It was the worst pain of my life.
Think electrocution. Every 10 seconds.
My body was vibrating like one of those phone pagers from back in the day. I stood in the middle of the floor taking deep slow breaths, leaning on my husband. At its worse, I thought I would die. Apparently my mother did too. She would walk into the room every few hours, look at me with eyes of pure terror, give me her version of a reassuring pat on the back, and run like hell back out the hospital door just in case I was contagious. This was way beyond her realm. It was beyond mine too. All I could think was, I need to get out of this natural childbirth sh*t!
I’m allergic to pain. Always have been. Once in high school I had to be rushed to the emergency room when my ears started ringing after taking too many painkillers for cramps. I knew I was going too far, but I would do anything to get pain to stop. As an adult, I was known as the The Medicator. My mission was to kill pain and those little pills were my bullets.
Imagine the mix of elation and TERROR I felt when I found out that I was pregnant. I was overjoyed, but man, I couldn’t stop thinking about that pain. How bad was it going to be? How long was it going to last? Would I die? I had a friend whose grandmother would say that giving birth was like knocking on death’s door. Oh my!
My only hope was that there was this wonderful medicine that I revered up there with the Polio vaccine, called an epidural. This miracle drug would make my labor a breeze. At least that’s what my mom told me about her experience. But even then I wondered if it would work. Everything was set until…
I met a woman at the mall holding the cutest newborn. We started talking and off course I asked her about her labor. How was it?
She told me that her first labor was good. She had a natural birth.
“You had a what?”
She had a natural birth.
“Why? I mean why?”
She said that when she got pregnant she started doing her research and found out that babies come out more alert when they haven’t been drugged.
Hmm. It was the first time that I had ever considered the experience from the baby’s point of view.
She went on to explain that Labor Number 2 was a whole ‘nother story.
She wanted to give birth naturally again but this time she had gestational diabetes so she had to be induced. The Pitocin drug they used made her contractions so strong she felt like she was being continuously hit by a Mack truck. Her body was shaking so bad she HAD to get the epidural. But the damn thing numbed the top part of her body instead of just the bottom, so they started flipping her around like a pancake trying to get the medicine to move down. From there things got worse. The baby’s heart rate dropped. Twice.
Panic. Prayers. Prayers. Panic.
At that point, all she could think about was getting out of childbirth alive. And though she and baby number 2 did make it through, the recovery time was much different with drugs. She was groggy and had to wait for the drugs to wear off before she could do anything on her own, with baby number 1 she felt fine immediately after. Her advice to me: “Natural isn’t for everyone, but it’s better for the baby.”
She messed me up because now my sweet epidural wasn’t looking so sweet anymore.
So I called my friend Stacie who’d recently given birth to see if she got the epidural. She did, but wishes she hadn’t because she was a stone’s throw away from having the baby without. She can’t help thinking that she’d feel more accomplished had she thugged it out a little longer. I imagine that’s what most women think, but the bottom line is that epidural saved the day. However, she gave me the number of her girl Daphne who gave birth naturally four times! I had to speak to her because, really, who does that?
Tracking down Daphne was a thing. She’s got five kids so mama is busy. When we finally caught up, she kept it surprisingly simple: “I didn’t like my first experience in the hospital. It just felt so unnatural. Think about it, an apple doesn’t go to the hospital to get help falling from the tree.” So she went on to have her next four babies sans drugs, two of them at home. Her advice to me: “Look at all sides, then make your decision.”
I took her advice.
Things took a turn when my neighbor Krista gave me a book called The Feeling Child by psychologist Arthur Janov that scared the hell out of me!!!
It had countless stories of births gone wrong that seemed to have lasting effects on people. One that sticks out in my mind had to do with a guy who was the product of a C-Section. He was put under hypnosis and taken back to the time of his birth. He described being warm and cozy in his mother’s womb to suddenly being thrust into outer space. He felt uprooted, free-floating and unable to get a grip. And interesting enough, he feels like he’s never been able to get a grip on life. Next I watched a video called The Business of Being Born that exposed the medical industry as a business. Designed to make profit.
Epidurals make profit. C-sections make even more.
My decision was made, I got a doula to help with the birth and we were ready to go natural.
Now I knew it was going to hurt, and I thought I was prepared for it, but NOTHING can prepare you for that pain. It’s surreal.
At one point, I looked my husband square in the eyes and told him, “I don’t think I can do it.” He looked me right back and said, “Yes, you can.” I contemplated asking for a divorce. My doula’s advice, “Just one more contraction. One more.”
I stuck with it.
The hardest part came after my water broke and the contractions that were already so intense and frequent decided to multiply by infinity. I would have cried but I didn’t have it in me. I did the only thing that I hadn’t tried yet. Asking the baby to come out.
And as if the baby understood exactly what I was saying, it was time to push. I put on my game face, dug deeper than I had my entire life, pushed three times and we were welcoming a beautiful girl.
My husband said that when she came out her eyes were so big and she was looking around at everyone like, “What?”
I DID IT.
Giving birth naturally was a supernatural experience.
It allowed me to see what was possible and inspires others in the same way that I was inspired by Daphne. I wanted to be just like her, though I thought that it was impossible for a coward like me. Now I know different. Now it’s branded on my soul that I am a Goddess Mother Warrior and I take it everywhere I go.
By Erickka Sy Savané
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