Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Business of Being Born

My kids have already asked me what God is (not an easy question for a Jewish/Buddhist/Super-secular girl like me to answer), what it means when you die, and how babies get into their mommy's tummies in the first place (well, it happens when they are very, very, very tiny).

Yesterday, they finally thought to ask how babies get out of their mommy's tummies. Aha! An easy one.

Except that when you explain the birth process to a three year old they totally think you are lying. Oliver just looked at me with smiling apprehension and said, "Nahh." Maggie said, "Oh, yeah, they turn into pee pee and come out your vagina," in a voice meant to convey that while I was indeed hilarious, she could not be so easily fooled.
After a second attempt to convince them I wasn't kidding, I figured out that it was pointless and let them draw their own conclusions. Someday they will know the ugly truth about so many things.

Besides, that's not how they were born.

They were born under blinding lights, attended by masked men bearing scalpels. They were tugged from my body by gloved hands. The first people to hold them were nurses we will never know. They were whisked away to beeping incubators while I lay strapped down and prone and unconscious and the Mister stood pacing furiously outside an OR he had no access to. I didn't get to see them for ten hours. It left us all feeling powerless and incapable and totally blindsided.

"holding my kids" after their birth

Their birth was one of the most awful experiences I've ever had, and to this day I feel like weeping every time I think about it. When you tell people this, that you had a bad birth, they try to make you feel better by saying, "But you got two healthy, beautiful children." This is true. We did get two healthy and beautiful children. And for this I am more grateful than I can possibly ever express. It is a blessing and good grace that boggles the minds, and that, frankly, makes me a little nervous.

This is no way to first see the world

But the fact remains that their birth and all its attending medical intervention and bullying has left me with a bit of sadness and shame I am not quite sure how to shake.

It's been three-and-a-half years and the pure envy I feel for women who have those empowering, I-am-woman-hear-me-roar births is nearly unbearable.

And here's the thing: I know I would have been good at it. Under other circumstances, with a less complicated pregnancy, I would have gotten my wool-clad midwife to light some candles, sunk down in the birthing tub, and pushed those babies out like Ina May Gaskin herself. I would have worn braids. And planted the placentas under magnolia and olive trees.

Ok, maybe not the placenta part. But afterbirth fertilizer or not, it would have been, I think, a better beginning for all of us if it could have been a little closer to how God intended. Alas.

If you are a pro-vagina, groovy mom like me, you will probably have the same love/hate relationship with this movie that I do. I can't even watch the trailer without crying.


Petunia Face said...

I am right there with you--emergency c-section after 3 hours of pushing with no epidural. I thought I dserved a gold star; instead I got a scalpel to the abdomen. By any chance were your babies Kaiser babies? I thought I recognized the "just born" caps. (I had Zoey at Kaiser). *sigh*

One of my best friends grew up on The Farm and her birth is in the Midwifery book about Ina May Gaskin!

Inner Toddler said...

that oh my god, oh my god, hi at the end just killed me. thank you for posting this.

Simply Mel said...

I believe once the little lines on the pee stick say YES, then this documentary should be viewed.

We cannot control our births (most of the time), but damn our medical system for trying to take over mother nature!

krista said...

i, too, had an emergency c-section. it was the single most traumatic experience of my life. (although i will say that mine was necessary as i was unable to deliver her naturally.)
but i understand your grief.
for me, i can't even watch 'a baby story' or any of those shows anymore because the whole birthing experience just plain terrifies me now.
i am nowhere near nostalgic about it.

Up Mama's Wall said...

Thanks guys for letting me cry on your shoulder. Knowing I'm not the only one who looks back at the birth of my kids with sadness perks me up a bit.
Petunia: they were born at CPMC. I think everyone has the same teeny hats and footprint blankets.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your posting. I had those superwoman births that you talked about...and I can tell you that when I sit in a bathtub, four cups of water come out of my yoni when I get up...

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