Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Lessons of Our Labors Part I

I wrote a series of articles this summer about what mothers had learned from becoming a mother. I am republishing them here on my blog so that they can be shared with you. I would love to hear your comments. Blessings~ Amy

We dreamed of a natural birth. My husband and I took natural childbirth classes. I read shelves full of wonderful books about natural childbirth. Ina May Gaskin was my hero. We hired a doula, we took Hypnobirthing classes, we thought we were prepared. My son was born six weeks early in an emergency room. We were not prepared.

Before entering the emergency room, I believed that I was the woman of lore who could work in the fields until the moment of birth, strap my newborn to my back and go on with my day. I learned that I was the woman who, in that earlier time, would have died.

While it was not the birth experience I had expected, it was the perfect birth for me. The lessons of my labor were profound. Where I had expected to feel empowered as an individual, I learned the power of surrender. Where I had planned to be in control, I learned that I was not. Where I had thought that books and discussions could prepare me for birth, I learned that very little about motherhood is neatly written about or passed on.

I had accepted the idea that the kind of birth I had said something about me as a person. I had accepted the idea that I could somehow “fail” at birth if all did not go according to my plan. I had accepted that there was a “right” kind of birth to have, and that if I did everything “right” then all would be well. I learned that birth was not about me and my plans. It was about becoming a mother and doing what was right for my son. No matter the circumstances, I was blessed.

I was blessed by the quick thinking nurses at Waldo County General Hospital and a superb doctor at the top of his field who knew exactly what was happening and exactly what to do. I was blessed by the loving presence of my own mother who stroked my hair and whispered encouragement in my ear as I was opened for our birth. I felt the presence of angels in the timeless peace that surrounds moments of crisis and I was held by the love of God as I lay on that operating room table. The tiny bleat of my baby boy was the sweetest music I have ever heard.

While my son recovered in the NICU, a well meaning social worker suggested that I would need to “mourn the birth [I] did not have.” The unintended implication was that a natural birth was a better way to give birth and that our birth had been something less, perhaps even a failure. A natural birth, although longed for and prepared for, was never promised. How could I mourn an experience that I had never had except in fantasy? Our birth had been surrounded by angels and filled with miracles. Lying within our birth were the very lessons that I needed to be a great mother.

I learned that I was capable in a crisis.
I learned that I could face even my darkest fears with courage and conviction.
I learned that there is tremendous strength in letting go.
I learned that sometimes the only thing a mother can do is to breathe deeply and pray.

When hearing mothers talk about natural birth now, I still love their stories. But for me, the shadow woman I glimpsed in the emergency room is never far away. She whispers, “Remember, death is natural, too. There but for the grace of God you passed.” It is a different reality than mothers who have had a natural birth experience, yet my gratitude is no less profound.

Becoming a mother is for each of us a unique and sacred rite of passage. It is a leap into mystery where the only thing we know for sure is that our experience will be surprising and transformational.

Becoming a mother brought me into a closer relationship with God which has transformed my life. Becoming a mother has redirected my life, my writing, my music and every aspect of my work in the world. Our birth was blessed. It taught me what all mothers learn eventually. Things will not always go as planned. Look for the miracles, appreciate the wonders, learn what you can from all that comes your way and move forward with love and an open heart.

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