Superwoman

In the moments immediately following Eve’s birth, as the tub filled with blood and I held her (per my midwife’s instructions) with just her head above the water, I felt like a superwoman. Despite the fact that we had not attended any birthing classes, I’d managed to have the med-free birth that I have always wanted. I had been saying for years that I would use no drugs unless medically indicated, and for years most people who found out my intentions (I did not just volunteer the information because of the negative response I almost always received) were sarcastic, discouraging, and dismissive.

Even at my own baby shower, at one point I was surrounded by half a dozen women who were saying, “Yeah, right, good luck with that.” My mother-in-law rescued me with four simple words: “You can do it.” It was hard, finding a way to say, “I will” when almost everyone around me insisted “You can’t.” As my pregnancy progressed, I started to feel like a liar.

While reviewing my birth plan during my final month of pregnancy, one of my midwives asked which birthing class we had taken: Bradley, Hypnobabies, something else? The truth was that, due to money and time constraints, we had taken no birthing classes. The look on her face said it all, but she tried to assure me, “Okay, I’ve seen some women accomplish a med-free birth without preparation.” She made it sound like a remote possibility…but at least to her, it was a possibility. And that was something.

My water broke spontaneously around 2 in the morning and by the time we arrived at the hospital at 6, I was contracting strongly enough such that it was difficult to speak. It was uncomfortable, but not necessarily painful. That changed pretty quickly, and I spent the next twenty hours in the longest physical trial I’ve ever had to endure. My contractions did not follow the pattern that all the books said that they would; they never became regular, and I had clusters of contractions for almost the entire time.

I did not sleep, except for minute-long micronaps in between contractions. I cried a couple of times, mostly out of exhaustion. I showered several times every hour, letting the warm water run over my lower back, where it hurt most (I had back labor but didn’t realize it until long after I had the baby, when comparing birth stories with another mom). I begged the nurses and the midwives to let me get in the tub, to let me push, to let me put an end to this pain.

Why ever in the world did I volunteer myself for such a difficult experience? I had several reasons:

  • I’ve never liked taking painkillers, for any reason. I have a fairly high threshold for pain. I refused all meds even during my recovery after Eve was born.
  • I did not want to risk an escalation in intervention. Use of an epidural decreases the chances of a successful vaginal birth considerably, and major abdominal surgery was not on my list of things I’d like to have.
  • Use of painkillers significantly inhibits the endorphin response in the laboring parent. Birth was not only painful and frightening for me, but it was painful and frightening for Eve, and reducing my endorphin release meant that Eve would not have the benefit of sharing those hormones with me.
  • I wanted to be able to walk, shower, eat, and drink during my labor.
  • I did not want to risk interfering with breastfeeding.
  • I wanted to give birth in a birthing tub.
  • After a while, I just wanted to see if I could really do it.

After all of the self-doubt and nervousness, after the pain and tears, I did do it! I felt high for days after Eve was born. I was not a superwoman because I gave birth the “superior” way (I didn’t), or because going med-free made me a better parent than one who chooses an epidural (I’m not), but because I trusted myself to do something difficult and then by God I fucking did it. I’d been told for over a decade that I would never have the strength to do it and then I did it anyway. And it felt wonderful.

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I do not recommend attempting a med-free birth without preparation, make no mistake about that. If you can afford it and if you can find the time, do it. Not everyone has a choice (we really didn’t at the time). But if you do have a choice, take the classes. Even if you don’t intend to have a med-free birth, still take the classes, because shit happens and nobody is guaranteed painkillers during their labor. I can’t imagine going into labor with the expectation that I will have an epidural only to find out that the anesthesiologist isn’t going to make it in time. Be prepared.

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3 Responses to “Superwoman”

  1. Nicole Says:

    Girl, I’m so proud of you. I hope I never said anything stupid like, “Good luck you crazy loon!” because I never doubted that you could do it med-free (and honestly, I’m such a wuss that just thinking about having a baby makes me want to cry).

    You ARE a superwoman, not because you didn’t take meds or because you didn’t get to take prepatory classes. You’re a superwoman because you had a baby. You carried an infant for 9 months after undergoing a seriously traumatic experience a year before. You carried with you not only a child, but fears, hopes, dreams, reality, willingness, and more. You took incredible care of your body to protect Eve while she developed. Developed! Once she was just a little bundle of cells! And you brought her into the world with determination, all the love a human can hold, and the knowing that you would do anything to protect her and raise her with that love. You ignored what other people said. You still do; you move in a direction dictated by your own heart and your own wisdom. You do not hold your experience selfishly – you started school so that you could take what you know to other women, so that they can learn to have a deeper relationship with their babies. So that they can be healthy with their babies.

    You are strong, beautiful, smart, and you are a good mother. THAT is why you are a superwoman. I love you so much.

  2. Nicole Says:

    PS – I’d like to also point out that it’s only relatively recently that classes preparing you for giving birth have become available. It seems insane to me that you would get weird looks from people for not taking birthing classes – you’re a woman. If there hadn’t been people around, your body would have told you what to do. Women have babies every day without classes, meds, or someone taking them through it. I really believe that if you would’ve had Eve on your own, your body would have taken over and told you what to do.

  3. Marcus Says:

    I never had any doubt.

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