Sometimes, I catch myself feeling homesick for the most intense points in my life. For example, when I studied abroad in college and experienced acute loneliness or when I was depressed after a bad breakup in graduate school and lived on the couch. After my father died, I was not ready to be on the other side of his funeral. I wanted to stay in the protective bubble between his passing and the wake, because I sensed that when we had to go back to living, when we were no longer in the all-encompassing immediacy of our grief, it would be a difficult transition. In these periods, the experience was totally consuming, a terrible oasis from multi-tasking and the distractions of everyday life. The emotional rawness was transformative, and it is as though a part of my psyche stayed there while the rest of me moved forward with my life. In quiet moments, these parts tug on me with a feeling that is strangely like nostalgia. I have no doubt that I have left a piece of myself in the labor and delivery unit. This time, however, the experience was all-consuming but also joyful and empowering.
In The Fourth Trimester, Kimberly Johnson recommends that women write about their birth experience within 48 hours of delivery as a way to process and incorporate the experience and what it means to them. I read her book after that 48-hour window had closed, but of course, my notebook was in my purse and I journaled about birth during sweet newborn naps at the hospital. Johnson also explains that after delivery, a woman may need to close her birth energy, which can be difficult if a birth experience was traumatic on one hand or exhilarating on the other: “Often if women have had a revelatory birth experience, there may be an inner hesitancy to seal their system back up, lest they lose contact with the bliss and transcendence that they encountered during the birth.”
For a week after giving birth, I did feel hesitant to move on, because the experience had been so intense and ultimately positive that I felt a little stuck in that headspace. I was riding high on adrenaline and oxytocin. I was a little bit in love with birth and with the people who attended my daughter’s birth. “You were amazing,” I told the nurses, the midwife, my husband. I think I told the baby she was amazing, too.
She was amazing—my silent partner in labor. In fact, many of the natural birth resources I used emphasized the role of “the passenger” among the four Ps of birth (passenger, passage, powers, and psychology). On Birth Kweens, a funny and informative podcast that helped me prepare, the hosts (a midwife and a doula) often remind listeners that birth never goes according to plan. In one episode, they half-jokingly assert that no one knows how birth is going to go except for the babies, and they aren’t telling us ahead of time. After our daughter’s delivery, I have thought a lot about what I read and heard about babies sending signals to get the birth that they need.
Preparing for Natural Birth After Induction
As I noted in my post on our single umbilical artery, I had an induction of labor at 40 weeks. I tried every natural method possible to encourage spontaneous labor at home, because I felt very committed to having an unmedicated, intervention-free delivery and, statistically, having an induction increased my odds of some sort of intervention. When I discussed my concerns with the midwife, she was reassuring that having the induction was meant to prevent an emergency situation for the baby that would be a reason for a cesarean section. She cautioned me, however, that inductions tend to take a long time; commonly, when women opt for epidurals after induction, it is not because of pain, it is because they are exhausted. I did not want an epidural because I wanted to be able to move through my labor. To me, the nuts and bolts of delivering with an epidural actually sounded much less appealing than the pain. That’s just me.
So, I prepared my head for a long haul. I studied my coping techniques from the Birth Kweens and Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel. Julio and I talked about visualizations and using sports psychology to get through the tests of endurance and stamina. “I can do anything for one minute at a time,” became my mantra.