I’ve written here before about my first experience with natural childbirth, which was, though uncomplicated, for me a bit traumatic. I wanted to try to do it again, though, and I did.
I am not militantly pro natural childbirth. While I do believe it is the ideal birthing process for both mothers and babies, both times I told myself I would welcome drugs if I needed them. And frankly, I don’t know why and how I didn’t use them the first time. Maybe at every moment I felt I had gone too far to turn back now. Maybe I was completely out of my gourd. Or maybe my convictions run deeper than I think.
At any rate, I approached things very differently this time. I went with a midwives group and I worked with a doula, who, in my opinion, earned her entire fee just by being with me for the car ride to the hospital, not to mention seeing me through my contractions as I was shuffled from room to room and down hallways and on and off an elevator once we got there. And my labor itself was very different- I woke up one morning at three thirty and lay there listening when the birds started up at four, watching their dark shadows move outside our windows. My contractions started at five and, after only two hours in the hospital, my son was born at ten forty-five.
And it wasn’t that bad. Don’t get me wrong—for the last forty-five minutes I was asking for an epidural, but I hesitated (because I did NOT want to have to lie down on that bed!) and then it was time. And then J was born.
We don’t plan on having any more children, and I confess that my predominate thought throughout much of my labor and pregnancy was, “Thank God I don’t have to do this again.” I relay this with no small degree of guilt, since so many women, some of my friends among them, have not conceived and carried children with the ease that I have. But there it is.
But in the days after this baby’s birth I’ve been feeling differently about some things I will never do again. I will never have that moment of joy and—in my case, anyway—overriding relief the moment someone places my newborn child in my arms. I will never have the surprise of first seeing their faces, and of knowing whether we made a boy or a girl. I will never feel the bliss of holding my baby in my arms as I am wheeled through the cool hospital hallways to my room, feeling no pain, feeling nothing but happiness.
My doula says that there is something known as a healing birth: a positive birth experience which can ease and even heal the pain of a traumatic one, and I believe that this is what I have had. She says that sometimes women even get pregnant with the specific aim of having such a birth, hoping to harness its power. I don’t think I would go that far, but I am so grateful for this experience. When I think of my second childbirth experience, I feel nothing but joy, and now when I think of my first one I feel mostly pride.