One late April day in 2007, I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I waddled like a duck, cradled my watermelon shaped belly, rocked back and forth on my heels in the shower. I so wanted to meet my little Buddha. I was ready.
The next morning at 5am, I awoke instantly to a popping sound. Still as a board, I laid in our bed wrapped around a mountain of pillows and began coming to terms with two things: 1. my water had just broken; 2. my water had, like, really broken. I was going to birth our babe today.
A couple hours later we made our way to the hospital. Settled into my birthing suite, I chatted with the nurses and boldly told them my “plan,” natural birth. I requested a birthing ball and instructions on how to use the tub. I even asked them to please not offer me an epidural, that if I wanted one I would ask. Graciously, they granted my wishes and shut the door behind them. With the thud of that heavy wood door closing, time slowed to a pace I had never before known. In that slowness, I felt the rhythm of motion ~ back and forth, and it rocked me into a deep place where I started to understand so much more about women and roots and growth. The sound of his heart beating, strong all the while, was the sweetest lullaby I’d ever heard.
Hypnotized in that deep soulful place for many hours, I had not expected what was coming next.
For certain reasons we chose to start pitocin and it did exactly what it was supposed to do. The only problem was I felt like a buoy in stormy high seas, fierce contractions rolling over me with such force and speed I couldn’t stay afloat, much less catch my breath. After hours of this I looked at my husband and finally let myself cry. I was so scared. I was incredibly unsure. In what felt like utter defeat, I told him to get the nurse.
After the epidural set in and the nurses once again shut that big oak door, I fell asleep. Quiet again with only the sound of his heart beating away on the monitor, I surrendered to my body and its need for replenishment. The sea had calmed. I caught my breath.
When it came time to push I felt at peace, like all was right with the world. I had progressed. It was almost the next day and we were so eager to meet him. I would push, he would crown, I would rest a minute and then repeat the cycle. “He’s right here,” my doctor would say. But with each surge of energy nothing more happened. That frustrating fact combined with the look in my doctor’s eyes to tell me something was wrong. Well over an hour had gone by since she said, “A few more pushes like that and he’ll be out in ten minutes.” Those had been such exhilarating words at the time, and I had excitedly glanced at the clock, preparing myself for the occasion. But as the minutes marched on the position of those hands became seared into my mind for a different reason. Instead of counting down to the wondrous and expected moment, those hands had started counting in a different way now. Still counting, still moving, they had become an hourglass to mark the time that we were now so quickly running out of. I knew. Tears slipped off the corners of my eyes as we left our birthing suite. Defeat felt light as air compared to the heaviness I felt in my heart. And I had though I was so prepared when I first entered that room, flooded in fresh morning light.
At my last annual check-up, my doctor commented on how beautifully my c-section scar had healed. “It’s so small and faded already. You almost wouldn’t even know.” I, too, notice that my scar has gone from a deep purple to an almost nude pink. That line is a mark that connects me to those roots and growth and deeply soulful things I felt when I labored my babe. It bares no representation of what I had felt at the time ~ pain, fear, sadness, my physical body and strength failing me. No, in fact, it reminds me that life is continual, that labor and birth are only the beginnings of the work we will do as mothers, labor that we will continually rebirth for a lifetime. Shortly after he was born and I rested him on my breast, I understood that I would not take my place among women who boast about having an unmedicated birth. But it was also then that I understood the purpose of my new mark and what really mattered most ~ that no matter what path we take to finally feel a babe’s heart beating against our own, we’re all walking the same path ~ caretaking a new life, a new promise greater than ourselves.
And I can tell you now, I proudly wear that mark where I birthed our first child. There is nothing scar-like about it. It is a beautiful line, and for us it was the first line on a new map that has become our family’s path forward.