Early in my pregnancy, my doctor asked me what my birth plan was. I considered myself a pretty easy patient, as I didn't have many demands or plans about my delivery, (or so I thought). My response was, ‘Well… I’d prefer not to be induced, and not to have a c-section.’ He was pretty confident that we could achieve those two goals, especially because I was able to go in to natural labor with my first. I didn’t think too much of that conversation again until the end of my pregnancy.
My first labor experience was not the most ideal of situations. I had a very long labor (36 hours), and by the time my contractions were full-force at 1 minute apart, my body was stuck at 2 centimeters and not progressing any further. As I understand it, typically by that time, you would be pretty close to push-time (and close to 10 centimeters dilated). There were some scares during labor, with the baby’s heart rate dropping, and I was closer to an emergency c-section than I ever knew. It was a dramatic scene, and drama is really the last thing you want in your delivery room.
So, cut to my second pregnancy… 39 weeks and desperately hoping for a different labor experience. This pregnancy was different than my first in several ways–for starters, it was more physically grueling. But on the upside, this baby dropped on her own, and Ayden never dropped until labor. I was super confident that I would leave my 39 week doctor visit finding out I was 2 or 3 centimeters dilated. I was excited to get checked! But to my dismay I was 0 centimeters dilated. 0% effaced. 0, 0, 0!
I honestly didn’t even realize the weight I was placing on those numbers. I didn’t know that I was using them as a scale to determine whether I was doing things ‘right’, or whether my body was doing what it ‘should’. And finding out that there was no visible progress, felt like my body was wrong, and that I had failed.
It took a few days of processing, (and me being cranky), to realize the full impact of thinking this way. And when it hit, it hit hard. Thankfully, I got honest with my Mama-tribe, and when I heard my own words sort of repeated back to me, I realized how incredibly untrue these perceptions were. When I thought of my friends birthing stories, I did not rank them in order of meaningfulness, importance or legitimacy based upon how they brought their children in to the world. In fact, it didn’t even cross my mind. I respect and admire each of those women for the mere fact that they are incredible, aware and loving mothers. So why then, was I placing this burden on myself?
In mulling this over for a few days, I realized that I was letting some strange, imagined, social media-imposing, societal expectation dictate how I felt about my own body and labor story. And I realized, it is total bullsh!t. You don’t get extra credit for delivering your baby with or without drugs, surgically, naturally or induced. The reward isn’t any less sweet, and you certainly aren’t a failure for not doing it someone else’s way. It seems logical when I write this all out, but the pressures (real or perceived), of bringing a life in to this world, are hardly logical.
It was an emotionally intense realization, but I am grateful to have uncovered this about myself at that exact, perfect time. It cleared a path for acceptance, and I was left with the mantra / affirmation, ‘I trust my body; I trust my baby’. I wanted to write about this, because I can’t possibly be the only mother-to-be who has fallen prey to this thinking-trap. And I will be completely honest, I still hoped that my body would naturally go into labor, but was at peace with the fact that it may not. I realized that I was still a mother-freakin’ rock-star. I prayed and waited for this miracle-baby, provided a strong, healthy vessel for her to grow, and soon would bring her earth-side by whatever means necessary.
As moms, we have the power to break these ridiculous stigmas, together. We can empower one another to let ourselves off the hook, and show each other grace by first showing it to ourselves. Motherhood leaves so much room for judgement, and I will be the first to admit I have at times been guilty of it myself. But that judgement is almost always a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. In taking a stand for myself, I can better stand for you.