If you're planning a natural birth or you've had a natural birth with your baby I'm sure that you've heard a lot of comments. I know I've heard my fair share and I really get tired of all of them. One that really starts to get to me is “you're so brave!” In reality, I'm much more scared of birthing in a hospital than I am of birthing at home.
But the one that gets to me the very most is “you're lucky you have good pregnancies and births.” I usually just smile and agree that I'm blessed. I am blessed. You're blessed if you've had a great natural birth with your baby. Yet there's more than that.
I titled this post because getting to that birth is not easy. It's a process. It really is. And no matter how effortless your pregnancy and birth look to the others, you know it takes work.
You have to start with the obvious. Eat well, get some physical activity in. Take yourself to the midwife or doctor, or monitor yourself at home. And if you're planning a natural birth you know you're going to be monitoring yourself even if you're not going unassisted for your prenatal care. It takes a lot of work to keep yourself in good physical condition. Sure you enjoy some treats and cravings 😉 But you're really focusing on good nutrition and caring for your body and your baby.
Just the tip of the iceberg
But that is only the tip of the iceberg. When someone says “you're so lucky” they're not even considering the amount of work that goes into just that little tip.
And they certainly don't fathom all the internal work. One of the reasons that I love pregnancy is it has the potential to be a time of intense internal growth and there's really nothing like it. I feel bad for all the males striving for and writing about personal development because they just don't get the opportunity to be pregnant.
But you know as a pregnant woman that a lot is going on inside. Even after you've got the physical care down to a routine, there's still a lot to work through. First you have to develop the strength and conviction to stand behind your choices. Modern society is not, in general, friendly to choices of unassisted birth, home birth, or even natural birth in a hospital setting. You have to build strength and conviction to stand behind your choices.
You also need to develop trust. Wow. That one little word brings so very much with it for the pregnant woman. You have to learn to trust your choices. You have to trust your body. You have to trust your baby. You have to trust pregnancy. And you have to trust birth.
When you're planning a natural birth you really can't leave this up in the air. You need to work through your fears and your issues. You need to build that trust so it's grounding you.
People who say “you're lucky” just cannot fathom that. They can't fathom the intense internal work and growth that it takes to come to that place.
I'm well into my fourth pregnancy. I have had three babies at home naturally. I trust birth. I trust my body. But there are still fears that linger in the back of my mind. I still need to take time to work through my own fears.
I still find myself taking time in the quiet moments I get (however few and far between) to talk to my baby and to think. To think about the upcoming birth. To daydream. To go through all the things filed away in my mind and pick out what I'm fearful about, worried about, apprehensive about.
Parts of birth are unknown. You may always have some slight apprehension. But the big issues must be worked through. With my first pregnancy I was fearful. I'd been born by c-section and maybe since that was imprinted on my tiny body I wouldn't be able to give birth vaginally. But I voiced this fear and I faced it. I researched birth, the physical process, and I also researched c-sections. And I came to realize and to know that I could give birth to my baby vaginally, that I could give her a gentle start.
And I did it. If I hadn't taken the time to work through that fear I might have panicked a lot more during her long pushing stage. But I knew in my logical mind how birth worked (and that a long pushing stage is normal, especially for a first baby) – and I knew deep down inside me that I had what I needed to give birth to her naturally and in the best time for her and for me.
So there's always the unknown. But if you're planning a natural birth, you're really working hard to build to that. The preparation to get past your own fears, worries, your own discomfort is monumental. And nobody really sees that. Often the only person that will see that is your partner or your midwife. But many women do this work inside themselves, only venturing to talk to their loved ones or like-minded friends every once in awhile. Sometimes this quiet isn't best (and you should talk) – but other times it's because this is a private journey between you and your baby and the growth you do is private.
Immeasurable and Infinite
So there's the tip of the iceberg, and body of it. And then comes birth itself. And you find the massive base of the iceberg. And that's really where things get mind-blowing. Because there, in birth, you are working. And you are working hard. And you are somewhere else. Between contractions (rushes, expansion, pick your word) you may be right there, laughing, chatting, asking for food. But when that wave comes over you, you are gone. Birth is an incredible experience and there is nothing, nothing else on earth that's like it. The only thing that comes remotely close is lovemaking (and that only comes close in that place of complete adoration between lovers). Birth is growth of universal proportions wrapped into a few short hours.
There's surrender in birth. Surrender to a process that is much, much bigger than you. Yet you and your baby can dance the dance so perfectly well. You sacrifice at times, you give up, and you let go. You open to your baby and you forget society at large. You forget social stigma and you forget what's expected of you. You just give in and you ride a wave that's been crashing through humanity for thousands of years. And what a beautiful, beautiful rush it is.
I'm not sure anything can match the awe and ecstasy, the absolute timelessness of that place where you are pushing your baby out and then there is a new being, a new person, a new soul coming into your life. If ever there was an ordinary miracle birth is it. If ever there was something to blow away the world outside of your awareness, it's the birth of your baby.
What an experience in growth, in learning about yourself, in trust, and in surrender. In letting go and opening.
So when people say “you're so lucky” you can just nod and smile. But you know the effort it's taking, or it took you, to get to that birth. To get to that all encompassing and life changing experience that birth is.
My midwife told me during pregnancy with my third child “Kristen, the birth of this baby is going to change your life forever, and it's going to change my life forever.” Birth is that powerful. And something so beautiful and powerful as that is not something that can be lightly passed off as luck. It's faith. Love. Trust. And it's work. It's hard work.