I never expected to give birth naturally. When my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child’s birth in February 2009, I anticipated being in the hospital, an epidural in my spine.
In January 2009, I wept as we drove to our midwifery practice for a “Home Birth Information Night.” It was my birthday. I would rather have been going out to dinner. I didn’t want to give birth at home, but our finances could not handle the cost of giving birth in a hospital if there were other options. With my hands clenched atop my swollen belly, feeling my daughter stretch within, I stared out of the window for the entire drive, angry at the government of Canada for not processing my residency and hence my free health care faster, angry at my husband for saying we should go to this information session, and most especially angry at the thought of having to deal with the pain of childbirth.
It terrified me.
Animals give birth in their living places. Animals wail and shriek as they bring life into this world. Not me. I wanted to give birth somewhere sterile, not my living room. I wanted to give birth quietly, painlessly.
How that Home Birth Information Night changed my perspective!
Six months later, I revel in the fact that our daughter was born here in the living room. I look back at how I snarled and screamed through my contractions, how I sat there naked and sweating in front of my husband, his mother, two midwives and their student, and I am proud. It hurt, yes, but never did I experience true agony. The pain was never unbearable, and it became something inextricably bound to the miracle of giving birth, a part of the process as natural, important, and welcome as any other.
To prepare myself for labour, I did not read any books, nor did I attend any classes on how to “breathe”. I read other women’s birth stories. I realized how little the average hospital birth resembled the birth experience I had in my mind: it seemed constricting, medical, and impersonal. I wanted freedom to get up and walk around, not monitors strapped to my body and an IV forced into my arm. I wanted my army of support there, not to have to choose a certain few to be in the room with me while the rest waited outside.
I realized that the animalistic nature of birth, which had so frightened me in January, became the foundation of my strength. Millions of women had given birth naturally before me. “From queens to peons and all stations of women in between, they, too, had been forced to find their inner power, trust their bodies, use solid back pain management techniques, and conquer their fear.
My greatest preparation was learning to trust myself.