Last time I was pregnant, I read all the earth goddess birthing books and was thoroughly convinced that hospitals were anti-woman assembly lines of procedural misery. Ina May Gaskin and Ricki Lake and a host of other birthing gurus delivered up via Amazon algorithms made me feel empowered and inspired to trust my body to give birth. Their message that birthing is natural, that we are born for this, that our bodies know better than anyone, reverberated with every feminist, girl power instinct in my soul. I was sold. I would give birth, at home, powered by yogi breathing and soothed by “nature’s epidural” (a birthing tub). I’d feel connected to the universe and the stars and billions of women who had gritted and squatted and groaned before me.
Like any good birth plan, mine was a complete fantasy.
Birthing brought me to my knees and kept me there long after I’d crawled through the revolving door at the hospital. It took me months to lick my wounds and fully process the experience. I imagine hormones and sleeplessness contributed to my moving past the traumatic parts, to beginning to forget the hardest moments, to even having lost bodily memory of what the worst parts felt like.
What I’m left with is the acceptance that things turned out just fine, and that while most of it I’m happy to let time soften and blur, there are pieces of what happened that I would like to repeat: namely, midwives and the epidural.
The midwives I worked with were nothing short of wonderful. Our appointments were relationship focused, highly personal, validating, and thoughtful. And on time, too. My pre- and post-natal care was beautiful.
The epidural is something I would log in my gratitude journal every single day for the rest of my life, if I were a person who kept a gratitude journal.
This time around, I think I’m going into it a bit more clearsighted than last time. I (think) I have no illusions of control, though I’m sure this baby and this birth will prove me wrong, again, in ways I can’t yet fathom.
But, one thing I think I’m doing right, is that I’m cherrypicking those two best things about the first time, and I’m having it both ways. After a brief stint of prenatal care with an OB (who was great, but wow, a whole different model of care) I’m back to the home birth midwives I worked with during my first pregnancy. I’m getting that lovely, low-intervention, and respectful care I loved so much, but I’m also having a planned hospital birth. My midwives are so women-friendly—and so understanding that the experience of birth isn’t a one-size-fits-all—that they 100% support my desire for drugs. When the time comes, I’ll go to the hospital, and one of them will come with me as my doula.
I have no doubt this birth will bring me to my knees in brand new ways. But I’m pretty happy with this ‘plan’ and that I (might) get to have it both ways: the earth mother pre- and post-natal care, plus all the miracles of modern medicine.
We’ll see in what ways this turns out to be a fantasy, too.