In the world of childbirth it’s known and taught that the last three centimeters are the hardest. A tell tale emotional sign to look for is self doubt. Many women who opt for alternatives to medication commonly experience a great nearly overwhelming level of exhaustion that is often expressed in statements such as, “I can’t,” or ,”I’m done.” Emotionally the woman is spent. This is the last stretch of rolling with the waves of contractions and the urge to push rules the woman’s body. All this work, all this great effort is best summed up in one word, labor.
Labor is a beautiful and pointedly accurate word to describe what is occurring for the woman, and her support partner or spouse. I can speak to this in my own birth experiences though two very different experiences altogether, self-doubt seized me around 8 centimeters dilation both times. With Trinity my cervix began to swell, I had labored for 9 hours before being able to push. My husband and I opted for the support of a midwife. I was very fortunate at that time in my life to have the support of a dear friend who had also chosen natural unmedicated birth as her path to labor. My exhaustion with Trinity was less about physical pain, not to say that it wasn’t intense but the pain of labor with my son had more to do with the complete exhaustion I felt from hours upon hours of riding the waves. When my self doubt set in with him I begged my midwife to let me be done, she looked me squarely in the eye and said firmly “the only way to make this stop is to get ready to push, or to have a c-section.” She then reassured me that I was not dying, because my default complaint was, “i’m dying.” She brought out a full length mirror to allow me to see the progress of my efforts and then coached me through my urges. Tim was allowed to dress out and she positioned his hands to guide my son’s head and cover my perineum as I labored. The experience was so exhilarating that he wept for thirty minutes by my side while holding our son, and I was stunned, instantly in deep love, and speechless. Labor was worth it…and it was hard, and uncomfortable but immensely rewarding. Self-doubt was dealt with…head on but not necessarily because I felt like facing it rather because I was guided through it, nurtured, instructed, and informed about my options.
Shiloh was a completely different experience altogether. According to my estimated due date, she went a week over. Needless to say I enlisted the support of my home birth midwife friend and did not reach the 41 week mark according to my EDC. I was in bed, after a few doses of castor oil and a long day of walking and eating fresh fruits, cleaning, and showering my water broke. I initially ruled it out as urine until I went to the bathroom and realized I was loosing large portions of my mucus plug. I let Tim know and he insisted we get to the hospital. I had prepared myself for the fact that labor could and would probably be long, so at first I encouraged him to chill because it could be awhile. It took only minutes though until I was gladly taking his hand and letting him guide me to the car. We made it and much to my dismay I was only 4 CM. The waves and rushes were coming much quicker and 10minutes after I had been in triage I was begging for my midwife to hurry. The intensity was mind boggling, and I remember thinking to myself, “If I have to do this for nine hours I will surely not make it,” fear of death once again raising it’s ugly head. The nurse checked me and instructed me to not bear down, as my midwife rushed in and hurriedly put on her face mask and dressings I clutched Tim’s hands fingers interlaced with a force that seemed laser focused which was one of the last thoughts I had before feeling Shiloh escape my body. 45 minutes of self-doubt while laboring with great effort and two clutched hands for support and my daughter was in our arms.
My transition to returning to Cracker Barrel as a server has been humbling. I told myself when returning to “easier,” work that I would not take it “too seriously.” And I’m still working on that…but I’m finding that in every area of my life I have a tendency to be too serious. Learning to accept myself as I am is hard. Returning to school will probably be hard, being married is sometimes hard, being a mom and having kids is sometimes hard, being alive in general is hard, being a server is hard….to sum it up…life is hard. Today I felt terrible, I cried a lot because I’m sleepy and adjusting to working later hours, which I day dreamingly tell myself will help me out when I am one day a nurse at a hospital potentially being called into work with mommas and babies…My greatest fear and self doubt right now is that none of it will happen and I will fail or worse die, which is true…at some point I will fail and at some point I will die…but the only way to get to the other side of this messy experience of choosing to live is to put some skin in the game.
Thank you Brene Brown and T. Roosevelt for guiding me through the push today!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”