As a first-time mama-to-be, I was uncharacteristically zen.
I am typically high strung and prone to worry, but for some reason, pregnancy tuned me into my inner earth mama who was cool, calm, and relaxed. I read birth stories and prepared myself mentally. I even had actual birth mantras — things I would tell people when they attempted to shake me with their labor and delivery horror stories.
Toward the end of my pregnancy, when people would ask the typical, “Are you feeling nervous about delivery?” I would answer them honestly and confidently and tell them that I wasn’t … because I really wasn’t. I knew that birth would be hard work, but I also knew that my body knew what to do and that worrying about it wasn’t going to help matters. So I didn’t. Like a swim in the ocean, I planned to just let the waves take me instead of fighting back.
In the end, I had an amazing birth experience. It was hard work (my daughter had a brow presentation, which is no joke and required three hours of pushing), but I made it to the finish line and had the drug-free water birth I had hoped for. I felt strong and empowered.
Postpartum was totally rough — nursing and healing were a huge struggle — and I found myself feeling far less eager to have another child than I had anticipated when my husband started bringing it up again, toward the end of our daughter’s first year of life.
I realized that as a first-time mama, I had the beauty of naivety on my side when it came to birth. I had no idea what it would be like (since every birth is so different). As such, I was able to go into it without fear and with little expectation. Once I was on the other side, thinking about doing it again though, I found myself filled with anxiety over what was to come.
It took some time, but I decided I was “ready” to take the plunge into a second pregnancy when our daughter was about 18 months old. This time around, I mostly just tried not to think about the fact that I was going to have to push a baby out of my nether regions at the end of all of this. I was pretty busy chasing after a toddler, so I stayed distracted enough to not read any birth stories or do any other preparation. I already knew what to expect, so I figured there wasn’t much point. Any time my fears would pop up, my midwife and family and friends would comfort me with the idea that this birth would probably be a lot easier than my first one. They reasoned that my body had been prepped from my first birth and already knew what to do. And since my daughter’s birth had been challenging, this one would probably go a lot quicker.
Well, they were wrong.
My second birth ended up being seven hours longer than my first, with more pushing because as it turned out, I was delivering a baby who was posterior and weighed 10 lbs. 8 oz. with a 15″ head. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and to be honest, it was fairly traumatic for me. In the end, I survived, but I felt a bit like what I would imagine a battered war veteran would feel like. I didn’t feel empowered. I just felt exhausted and thankful that I had survived.
And now here I find myself — 33 weeks pregnant with baby No. 3, and the fear has not gotten any better.
For some reason, I thought that knowing what to expect would make birth easier each time, but nope. It feels more scary for me. Everyone always talked about how “you forget all about the pain!” but not me. Maybe some women really do forget about the pain, but I definitely didn’t. And I think that’s OK. I think a lot of people assume that because you’ve had one baby, doing it again shouldn’t be a big deal, so it doesn’t always feel OK to talk about, but talking it out has definitely helped my mindset.
I’ve realized that it’s normal for me to verbalize my anxiety over giving birth. It’s a huge life event, and it can evoke a lot of emotions — some positive, some negative. Talking it out has helped me to come up with some good strategies for getting through, and I’m trying to remind myself that I am strong and capable and that my body knows what to do. My birth may not end up being zen or orgasmic a’la the women who give birth at Ina May’s farm, but I can still get through it. Everything is going to be OK.