I've been watching on Facebook as a few of my friends approach their due dates. I remember the anticipation when I experienced it nearly five years ago. Last minute touches to the nursery, stocking up on any possible supply you could EVER need, 3rd trimester belly pics with hubs. I can remember the nervous anticipation of excitement mixed with fear of the unknown: you do everything you can to be "ready", yet you don't really know how to be "ready" for something you've never experienced.
I learned after going through it myself that there's no way to really prepare someone for what it's like either--words just aren't a substitute for experience in a situation that's so profoundly life-changing. So after I first gave birth I decided from my "why didn't anyone tell me??!!" perspective that I was going to be the one to inform every living soon-to-be first time mom on the planet exactly what they were in for, until I finally realized two things:
1--I was scaring people and/or killing their expectant vibes and
2--there are no words that can really prepare anyone anyway.
So I decided to stop being the childbirth vigilante.
The simple truth is that, prior to this miraculous experience, you just have no reference point for the magnitude of the overwhelming pain/exhaustion you will feel OR the magnitude of the overwhelming LOVE you will feel. The laboring process is perhaps the greatest feat you will ever perform that has the potential to also yield the greatest miracle.
I've found in my own life that good things are often birthed from struggle:
The harder we exercise--the more we exhaust ourselves--the more positive results our body produces.
After getting our heart broken, we meet our greatest love.
Through overcoming addiction, we find peace in a higher power.
Whatever the struggle, I believe that often the greater the miracle, the greater the pain required to birth it. And a miracle of this magnitude--bringing forth a new life into the world--is certainly no exception.
So, soon-to-be first time momma, it will NOT be easy. You may even legitimately believe that you and/or the baby aren't going to make it through. And, although very rare, the reality we don't like to talk about is that, for some mommas, she or baby does not. Such is the bittersweet nature of life--miracles, tragedies, and lots of things in between exist. So, even though I'm no longer attempting to prepare others for the experience, I DO still share my one word of advice: SURRENDER.
Do your homework, create your birth plan, know your birthing rights and the kind of experience you'd like to have for both you and your baby--having a vision is important. But once you’ve done that...
I do not mean that you should give up on everything you envisioned, what I mean is to let go of the illusion that YOU are ultimately in control. It took a power greater than you to co-create this miracle and it will take a power greater than you to help birth it. When it comes to the pain & the process, we can choose to collaborate or fight...surrender or control.
You may, like one of my friends, have your heart absolutely set on a natural birth and then find out that the baby's heart rate is dropping and opt for an emergency C-section. You may, like another friend of mine, have a successful water birth at home until the home stretch and then be told you need to be transported because the labor is not progressing, putting you in a setting you didn't plan for. And, it's also entirely possible that everything will work out just as you've hoped and planned.
The point is, we have to be open to whatever could go down: that doing what's best for your baby may change at the drop of a hat and it may mean letting go of the way you thought it would go. It may mean making super fast decisions in the heat of the moment that you NEVER thought you would make in order to do what's best for this baby. This is what I mean by surrender: letting go of how you thought things would be in order to do what's needed, if need be.
And to those who are lucky enough to have the entire experience go exactly according to plan...I STILL say surrender, because there will be opportunity after opportunity even after the baby's birthed to choose when to fight and when to let go. And the other miracle in all this is: YOU WILL KNOW. That is the great gift of a mother's instinct--we were born for this.
So, soon-to-be first time momma, my wish for you is that you'll be able to surrender to the magic of it all, whether the way it goes down is in your plans or not. I'm excited for you because you are about to embark on an experience that is so profound, it will change you forever. I'm excited not just for your baby's birth but for your own rebirth. Your strength and your faith will be tested and you will come out the other side knowing for the first time what true unconditional love feels like in a way you've never experienced before. And, as unbelievable as it is, that love will just get stronger over time.
Nearly five years later, I still study his little face as he sleeps--looking at every perfect eyelash, listening to his breath, taking in the perfection of it all and feeling SO humbled by the power of life...so humbled to have not only been part of bringing forth such a miracle but to also witness its continued unfolding.
These are the reasons I'm excited for you, soon-to-be first time momma...because you will get to experience the struggle AND the joy--ALL part of the magnitude of the miracle.