Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In Which I Think Deep Thoughts About Birth

I've been having feelings about Jacob's birth that I can't resolve.  There is something about that day that I can't figure out, that I keep coming back to.  Something that feels a lot more like the day that my daughter was born dead than I like to admit.

Here's how it went:

On Friday, September 28, I woke up around 5:00 AM to contractions that felt different from the ones I'd been having for weeks.  These were painful, made me stop and breathe deep.  I got up, timed the contractions, and two hours later called the hospital with a report that the contractions were coming every five to seven minutes, and hurt quite a bit more.  A half an hour later my husband and I traipsed into Labor and Delivery for what felt like the millionth (and we hoped would be the last) time of this pregnancy.

The nurses hooked me up to the monitors and watched for a couple of hours.  I think they might have sent me home, except Jacob's heart rate kept decelerating with the contractions (due to, we discovered later, the cord being wrapped around his neck). So instead they admitted me and my doctor broke my water around noon and labor picked up fast.  I chose to get an epidural to save my broken arm stress.  As sitting up to receive the epidural put me into transition and pain that left me no recourse but to sob brokenly on my husband's chest, I was so grateful when the medication began to take effect. 

Within a couple of hours it was time to push.  This was the part that had me most scared.  I don't know why -- I suppose I was afraid that he might get stuck there.  It didn't seem possible that a baby could leave my body still living.

As I began to push it quickly became apparent that the epidural was not going to cover the pain.  I felt every inch of him coming out, and he was only 6 pounds 14 ounces.  I screamed and cried my way through it -- and I'm still not sure if it was all due to the physical pain.  It was as if the pain created a window in my soul to let out the unearthly howling of grief that I have so been longing to release this past year but couldn't quite figure out how.  As I labored, I was both there and not, partially living out past suffering.

When Jacob was born at 4:45 PM after about forty-five minutes of pushing, he was beautifully, impossibly alive. When they put him on my chest and our skin met for the first time and I shouted my gratitude and I drank and drank and drank the beautiful sight of him in, I think a part of me died.  I left a part of my very self behind when he arrived, a big part -- just like when his sister was born.

Is that always how it is, when babies are born?  I thought it was only reserved for the agony of stillbirth, to have the person who you were so brutally ripped away, but now I'm not so sure.  Do we as mothers always emerge from birth with the selves we thought we knew rent and resewn into something new?

This, I think, is what I can't stop thinking about, four and a half weeks later.  I didn't know it was happening at the time, but when I look back to the day of our rainbow son's birth, I can see a very clear delineation of before and after.  I am not the woman I was before that day.

It feels a lot like grief.

Let me be clear -- I am not complaining.  I would give up whatever I lost to have him here again and again, just as I would never undo Eve's life even if it meant being saved the pain of her death.  The cost to my person was worth the births of my children, a thousand thousand thousand times over.

Still, I can't stop my mind from going back, from comparing her birthday to his and wondering how they could feel so similar even while being drastically different in the result.

I don't want to call his birth traumatic, but I can't think of a better word.

But maybe that is just how birth always is?  The meeting of hope and pain and effort and grace, and in the end you trade part of who you were to have this precious, tiny person come through you?  And really, it's not just a baby that's born into the world, is it, but a new you as well?

These are the things I am thinking about, chewing at, and, really, marveling over.

It is 3:30 in the morning as I write this, needing to let the words out.  I look over at the little boy that so recently entered our lives but feels like he has been here for always, so tiny and beautiful, with feet like his sister's and eyes like his daddy's, and know that this is all holy mystery. 


  1. beth you are not alone in feeling this way, when i had my rainbow after losing my little girl i felt very much like you described, i felt very different to how it was after giving birth to my other children though i dont know if it was because of what happened with erin. Im glad that you put this on your blog to know that i was not the only one feeling this after i had my rainbow. Hugs beth

    1. It's good to know that we're not alone in these experiences. Thanks for sharing, Bobbie!

  2. Each of our children, born alive or not, are an extension of ourselves. Their DNA lives in us and we are forever changed by their creation. I don't think it's unusual for you to feel the way you do, the way you did during Jacob's birth. I think you're mind was probably filtering through Eve's birth and Jacob's and back again. Your mind reeling with 'is this real'. Of course the pain brings on a whole other level of transition to motherhood. In fact I think that is what your were experiencing, something I don't believe every woman experiences. What you lost was the last bit of selfishness you have in order to give your whole self to your son, and as it should be, you are MOM.

  3. I recently wrote about a quote on my blog (http://dear-finley.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/i-am-still-mother.html). I left off the last bit though and I think it applies here.

    "The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never.Being a mother is something absolutely new to her... And, with each child, she is born anew." ~ Rajneesh

    I've already commented on fb so I won't ramble more. Thanks for being so honest.


    1. I love that, Lisa. It is so, so true. <3

  4. Yes! Oliver's birth brought so much of Alexander's birth back fresh in my head. Their births were so similar but oh so different. I felt like I was treated differently too. I think I was treated more gently by the nurses in birthing Alexander and more matter of factly when birthing Oliver. And it was like I came out the other side a new person. Becoming a mom to a living child is a new experience and leaves us changed. Just like becoming a mom to a ^LIVING child^ (in heaven) leaves us very much changed.

    1. That's interesting, Megan -- I experienced the same thing in terms of being treated less gently when birthing Jacob. Not rough, just less tip-toeing I guess. I didn't really even realize it until you shared your same experience! I'm glad we get to walk through this together. Oliver is so sweet!

  5. I often have to "let the words out" at 3am-ish. And, I love the way you shared the meeting of hope and pain, effort and grace...and a new you being born. It is a new you...and soon, it will become familiar and you will be secure in this new skin. There are swarms of emotion to sort through for every mom...but it is a unique place to be for mamas who have walked through grief...experiencing silence in the birth room and the grief that envelopes. Be patient as your heart does the work of sorting out what it can and reconciling what will never be sorted this side of heaven. And, soak in the gifts of it all when you're able. Love to you...may you feel His grace covering and carrying you, beautiful friend.

  6. God bless you sweet girl.

  7. I think with each child I have changed. A part of my heart has grown or transformed. Jonathan birth was the most drastic change. Like I was ripped away from myself and then had to try to find my way back only to realize that maybe where I am is where God wants me. Hummm I think I will write a post on that:) I am sorry it was traumatic. I have had traumatic birth of living children also. I had one perfect birth but out of six only one. So I would say most of the time it's complicated. I am just so happy that sweet Jacob was placed in your arms alive and well and that you have been enjoying him ever since. So glad to read a post by you:)

  8. Freddie and Bene were born so differently that I don't have this comparison. I think though the answer is both yes and no to be honest. I think you may well find this was mostly a legacy of your daughter and if you do this again, it will not be the same. And I've done it 6 times, so I think I can speak with experience. It is so different, every time, regardless of outcome. Freddie's birth was my best, most positive birth, despite his death. Living babies births still make me shudder.


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King