The first birth I witnessed was rather intense, especially for a 7th grader. I was 13 years old and wanted desperately to be present for the birth of my first niece. My sister-n-law and my brother agreed to my pleas to be there. Melanie, my sister-n-law, was to be induced. On the appointed day, we all packed our bags and in the evening, headed to the hospital.
We hung out a while waiting for doctors and nurses to start Melanie’s labor – boredom set in while we were waiting and I started to play with all the buttons on the bed. I leaned the head portion all the way down and discovered it wouldn’t come back up. I had broken the hospital bed moments before Melanie was to be induced; they had to find her another bed. Who brought this pesky, freckled, red-haired, 7th grader anyway?
Once Melanie’s Pitocin was started, the boredom was chased away as she became quite vocal about the fact that my brother, Rob, has done this to her. He had single-handedly flew a stork in from Spain and placed a baby in Melanie’s belly and was now forcing the baby out. In the middle of Melanie’s anguish, a needle made an appearance…the biggest needle I had ever seen. And they took the needle and slid into the spine of my sister-in-law’s back. HOLY CRAP! Did I just see that? My skiddish 7th grade mind prayed I would not relive that visual ever again.
Several hours later, Melanie was still letting everyone in the state know she was not enjoying this experience. And I couldn’t blame her…especially when I saw the scissors. Not sure how I had the privilege of this position, but from where I stood, supporting Melanie’s leg, I saw the doctor take what looked like an ordinary pair of scissors and start cutting Melanie’s perineum…just like that, he just started cutting like it was paper. Quickly after, he took a vacuum cleaner hose and sucked out my beautiful, purple and blue niece, cone head and all.
Ummm. What just happened? Needles, profanities, scissors, vacuums and babies. Something about this whole picture was very traumatizing and very confusing. Is this really how babies are born?
Fourteen years later and I am pregnant with my first child. All the images of my niece’s birth flood my mind and repeat themselves over and over again. I am absolutely terrified of labor. I do not know that there is a natural birth movement. I do not know what a doula is. I do not know about pre-natal yoga. The only thing I do know at this point is that there is no way in hell that anyone is sticking a huge needle into my spine and no one is going to be cutting anything around me unless it is an umbilical cord. And this was my birth philosophy…I am afraid of labor pains, but I am much more afraid of needles and scissors. I don’t care what kind of magic that needle and those scissors perform, they are not going to be anywhere near me.
To prepare for birth, I read a popular, albeit non-empowering, book regarding expectations about pregnancy and birth. Every morning I did a few, simple yoga poses, stretches and deep breathing exercises. And at 2 a.m. on March 18, 2006 my labor began. I walked. I breathed. I soaked. I walked more. I breathed more. I puked. I shat. I breathed. I groaned. I got lost in my head. I breathed. I pushed. I groaned. I breathed. I pushed. I groaned more. I felt the aptly named ring of fire. Finally, I pushed one last time and behold I saw my baby girl for the first time. She was beautiful.
Moments later, I looked at my husband and said, “That wasn’t so bad.” He looked confused. But really, it wasn’t so bad — and it was way better than getting a needle slipped into my spine. Which is good, because needles scare me; but my first un-medicated birth had unleashed the brave goddess that was within me.
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