Have you ever tried really hard—really gave something your best effort—all to have it not be enough? That was my fear at the end of my recent pregnancy. That although I was using all my self care know-how—especially incorporating a lot of natural movement and walking into my days—it wouldn’t be enough to bring about a spontaneous, unmedicated labor and a healthy baby.
Sometimes our best is not enough. There are often forces out of our control or full understanding that result in outcomes we would rather have avoided. But there are also so many factors we can control, like what we eat, how we move, which values we prioritize, and it is these that I like to focus on. This is a story in which I tried my best to give my body what it wanted, and in the end, despite my fears, it was enough.
By the time I went into labor, I was 41.5 weeks pregnant. Although I had reveled in the experience of growing a baby, I was ready to be done. I had been ready for weeks. Every day I wondered if today would be “the day.” Every day I tried to live as though it was the day before I’d have a baby. I was nourishing my body in all the ways I knew how, with good food, natural movement, and positive human interactions. And yet, my body kept waiting. I started to wonder what it was waiting for. Why wasn’t everything I was doing enough?
A big reason for my impatience, more than simply discomfort, was the 42 week deadline my midwives had. If I reached that point, they would no longer be allowed to care for me, and I’d have to go to a hospital for a chemical induction. When medications are used to jump start labor, rather than following your body as it is ready, you are essentially dragging your body through the process of giving birth. This can result in a longer labor, more complications, and increase the chance that further interventions will be used. Although there are times that a medical induction is better than waiting, I wanted to avoid this as much as possible.
Thankfully, I did finally go into labor on my own. Because I was able to follow my body through the process, it was a wonderful experience.
It started at noon when my water broke. Soon after, contractions began. Burning pain flowed in building waves through my watermelon-sized uterus. As I crouched in the bathtub at home, feeling the sensations in my abdomen increasing, I remembered a big takeaway I had from the birth of my first child: the importance of relaxing. I focused on relaxing through the growing intensity and did not allow myself to get overwhelmed by the thought that I could have hours of worse pain ahead of me. I took each moment as it came and put my attention on the breaks between contractions. After two hours, we went to the birth center where I was filled with a great relief. Relief at being here and not the hospital, relief that the moment to meet my child was coming at last. It was only a matter of time.
Again, I think the biggest thing that helped me was that I was able to let go and follow along with what my body wanted. I changed my position frequently, going with what felt right, knowing only that hunkering down in the same spot was not helpful. I was often on my hands and knees. I was in plenty of pain, but I spent my mental energy on the entire experience and not just the scary discomfort of it all. I was able to revel in the gloriously satisfying urge to push. Like an athlete triumphantly nearing the finish line, I was filled with both exhaustion and joy, impatience and patience, pain and relief. At 3:45, I had born a healthy nine-pound baby.
As the postpartum period gets underway and I reflect on my pregnancy and birth, I feel my efforts at a healthy lifestyle validated. While there are many factors out of my control, such as how long it took for my baby to be ready to be born, I think it was more than mere coincidence that I had a relatively swift labor and smooth recovery. A prominent feature in my pursuit of well-being is my varied movement diet in which I seek diversity of movement in all my daily activities from the positions in which I sit and rest, to how I obtain and make my meals, to how I raise my kid(s). This practice of natural movement played a big role in allowing me to most fully experience the process of growing another being. I was able to stay active, walking in the mountains and squatting in the garden, up until the day of my delivery. I was free to follow my impulse to be on my hands and knees for much of the 3.5 hours of labor. I was able to stay present and even enjoy the amazing experience of giving birth rather than dissociating from my body either mentally or with medications in order to endure this common but frightening human event.
Going forward, my positive birth story is going to empower me to keep trusting my body and to keep giving my best effort towards safeguarding my health. Looking into the eyes of my perfect, not-too-little baby, I feel like it’s worth it.