It has taken me a year to write this post. That isn't because I have nothing to say. It's because I am petrified to try to sum up one of the most important and incredible life experiences I've ever had in 1,000 works. That experience was the birth of my son. Today is his first birthday, so I couldn't think of a more fitting time to finally share.
The process of becoming a mother is deeply intimate and yet it is one of the most common shared experiences we have as humans and women. I felt extremely private about my pregnancy and the goings on in my inner belly. How can you describe to someone who has not gone through it how it feels to have new life moving within you? It wasn't strange or alien, it was life giving and beautiful. I'd never felt so proud of my body and so proud to be a woman any other time in my entire life (culminating with the birth). Even the days where I was afraid to leave the house because I thought I might vomit in public or I was too fatigued to go in spite of it, when I looked in the mirror I felt beautiful. I felt free. I never once thought of myself as fat, ugly, or lacking. I was fulfilled and rightly glowing. To be free of the harsh criticism of my physical body was worth every hardship of carrying a child.
In the media, movies, blogs, causal talk amongst friends, you get a picture of what labor and deliver might be. The woman suddenly experiences water gushing from her body and is rushed to the hospital screaming at her husband/partner ("I hate you!" "Epidural!") while the doctor holds her legs in the air and she pushes five times and the baby is born. Then everyone is sweating and crying and in love and basically clapping. I guess in a way these things could be true but they weren't for me. I think it makes birth sound terrifying.
I was not afraid of childbirth. Even after way too many unsolicited horror stories of birthing gone wrong (why?!) I still felt excited to meet my son and see if he was as I had gotten to know him. Having the baby in my belly, I knew his habits and preferences already. I knew when he was up and when he slept. I knew when his active times were and if chocolate or caffeine seemed to affect him. He got hiccups at least 3 times a week and thought 4am was definitely the best time for gymnastics. Still, at 40 weeks I wasn't ready to share him with everyone else. I was really enjoying being pregnant at this point (all puking subsided after 12 weeks or so, thank god) and had no problem keeping Noah all to myself. I wasn't uncomfortable nor thought things like "get this baby out of me!" I felt pretty content. Apparently he did as well because at 41 weeks there was no sign of his exit.
Having a baby was the hardest thing I've ever done. When I thought I couldn't bear it for another second, I had to. When I thought my body was going to physically give up, I pushed through. When the pain was so intense I thought I might rather die, I felt relief. There was no turning back, no stopping, no relenting. But like all things, it passed with time. Yoga/meditative breathing, patience, determination, and a positive attitude got me through 80%, an epidural the other 20.
Despite my disappointment of not having a 100% natural unmedicated childbirth, and having to fight tooth and nail not to have a c-section even though we were healthy and strong, I had a satisfying labor and delivery. When Noah was placed on my chest I felt a calmness come over me. I felt peaceful and quiet and almost out of my body. He was so perfect and tiny and wonderful. He was like I had know him all along. I got to touch his precious hands and face and belly instead of just feeling them. I got to watch him quietly lay in his swaddle and check out the world around him.
I was suspicious and mildly grossed out by the idea of nursing, but once my baby was in my presence I felt comforted by his nuzzling around, latching on to my breast, and nursing for the first time. It was just supposed to happen. It felt natural and calming. He was a little suckling pro, too.
Afterwards, all I could think of was a six inch Italian sub from Publix with BBQ chips and a sweet tea. No joke. My father-in-law commented in amazement that he'd never seen me eat that fast. I stared at him with lettuce and drippings all over my face and hospital gown. I was STARVING. And then I didn't sleep for 9 months. The end.