As you can probably tell from the posts this month on the blog….I am a birth junkie. I love giving birth. I love the pain and intensity of it, I love how real everything is, how alive you feel. I love the challenge of it, the preparation, the connection with other women…..you get the idea, don’t want to be too redundant here.
My little secret that I haven’t fessed up to is that one of the reasons I’m sure I like birth so much is that I get a lot of positive attention for the work I’m doing as I go into and through labor. There’s glory there, everyone showering me with praises, telling me what an awesome job I’m doing, how strong I am, how capable my body is….I’m even telling myself these things over and over again. Everyone listens to me and is focused on me and I get to act however I want and say whatever I want. I’m surrounded by people who are forgiving of anything I do, accepting me even if I’m not composed or kind, encouraging me, cheering me on. I am queen.
And then, after a few days coasting on the highs of all that birthing glory and drinking in the beauty of new life, reality sets in. My body is empty and exhausted (and un-showered, sweaty, stinky, engorged and leaking). My brain has turned to mush. My emotions are a wreck. I’m cranky and unkind and my patience is nearly non-existent. And I start complaining and wallowing.
I never feel prepared for this part. Sure, toward the end of pregnancy I remind myself it’s going to happen and going to be hard. But I’m always a bit shell-shocked by the reality of it all.
I have a great post partum team, my mom, Jeff, Jeff’s mom, great friends who are helping on every front. But, in the middle of the night when I’m up with a gassy baby, so tired that I can hardly lift up the little guy, no one is sitting by my side, holding me hand and telling me how totally awesome I am. During the day my kids aren’t standing around me in awe at how I’m handling the pain of those first few seconds of nursing, telling me how great I’m doing. And I’m certainly not telling myself many positive things (I’m mostly feeling pretty sorry for myself and pretty lame that I can’t keep everything together). I don’t feel much glory in the work I’m doing. I mostly feel, well, empty and exhausted.
Sometimes exhaustion brings me my best thoughts and this is the one I had the other night as I was up nursing: post partum work is every bit as hard and demanding as childbirth, and it’s also just as important and stretching and amazing…….and I need to treat it that way. Somewhere in my journey through motherhood I’ve decided to revere childbirth. I need to attach the same importance and glory and respect to the work I’m doing right now. I need to recognize what this challenge is doing to me….how it’s connecting me to my baby, how it’s making me stronger, more resilient. How it’s stretching me and connecting me to mothers all over the world. How it is giving me experience. Sure, I’m sacrificing a lot right now….but, holy cow…..I’m helping a new little soul start off a life. I’m helping him understand his body and the world and how the two connect. My face and voice and chest and his gastrointestinal tract are his entire universe right now. And this little soul, fresh from god is totally reliant on me to navigate this new territory.
Grace. Through a lot of preparation, education, mental exertion and some really lucky good genetics I feel like I’ve figured out the path for me to graceful childbirth. I want to be able to bring the same grace to the labor I’m doing right now. Mostly I think that means I need to suck it up, stop seeking all that glory. Accept that things are going to be hard and sleepless and squalid. I’m going to smell like spit up and have a nice little mommy gut and big bags under my eyes for a while. And my kids are going to watch TV. But what I’m doing is pretty amazing. The sacrifice is small when you look beyond it to what I’m actually doing. I’m starting off a life.