I’ve sat down to write the story of Ondine’s birth several times. And nothing comes out. So many words and feelings fill my head but I seem to lack the ability to actually let them filter through my fingers onto the keyboard.
Since having my own kids, I have always enjoyed reading the birth stories of other women. They can be joyous or sorrowful or frightening or hilarious. Some are detailed and some are vague. The women who write these stories can edit them however they choose because the story is theirs. They are stories told by women about an experience only women can have and no matter how the story is told or who does the telling it’s a powerful narrative indeed.
It took me almost 6 months wot write down the experience of V’s birth (and O is only almost 4 months) but once I did I felt very liberated. Liberated by letting out my frustration at the way some things had gone, by expressing my acceptance of my own fear, and sharing the joy of daughter’s arrival. It wasn’t the ‘perfect’ birth story because there isn’t one because it is what it is and it happened how it did and I was so happy to share.
This time I can’t quite release the way I did before. I want to share. To add to the narrative that I enjoy being a part of. But…I’m not sure what’s stopping me. Maybe I just need more time.
The logical side of me finds this annoying. Nothing went wrong, everything went well. No complications, in a safe place, the best situation I could hope for. I delivered little O in a women’s clinic instead of a hospital. I had lovely midwives and a nurse with me when I needed them, I had Dave with me the entire time, and my doctor popped in to say hello for a few minutes. This is the exact balance of medical safety and natural non-intervention that I wanted the first time and sought out this time.
My labor with O was shorter but more painful than with V. I pushed for longer and without the mercy of the American epidural I had with V. In those hours many things happened, many thoughts passed through me, and my heart screamed out. Also, my mouth screamed out. Some words that I won’t type here.
I want to tell you about it. I’m not shy to share it. But I just can’t yet write it down.
Sometimes when you are pregnant it seems like you only hear the really dramatic, awful birth stories. You sense the judgement of your choices, maybe from moms who think home-births aren’t safe or from those who think hospital deliveries are unnatural. It seems there is no shortage of people who know what you should do or what you can’t do or who think that hearing about their perineum tearing from here to kingdom come is inspiring. Or women who say things like ‘it barely hurts’ because while I respect their experience I think we are using different definitions of ‘barely.’
That’s why I love to find birth stories of all kinds, because there are women of all kinds and births of all kinds and babies of all kinds. The more stories I read, the more variety I find, the more validated we all become.
You hope your own delivery goes the way you planned for and then it never does. Because you can’t plan for it. This time I gave in to the unpredictable nature of the act of bringing a human from the inside to the outside. I started from a more realistic place. I ended with a baby just as beautiful and healthy as the first.
But something about this is harder to talk about. The pain itself. The vulnerability of my body. The ability of my body. The deflation after the elation. Harder to explain and harder to convey.
Here is what I can tell you. Along the way, on the adventure of having a baby in a foreign country where I’m illiterate and generally unable to communicate complex thoughts, I’ve had so much support. From my family, from my husband, from my friends all over the world, from Japanese mothers here in this community, from people I have never met in person. Help with translation, finding the clinic, understanding social norms, calming my own fears. Help to understand the purpose of velcro underwear and robotic exam chairs. People who kept me company, both here in Japan and virtually, who laughed with me and cried with me.
This birth story is FULL of support. Literal support from those who helped care for Vesper while I was gone to the woman who pushed on my perineum to help keep me from being one of those horror stories mentioned above. Support from Dave who stood there by my side for those hours. Virtual support from friends who had done this before and knew it would be ok but gave me hair pats and reassurance so that I could know it too.
This is not a birth story, but the story of a birth story and perhaps the prequel to a birth story. It’s a thank you note, maybe, to those who shouldn’t have to wait any longer to know that what they did was appreciated and how I felt was loved.