When I asked a handful of ladies if they’d be willing to share their birthing stories, I gave them full creative license to write whatever they felt impressed to, in their own style. I was pleasantly surprised by how differently they all turned out, especially Monica’s; hers was akin to a Natural Birth Manifesto! Her voice is strong and lyrical, her convictions are powerful. I love her passion and respect for birth and womanhood. I love her support of midwifery and its place in the modern maternity care system. I love her tender feelings for children and motherhood. Monica is Mother to five beautiful children.
My experience with birthing is so unique. I began my journey to mothering with my first pregnancy at 20. I always knew that if I got pregnant, whether I was married or not (although I expected to be the former), I would always keep my baby. I knew this because of my own personal history of being adopted, and knowing that my yearning to be a mother from a very young age was simply a part of me fulfilling my purpose and destiny.
With my firstborn, I followed all of the American standards for birthing. I had proper prenatal care and OB/GYN visits on schedule. But the main thing that knocked me off my feet for the first trimester was the morning sickness. Throughout my later pregnancies, I ended up learning a lot about “morning sickness” and how it in itself is very unique for all women.
Sometimes your genetic history is responsible for your sickness. Out of five pregnancies, four of them involved me being very sick for the first 20-24 weeks. It was very difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and humanity caused me to regret my decision for pregnancy at times, including wondering: What if I couldn’t persevere through the pregnancy, and followed the horrific and panicked thoughts to terminate my baby just to be through with the pain of the sickness?
The sickness was not just wretched physically, it was wretched emotionally; toying with me and sometimes making me feel that I was on the mend and upward bound, only to not be able to leave the bed hours later, forced to scavenge for anything that didn’t make me want to vomit when I saw or smelled it.
Eventually, I educated myself about HG (Hyperemesis Gravidarum)–including having to diagnose myself with it because of the complacent action on behalf of my caretakers (I noticed a difference between the response and compassion of male doctors vs female doctors through my dealings with this)–and the probable miseducation that a very small proportion of women suffer from this. Through stories on social media, I found a great many women raising their voices about this mysterious, aggravated sickness that I had always believed was a trivial and short-lived medal of honor and prideful proof of the amazing thing my body was doing in growing a new life.
Once that first trimester was over, I began to feel invincible. I got back to my life, pulled myself out of bed, and was a new woman…a really new woman in many ways, including one who was hungrier, hormonal, very tired at times with no warning, and began to develop aches and pains. By baby #3 I routinely experienced pelvic pain and sciatic pain from baby’s weight and needed chiropractic adjustments (which I began getting by baby #4).
I still look back at the pictures of my hospital births, with two routine episiotomies (done by male OBs), oxygen masks, that annoying belly monitor while in labor when you want NOTHING touching you, a room full of people like it was a party (when all I wanted in the room was my husband and I by baby #3,).
When the novelty of hospital birthing wore off and I stumbled upon natural birthing, I prided myself in knowing all there was to know about birthing and breastfeeding.
I did not learn the true womanly rite, power, and honor of the birthing process until I experienced natural childbirth; until I experienced the terror of facing my ego and telling myself I was the only one who could make this child come forth, and that I was choosing to forego standard comfort by refusing medication.
My first natural birth was in the hospital, because of the stereotypical disdain of anything outside of “clean” and “superior” birthing facilities, which I was convinced was in a hospital in “case” anything went wrong. I prepared by reading as much literature as I could and by watching YouTube homebirth/natural birth videos.
YES, those really helped.
I was able to see everything I needed to see, literally, by these women bravely bearing this vulnerable part of their birthing journey. I saw women working, crying, quietly waiting until the next wave came, and nakedly embracing their child’s crowning head into this world, with their partner nearby. I knew if they could do it, something inside of me had to believe that I could do it too.
The doctor, as I expected, told me if I did not deliver by the time her shift was close to over, I would be induced. In the hospital, they told me they “had” to do things, and implanted the implication that if I did not do as their expertise required (which was actually more so their “liability”) then I would be left alone, abandoned, without the care I needed while going through the terrifyingly vulnerable act of labor. I always believed this to be inappropriate and manipulative.
A woman who is in great emotional need is very vulnerable, and liable to do anything to not be abandoned without knowing for sure what the pending next few hours will bring, and most of all, without having the security and surety that she would be able to handle it on her own or without a medical doctor leading her by the hand. The medical world thrives off of the insecurity of women, off of the miseducation and innocent ignorance of women and also by the insecurity of their partners and support network, which will pressure them to do things they really may not want to do, but will succumb to because of peer pressure.
I was proud of myself for going through with a natural birth, and knew the elation and accomplishment I felt after delivering was elevated and compounded in relation to my first few less empowering hospital births, where birth felt more effortless after the epidural and strong meds had taken over.
I felt invincible on meds, yet powerless and fearful without them.
