Women are so powerful. Not only do we create life, but we are often the glue that holds families together and would do anything to protect our children.
Birth is many things, but easy is rarely one of them. It is a right of passage into motherhood. It brings us to our breaking point and forces us to continue even when doing so seems impossible. No matter how challenging or even traumatic the birth was, though, if the end result is a healthy baby, that is all we are told matters.
But our stories matter. What we experienced during birth matters. Whatever path our transformation took, it matters. Because we matter. We matter.
Last night was the first Birth Story Share sponsored by the St. Lawrence County Birth Connection. It was an amazing success. Women from all walks of life came together to celebrate birth while holding space for all stories, be they traumatic, joyful, peaceful, or sad. The respect and reverence in the room blew me away and I can’t wait to experience it again. I felt a part of something sacred and something that we tend to forget in this fast-paced world.
Last week was hard for a lot of people and felt like a major blow to women. A lot of people are scared and may feel like their voices don’t matter. But they do matter. And the more we speak of the challenging parts of being a woman and the things that we need to change, the more they become heard. Sharing our birth stories may feel like a small thing, but I know it is hugely important. If we don’t talk about what we have experienced, nothing will ever change. The world will never know how powerful we women are or how much the current culture surrounding birth threatens to smother that power by adding time limits and unnecessary interventions unless we talk about it.
The way we birth matters and the way we talk about it matters as well. Sharing inspiring stories as well as the complex-somewhat-horrible ones shows the reality of what women experience. As the queen of birth, Ina May Gaskin, says, “Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” The way you gave birth sticks with you and speaking of the experience can heal and light the way for all future births. We are so powerful and it is time the rest of the world sat up and took notice.
The upcoming election has me thinking about options. We are so fortunate in this society to have so many options surrounding where we live, what we eat, the clothes we buy, who we vote for, and even how we choose to watch our favorite television series. Having children will drastically change one’s life and we are so fortunate that individuals here are able to make that decision for themselves.
As a doula, I know a lot about birth and babies. I also know a lot about pregnancy and the amazing toll it can take on a woman’s body. Women have to sacrifice comfort, eating choices, and sometimes health to grow a baby. There is so much joy and wonder surrounding new life and everything involved in creating it. But for every positive, there is often something about the mom or her partner that needs to be forsaken or at least put on hold.
Each step of a child’s development has its own set of challenges. We need to function on very little sleep accompanied by nagging self-doubt with a newborn. Breastfeeding can bring pain and struggle, while formula may bring guilt. The toddler years turn the most patient people into screamers and preschoolers are the best negotiators in the world. Need I even write about tweens and teenagers?
But all the superficial struggles aside, likely the hardest part about parenting is what we end up losing. There is little flexibility in life once children enter the picture. Not only do we need to account for children’s schedules, but we also need to make sure that someone can be with them at all times. It is nearly impossible to fully commit oneself to work when having to make sure there is backup care in the event of running overtime. Doulas know this struggle well!
We also need to schedule in self-care as children suck up negativity and stress like sponges. Any disruption in our personal equilibriums can sabotage an entire day. If I don’t sleep well, I need to load up on caffeine and positive affirmations so I don’t get a tiny bit agitated, thus creating a downward spiral of behavior – his and mine.
I love my son more than anything and am so grateful that I was blessed with him. I also had to put a lot of what I love on hold. There are many things that used to strongly be a part of who I was that may be gone forever. I have chosen to raise my son in a way that puts him in the forefront of my life. I am fortunate that I was able to make that choice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t mourn for my pre-child life from time to time.
Raising a child takes a lot of work. Everyone who has done it or is doing it knows that. It is a lot of work and there is rarely any acknowledgment that you are doing it “right.” None of us want to raise jerks and we’re all trying our darnedest to make sure we’re making as few mistakes as possible.
I love seeing the creation of a family at birth. New life is precious.
But it is not for everyone, and I firmly believe in giving people options.
New Day Doula
Rainbow and Mary share thoughts on pregnancy, birth, and the parenting journey.