I know I’m supposed to tell you my med-free birth was a beautiful, inspiring experience. That this is what I wanted when I walked through those hospital doors and that my baby and I are so much better for it.
The truth? It was raw, humbling, messy and painful. I yelled passionately for anyone who could hear to “HELP ME,” reducing my husband to tears of helplessness. I gripped the bed sheets with such force I’m surprised they didn’t rip in two. I labored on my hands and knees without a care for modesty. I made noises I didn’t know humans could make. I was drenched in sweat and tears.
Lucy was born with a cord wrapped tightly around her neck, causing my midwife to firmly yell for me to stop pushing (a near impossible feat) while she cut the cord to release the rest of her body from mine. Seconds later, the relief of her exiting my body was quickly muted when there was no loud newborn cry. The fear of the pain, quickly replaced by fear for my baby girl’s health.
The cleanup, the surprisingly painful placenta delivery, the twinges of stitching my body back together were not pretty. There are no social media-worthy pictures of her entry into the world like with my older boys, born with the aid of epidurals.
There was nothing beautiful about it.
But for every messy, raw detail, there are more moments of strength and pride.
The gentle, sometimes stern, coaching of my midwife through every contraction, every pain, every moment of “I can’t do this,” was the ultimate portrait of trust and vulnerability. Without her, I couldn’t have done it.
My husband and I narrate our life story in a leather-bound book that holds our wedding vows and the stories of our children’s births. Each arrival, documented in time-stamped detail. This time my husband chose words to describe Lucy’s birth from his eyes like “I saw a whole new side of my wife;” “she is an unstoppable force;” and “I cried at her resilience.”
I don’t know what I’d choose next time, if there was a next time. All my babies have come fast, which sometimes was a blessing and sometimes more than my body could handle.This time, I went to my regularly scheduled midwife appointment with minimal progress (1 cm) and barely a hint of contractions. Four hours later, baby.
My epidural births were calmer, infinitely less painful and led to much slower recoveries. My med-free birth was more pain and intensity than I ever would have imagined, but I walked from the delivery room to my recovery room just hours later. I felt like myself again – both physically and mentally – within days, if not hours.
I am proud of myself for all three of my births, as all women should be. Growing a human and delivering it into the world by whatever means necessary is perhaps the greatest work a mother will do. My birth plan has always been to get to the end result of a healthy baby and mama. The freedom to be flexible has led to three very different experiences, and as crazy as it sounds, the prospect of never experiencing childbirth again brings tears to my eyes. The pain fades so quickly and is replaced by a longing for the emotional highs that extend from the first contraction to the final push.
Someday I’ll tell Lucy the story of her arrival. I’ll talk to her about having faith in yourself. How the body and mind are unstoppable. How we have the strength deep within us to do more than we know.
Because it might not be pretty, but girl, we can do hard things.