This is also another tactic in the medical world, to make you dependent on medications rather than the natural source of being that is in all of us, and to fear any natural ways and deem them “unsafe.” How would our OB/GYNs, our hospitals, and C-section surgeons continue to make a sure and burgeoning living if not for the never-ending business of the maternity sector?
Natural birth puts power back in the lives of women.
It causes you to trust the sex that has timelessly attended its own ritual of birthing in a community of women who understand and respect the process, through the midwife and doula community. The history of how midwives became displaced after the OB movement into hospitals less than 100 years ago (!) is saddening, and a reminder of how patriarchy placed capable and gifted women in a class lower than themselves and, as men in the beginning, attempted to study women and their ritual of birthing to manipulate it to make things “better,” which is actually insulting to how we were created.
Even still, the sexism present in the OB field with male OBs is still present. Male OBs will possibly be dismissive of your first trimester sickness, possibly be very picky about your weight gain, and possibly be more apt to give an unnecessary episiotomy because of their “compassionate concern” for your ultimate comfort.
Women still feel the pressure of the historical dominance of men and the implied rudeness of saying “no” to them. Because of this, we place our welfare in their hands, and aid in the displacement of a women’s right/rite out of the hands of capable, educated, compassionate, and supportive midwives and doulas, who sincerely care about our physical and emotional health during birthing and understand well the intricate link between our health in those areas and the health of our pregnancies.
These are special women who respect and take the fear out of birthing, and encourage us to reduce our paranoia of maternal and fetal death with every instance of pregnancy (which is the primal terror that seizes us at the onset of labor, that we are in danger and this baby is trying to kill us, and why is it taking so long? Is it ok or in danger? Which is why we succumb to a mention of C-section when it’s sometimes manipulatively suggested as a better way to handle our birthings).
These women invite us back into the sacred mystery of suffering and empowerment that laboring provides, and the elation and awe and dumbfoundedness when we meet our new baby human and realize all of that work was for the receipt of this new life that we finally earned the right to meet…and begins the continued symbiosis that mother and baby crave and require for the first two years, although many other forces will try everything to separate the duo.
Natural birthing cinches symbiosis, it cinches instinctive mothering, it cinches the primal protective state of alert of mother towards baby, and it realizes that with very little (our bodies and a woman or two), we can bring forth very much.
My birthings have taught me how to mother. My birthings have shown me my weaknesses. They have shown me my ultimate fears, of experiencing maternal/fetal death, of seeing how small those odds are when cared for well by my support group and myself, and has even shown me how a birthing during a difficult time, such as a separation or threat of divorce, can help a mother stay focused on the importance of her baby’s coming and prepare her for their reunion outside of the womb, even further cinching their bond of emotional dependency on one another as they used one another for strength while baby was in-utero.
It also brought up my fears and pain memories of the terror of separating from Mother when I was little, and taught me through experience how irreplaceable Mother is. It taught me that I matter more than I could ever understand, and that it was simply the way the rite was created. It taught me that I am valuable as a woman, that I am sacred as a life-giver, that I am worthy as a gender historically considered in American patriarchal tradition to be weaker, less intelligent, and of less worth.
With each birthing, I sought to heal parts of myself, and this has been accomplished. Could I have more children? I could, especially since there is still so much to be healed within myself and the world. The efforts of society to morally control a woman’s reproductive freedom has worn on me, but not so much that I have discarded the idea of accepting more life into my body and into my world.
I have peace with my motherhood calling. It has simply shown me that I have aged and become wiser in being more in-tune with myself, and who I was made to be, and what my purpose as a mother really is; to heal the world from their harmful attitudes towards women and their capabilities, including bringing life into the world without unnecessary handling, tampering, and fearmongering.
It has shown me the simple peace of doing my own hard work with the help of a trusted and caring, compassionate woman or two nearby, and that even in my darkest hours, where I felt utterly alone and abandoned, a small child in my womb helped me to focus on loving the both of us when I wanted to lay down and give up.
Children save, and children heal. Children matter. Natural birthing has shown me that, and my experiences on the spectrum of birthing dealing with both medicated birthing in the hospital and natural birthing at home has elevated my awareness of the controversy in our American society towards women’s health and the insecurity and fear of women towards facing the rite of natural birthing for fear of maternal/fetal death.
We need to increase our education about the valuable and comparable work of midwifery in the United States. We need to eliminate the stereotypes about midwives and their competence along with the women that dare to use them. We need to understand that woman-based care keeps the ritual of birthing in the caring hands of the gender that understands it best, because it was gifted specifically to them, the Woman.
Let us rejoice in knowing that we were deemed so wonderful and valuable that we were given the treasure and responsibility for bringing more life here to Earth.
Peace and blessings to all as they ponder, endure, and progress through their years of precious fertility.