Thursday, 19 June 2014

Birthing Day...

When a baby is born, so is a mother. 

Photographer: Karen E
I always thought that was a cute, if not trite, little saying. Until I had my own babies.

I have come to realise that having children entails a massive core identity shift for many women - more so than getting married or a first menstruation or any other of life's transitional experiences. The shift often takes us by surprise in its nature and its magnitude. 

Ask any mother which she remembers in greater details, her wedding day or the births of each of children. Almost all the women I have asked have far more acute memories of the triumphs or tragedies of their birthing days than their wedding days. (I'm not sure of the equivalent life experience to ask about for women who haven't been married - if you have any ideas let me know!)

Three years ago my youngest daughter was born and even though we celebrate this day, the 18th of June as her birthday it was, as cheesy as it sounds, a birth-day of sorts for me too. 

I birthed my first daughter in a drug free natural birth in a private hospital in Pietermaritzburg. I was on my back doing purple pushing, but for most of the nurses there it was the most natural birth they had seen in many months - especially considering the number of nurses who came in to congratulate me with awed whispers of 'We heard what you did!' 

My gynae told me it was one birth out of a thousand and that totally freaked me out! To me it was a normal birth, an 'average' birth, an example of how most women could and did give birth but I have since discovered that there is far too much hospital policy, often not evidence based, and not enough support for moms (read: doulas) for this to be the norm.

It was an intense experience for me. I have never broken a bone or dislocated anything or had kidney stones or anything like that, so it was the most painful thing I had ever experienced. But I felt confident, I felt supported and at no point did I feel as though I was suffering. 

I learned a little more over the intervening years and chose to have a water birth at home for the birth of my second daughter. That was an utterly life altering experience. Here is a link to the full story: Eloise's Birth (will open in a new window)

I essentially had an unassisted birth with a midwife in the room. I had said to my midwife, Sr Arlen Ege, that I wanted to do as much myself as I could, unless I asked for help or unless she could see that intervention was necessary, and she gave me the gift of respecting my wishes. So I had an exquisite physiological birth after a week of on-and-off labour (check the link for more details) and it was a highlight of my life. 

I was high on endorphins and oxytocin for what seemed like weeks afterwards and I truly felt like I could take on the world! 

And so I firmly believe that when both my babies were born, new facets of who I am today were birthed at the same time. 

Photographer: Karen E
My babies showed me how to think of someone else before myself, how to nurture and how to love. They showed me reserves of strength and patience that I had no idea I had. They also showed me my limits and my weaknesses - and I have been able to grow through those times. They brought out the fierce mama bear in me - the wild woman who roars in the face of danger and hardship. 

They have also drawn out my softest tear-blurred gazes and inspired my proudest heart-busting moments. 

One thing that I adore about being a doula is that I have the privilege of walking alongside women as they make this transition. I get to witness the birth on so many levels!

So today everyone celebrates my daughter's birthday, and rightly so, I have had many of my own! But on this day I secretly celebrate my own birthing days, those hallowed moments of encountering the exquisite juicy rawness of human life. 

I give them gifts, as parents do, but no book or toy can come close to the gifts my daughters have brought me - the gift of becoming more fully myself, the gift of finding my calling, the gift of becoming a mother.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! And so, so true. My wedding day was a beautiful, happy day - but nothing can compare to the raw emotion of my girls' birth days - and even the happiness of getting married was overshadowed by the joy and triumph I felt when I birthed Charlotte. Lovely writing, and you've hit the nail on the head (like always!). What a blessing to be a mom.