My mom was a Lamaze instructor. I grew up dropping dolls through a pelvis model on our green shag carpet. I fell asleep hearing expectant couples practice “hee-hoo” breathing. I watched birth movies. My mom even coached our mean cat Susie when she delivered 4 kittens on her bedspread. Blood poured down my mom’s hand after Susie bit her. In serene, hippy, 70’s style Mom said, “Susie’s just in pain right now. It’s okay.” I watched from the doorway, eyes huge.
I always assumed I’d have a baby. When we finally got pregnant after years of infertility and all the gazillion dollar interventions, it was twins. I surrendered to this massive endeavor, happily eating pounds of bacon and Walker shortbread cookies. My belly swelled ripe and proud. Then it just gave up at 25 weeks and decided to eject the babies. I spent the next 10 weeks in and out of the hospital trying to to keep those babies inside. Miserable and terrified, I was forced to submit to the strange prison of strict bedrest.
When we and our extensive medical team decided the babies were ready, we removed the medicine pump from my thigh, and earnest contractions started. I never felt them. I think my body was overwhelmed and just gave up. The next day I somehow pushed my healthy daughter out the regular exit. My healthy son breached himself and crawled up and away from the exit. After many medieval attempts to turn him he was rescued with an emergency c-section. It was a mess. There was no Lamaze breathing. There were a lot of drugs. There was blood everywhere. Chris was quiet. The anesthesiologist was literally standing behind me squeezing down bags of medicine with white knuckles to keep me sane during the unexpected trauma. But we did it.
Three years later a miracle baby showed up in my belly with no science, no money, no plan. Surprise! We couldn’t believe we got pregnant for free!
My water broke one morning after I wrote our Free Baby a long love letter. We casually went to the hospital. I wanted a VBAC. After hours of bored waiting they decided to kick things up a notch with 1/3 of the lowest dose of pitocin. Within minutes waves of pain overwhelmed me. I was drowning and choking in blinding pain.
This is when I lost my mind. I held my nurse’s face in my hands and said, “you’ve got to help me. people think i’m a strong person. i’m not a strong person. i’m not. i’m a very, very weak person. please help me.”
My imagination ran with the acute pain and I started sobbing, “Oh no! It’s going to be so bad! I have 3 holes and now it’s going to be one big ripped hole! It’s going to be like a bomb went off! Oh God, please help me!”
The doctor reported that I was measuring 10cm. With wild eyes I asked when I was getting the epidural. He said it was too late. Many women have crossed the Rubicon of “Birth Without Meds,” but I could not be one of them. I’ve passed out cold in doctors’ offices from pain before – from having a wart frozen with liquid nitro. Can you imagine me crowning?
Somehow my dashing husband convinced them that an epidural was in everyone’s best interest. I was a crazed beast. The anesthesiologist completed her task and half-smiled at my instant relief, “In 20 years I’ve never given an epidural at 10.5 before.” Our big fat pink baby girl was born 25 minutes later without incident.
Millions of amazing words have been written about the transcendent beauty and horrifying violence of childbirth. There is nothing like it. We give up our bodies to grow babies. We surrender to the glory and grit of delivering them into the world. Like Jesus said, “this is my body, broken for you.”
I’ll never know the unbelievable achievement of natural childbirth. Out of blinding fear, based in fact, personal history, and too many birthing videos, I couldn’t knowingly surrender to pain. I’ve been ashamed of this. I wish I was tougher. I wish I could have breathed better and tried to have a baby 100% naturally. I deeply envy and admire my friends who climb that Everest.
But now, many years removed from morning sickness, swollen feet, and pooping on the table, I feel differently. I am proud of my catastrophic and comical birth stories. I was Me when I had my babies. I planned, tried hard, laughed at the absurd, and verbally processed everything, just like always I do. In order to do my best for my kids, I needed help from experts. I still do.
I feel giddy finally owning my birth stories. I can share them without qualification or apology. I am thankful. This, too, is surrender.
I will be unfolding this story and the idea of Surrender throughout the month of October.
Yesterday’s story of Surrender: A Gentleman’s Invitation.
To read more about our shared spiritual journey and questions, you can read here: Soul
You are loved.
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2015.