Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wait, you mean I have to give birth again?

I wouldn't necessarily describe it as painful. When I think of pain, I think of a centralized, palpable radiation of discomfort. Now I'm not claiming that while in labor I wasn't uncomfortable or in any pain whatsoever. But what I did experience while birthing my first child was not so much pain as it was an overwhelming intensity that consumed my whole body (and mind). The fact that it was overwhelming, does not necessarily mean that it was negative. For me, my entire being - spirit, body, and mind - surrendered to an experience that was altogether bigger than myself. By declining unnecessary medical intervention (ie. an epidural, painkillers, etc.), my body was freed up to release the unique cocktail of hormones that is only released during natural childbirth. 

The result of said cocktail? Nothing short of an out-of-body experience. During the most challenging phase of my first labor, I felt as if I were outside myself, as if my body was on autopilot, advancing the progression of Lina's delivery, while my mind and spirit were simply along for the ride. But at the same time, I felt so inexplicably present in what was happening. My baby and I were in this thing together, and during that phase I felt an indescribable kinship to her.
During the height of my labor with Lina

It was unreal. Funnily enough, going drug-free resulted in me experiencing a mind blowing sense of euphoria that I imagine only comes with being high on drugs. Go figure. But the truth is that natural childbirth allows for such hormones to serve as a natural pain reliever.

As I look ahead only two short months, I realize that I'm going to have to do it all over again. For me, this is met with a mix of emotions. Part of me is all, "bring it on. I am strong, I am woman" (and all that feminist crap). But part of me is afraid. While my first birth was indeed positive and rewarding, it was also the most challenging feat I have ever come face to face with. Knowing what's in store is all at once thrilling, and terrifying.

So today I hit Barnes and Noble and came home with my first Hypno-birthing book. (Please take this moment to imagine Mike's face when he saw this on the coffee table today). Regardless, this birthing method is (sort of) an extension of the Bradley Method, which is what I used for my first delivery. Both philosophies are very "mind over matter," training the mother to use her mind as a tool for relaxing her body, which will in turn release more of those heavenly hormones I mentioned earlier. It all sounds very Zen and new aged, but I don't care. This philosophy makes sense to me, so I'm latching on and giving it all I've got. I think my first labor was met with a certain degree of fear. It was hard for me to find women who hadn't had some sort of negative birthing experience. Either the epidural gave them the chills and made them sick. Or being induced was incredibly painful and led to an emergency c-section. And so on and so on. On the other hand, I had also talked to many women who didn't have a negative experience at all. On the contrary, they had simply opted for the drugs, pushed pushed pushed, and enjoyed having their babies in their arms a short time later - which is wonderful for them. I really hope I'm not coming off as condescending or judgemental towards women who receive epidurals/pain relievers to ease labor. Not at all. It's just that for me, I didn't want my experience to be so cut and dry. I had latched onto the notion that birthing didn't have to be a negative, medical procedure that we needed easing from. Instead, it could be a beautiful journey that us women are lucky to embark on (if that makes any sense).

Even still, I was really scared my first time around. Of course all the mumbo jumbo mentioned above (you know, all the beautiful journey talk) went out the window during some parts of my labor. It was fear - of pain, of the unknown - made some parts of my labor (the hardest parts) even harder because I was so tense. For the delivery of baby #2, I'm hoping to train my mind to relax. To just go with it, especially during the more challenging phases of labor. Only ten more weeks till I give it another go. God help me!


  1. Dear Marianne -- in my many talks with mothers, the overwhelming majority with multiple children said that the second birth was easier -- shorter, less stress on the body, that muscle memory really did some of the work. Given the way you describe approaching your first delivery, and your experience with natural childbirth, I honestly believe that this will be as blessed and euphoric an experience -- and possibly even more so, because the body will be remembering what it was to have gone through it before. Your very cells will be more relaxed and open to this journey. And I love that you're looking at other methods of focusing attention and mental energy, because it WILL be a different experience, so it makes so much sense to bring new knowledge into it.

    You're doing great and you're such an inspiring mom and human.

    (And yes, I could picture Mike's face when he saw the book!)

  2. My friend Kristina is a Bradley instructor who lives and works in Ithaca. You might check out her site and then send her an email to discuss your thoughts. She's a great gal -- I went to college with her and she delivered both her kids with the Bradley method. And since she's had a second birth, she might be able to answer some of your thoughts, or just be a good sounding board. Her website is

  3. Hey Laura,

    I just saw your second post now about your friend, thanks for sharing :)