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Reading Annie's book and her entry about Will has me thinking back to my fourth birth. I was truly happy with all of my births, each with a midwife in a hospital but my final fourth one stands out. I ask myself why and I think it is because there was such strong sense of peace in the room when my son made his appearance. My husband and I had three other beautiful girls and maybe we had the hang of the whole birth process? We definitely felt anchored by each other and the knowledge that the midwife knew what we wanted. The midwife had been practicing for over 30 years and she really contributed to the feeling of the calm that pervaded the room. She and my Aunt Josie, who was filming the birth, gave a strong sense of matriarchal support and love. I will never forget my husbands face when when my son started crowning after two pushes. I had pushed for hours with the girls and the speed with which he came into the world was an amusing comparison. I think for me a cornerstone of my births has been the midwives who have guided my four children into this world. Annie's book has been a wonderful opportunity to remember and appreciate each birth for its unique moments.
Thanks for sharing this beautiful reflection Diane, love the juxtaposition of the "matriarchal support" and that unforgettable look in your husband's face, amazing what we can see of our own experience by looking at someone else. - Annie
Since Annie mentioned her first moments with Will, I thought I would begin there. I did not experience any of the "skin-to-skin euphoria" in the moments following my first baby’s birth. When Simon popped out after a fairly uncomplicated vaginal induction delivery, he was blue, and was swiftly whisked away. Throughout my pregnancy, I questioned my decision to be cared for in a high-risk OB practice, since my case seemed borderline high-risk at best. Yet the moments following the birth swept aside months of frustration and uncertainty as my OB remained remarkably calm and composed in a situation that might have otherwise been terrifying. I felt particularly lucky that Simon decided to make his entry into the world during the shift of this particular OB, whom a friend had previously described to me as the person he’d want to relay a cancer diagnosis if it ever came to that. It is a testament to her gentle manner that it would be days before my husband and I realized just how dire the situation had been. All I heard was her softly state, “We’re gonna go ahead and call the peds team” before lifting my baby away. Then the room was abuzz with activity, and someone called out an initial APGAR score of 1/10, while we sat, holding each other and shaking. Fortunately, Simon was fine, and it wasn’t too long before his APGARs rose and they brought him over so that I could kiss him. Because I work in a profession that valorizes natural childbirth, I am often asked about my feelings toward my heavily technologized hospital birth. I always respond by telling this story, and explain how it affirmed my belief that giving birth in a hospital was the right choice for me. Yet what truly made my experience so positive was not the technology or medicine, but the compassionate, quick-footed work of a truly gifted physician.
Thank you Mara for such a thoughtful and honest post. Indeed, it is rarely really about the technology itself. -Annie
I thought I could get us started, though those who've read my book know I’ve already written quite a bit about my births and what a good birth means to me. But I had a couple of new reflections to add, so here goes.
One of the first things we asked women who participated in The Good Birth Project is when they thought birth begins and when it ends (as you might imagine, answers varied widely). But it is something I never really asked (or tried to answer) myself, though I leaned toward the idea that birth stretches out way beyond the physical emergence of our babies, beyond the hospital stay, well into our lives in both directions.
Just last week though I started putting together Will (my fourth)’s baby book – the urge to do so consistently accompanying the pending arrival of a new sib (at 25+ weeks now I figured I needed to get to it). As I sifted through the powder blue box that held everything from photos to scribbles from friends to hospital wrist-bands, two things struck me. First was that maybe the book-making ritual marks an end to Will’s birth for me – I finally feel like I’m in space where I can look back on it and tell a story that feels whole. We tell our birth stories again and again – but it has seemed to me that it can be a while before they really take shape and we settle in with them. Making (and, I suppose) writing books has been a way that I’ve figured out what my children’s births mean to me. Indeed, it was part of the inspiration for this your-story forum – to create a space where anyone moved to do so can write.
The other thing that struck me was a picture I found – I don’t remember ever seeing it before but it brought back a flood of memories. I’m inclined to post it to my fb page, with some trepidation for the intimacy it reveals. It is a photo snapped of the first moment I laid eyes and lips on Will. People talk about feeling helpless and strapped down during their cesareans – but that was never my experience. The drapes and tubes and OR din seemed to melt away in that moment as a nurse – who you can hardly see – held us cheek-to-cheek. Such was – with each of my boys – among the sweetest moments of my life. It was not the classic slippery skin-to-skin euphoria that is so often idealized (and is certainly ideal for some) – but it is my very first moment and I will never forget the way it felt. When I interviewed women it was so refreshing to me to hear that however they give birth, first moments are as unique as the women and babies who experience them – and with empathic help from supportive caregivers and loved ones, we all can find our own good in birth if we let ourselves do so. I’d love to hear about more first moments, or anything else you’d like to share.