother, I know you are picturing it, feeling it deep within. The sounds, the sights, the smells…they will never be like the first time, will they?