11 February, 2011

Business of Being Born

I watched “The Business of Being Born” the other night and liked it. The documentary was pretty much what I thought it was going to be and didn’t tell me too much I didn’t already know or hadn’t garnered from reading Naomi Wolf’s Misconceptions during my pregnancy. I didn’t know, however, about the torture women experienced around the turn of the century when women were drugged into “twilight sleep” and tied down with lamb’s wool at the wrists and feet while laboring. That footage was pretty amazing, and reminded me of the relatively recent images of prisoners of war in Abu-Ghraib, which solidified my belief that men start war because of their fear of women’s power to give birth. Anyhow, I give the producers and filmmakers credit for putting out there in visual form what so many people don’t seem to know about birth.
The thing that made me cry again and again was watching all those women give birth naturally, in their homes, with a totally present and helpful midwife. I still feel such loss that I didn’t get to do that, such sadness that my baby never came through my vagina, that I never got to experience the oxytocin love rush of hormones and relief that comes with having a baby naturally. My husband watched most of the movie with me and asked afterward “how’d that all make you feel?” Nothing I said was surprising or new to him. But I did realize something new for me.
In the movie, one of the midwives says the experience of being in labor and hitting the highest wall we’ve ever seen in our lives and thinking “I can’t do this,” and then doing it, having the baby through our bodies the way we were built to do, is such an empowering moment, a transformative moment that allows us to know, “if I can do this I can do anything.” I realized I don’t have this kind of understanding. Indeed, I still think secretly to myself in my dark moments, “I couldn’t do it.” And so then, I realized, I perhaps doubt whether I can do other things.
When my daughter was just a few weeks old, we walked every day with my old dog around the park near my home. That autumn was cold but mostly clear, and my little newborn baby would be bundled up on my chest, and she’d fall asleep there all cozy against her mama’s beating heart. I’d smell her head in a deliberate effort to induce oxytocin in order to bond with her. I’ll never know if I would have felt more bonded, more attached, to my daughter if I’d had a normal, uncomplicated delivery. And I know no matter how perfect a birth may be, being a first time mom is hard, and bonding with a child is not automatic. But still, I knew quite well our difficult birth and aftermath delayed my ability to feel love with my child, so I worked hard at bonding with her. I held her close to me even though her little feet landed right in the sore spot where my c-section scar still was tender. I carried her around everywhere, even though doctors told me not to and it hurt to life her up. I fed her whenever she wanted, stroked her little bruised head, and kissed her sweet fat cheeks even when I was so tired, so exhausted, so sad.
I remember one day, walking around the park, the air damp and cold enough I could see my breath. My daughter was asleep, bundled inside my big coat, her closed eyes and tiny nose turned upwards so I could look down and check on her. I had a few moments then to feel my feelings. I thought about the birth, the c-section, the hemorrhage. I was crying, and then a question came to my head that made me cry even more: “why can’t I have what I want?” This question, though it may sound like it, did not come from a place of victim-hood. The question was an authentic probing, an honest pondering query. I was asking the universe what karmic blueprint was blocking my chance to have two specific things I wanted?
There are many things in my life I want and get. Most things, in fact. I’ve always had a roof over my head, a bed, food, family, love, health, friends. I have a good man for a husband, a healthy kid, a relatively healthy family. I’ve experienced relatively little tragedy in my life. Mostly, I’ve had just great experiences – I got to go to college and graduate school, I’ve traveled and worked in some of the most glorious places on earth, I’ve held a job that included more fun than most people have on vacation, and had a job that allowed me to help others, where my boss appreciated me and told me so and gave me raises often. I’ve always had more than I need in the way of material things and often gotten things I don’t need at all. Once, for example, I wanted a blue truck just because I did and a few months later my brother-in-law sold us one for cheap while I simultaneously sold my old truck for my asking price in under a week.
But two things I’ve wanted that I didn’t get: a natural birth and an established press to publish my novel. Both things have to do with creativity and birth. And both, apparently, have an element of stuck-ness to them. The latter is never going to happen (yeah, yeah, “never say never,” but we have no plans on another child coming through my not getting younger body), and the former could, I suppose, still happen, but the odds are getting slimmer.
I sent an electronic message to a friend the other day, where I said, sort of off the cuff, “everything happens for a reason.” She wrote back and asked if I really believed there was a reason for everything or sometimes did shitty things happen for no reason at all? I guess I do believe everything happens for a reason – a karmic, cosmic reason, which may include past debts in former lives about which we know nothing. In my case, I really do want to solve my cosmic puzzle in order to clear my karma, even though I still may not get what I want. But I’m just putting out there into the ether: I want to understand what mental or emotional blocks I’ve had against opening myself up in order to give birth to god-given creations in a non-strained, non-pushing way. I want to understand my own business of being born. I don’t have the answer yet, but I am willing to hear the answer.


Helen said...

your honesty aaaaalways blows me away. I have one response.
you write:

"I really do want to solve my cosmic puzzle in order to clear my karma."

If i may comment, I think this is your cosmic puzzle, and wanting, but not getting, the two things you mentioned is exactly what should be happening: that's your puzzle. That's what you get to solve. It's perfect, and has the divine hand written all over it. I also think we pick our specific puzzles long before we are born. They are tailor made for us, and we agreed to them in some pre-life contract. The blue truck wasn't important, that was easy. this is hard: this is what you picked to work on.

awesome blog, Nancy...best I've ever read! thanks!

Martha Goudey said...

I. too, used to walk with my son wrapped in his snugli and my down coat on winter mornings, kissing his head, longing to feel the bonding I desired. But this was after a natural birth at home. My midwives barely made it to the birth because they had discounted the rapidity of my labor, leaving me somewhat in shock. There were other circumstances as well.
But I later became a midwife to help women have the birth experience they desired. First time moms to v-bacs.
I grieve with you for your loss.

Nancy Slavin said...

Thanks, Martha, for your comment. Helps me get perspective. I think most first time birthers just can't know what we're in for....

Nancy Slavin said...

Thanks Helen, for your comment. I agree with you that we pick our puzzles before we're born - I've been writing about that very thing, trying to figure out how to explain how a kid in Haiti would pick such a puzzle, or a child in Afghanistan....how does one solve those puzzles?

Anyhow, I'm thinking about that very subject and hope to get THAT blog post up soon.

Helen said...

yeah, that's sure a gnarly puzzle...the kid in Haiti. I'm just glad I'm not running the show. Waaaay beyond me. But i do think the show is being run by a Consummate Master, I must say. So we do the best we can and not to worry.

Nancy Slavin said...
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