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Special Guest Blogger: Every Birth is Beautiful

Special Guest Blogger: Every Birth is Beautiful

Giving birth is one of the most profound experiences a person can ever go through or witness. Whether it’s at home or in a hospital, completely natural or medicated, vaginal or cesarian – or, in my case, as part of a rushed clinical operation full of white masks and green walls – it is still yours, and it is still beautiful. Each woman has her own definition of ideal surroundings for a birth experience. So many women look back on their birthing experience with annoyance, disgust or even pain at the way they were treated or at the way they were ignored. The time that should have been one of life’s most beautiful having been ripped from them by the hands of careless doctors and pushy nurses.

So many women are told that they have “a healthy baby and that’s all that matters.” Not only is this not true, it’s insulting. Your birth experience from beginning to end is important, and it does matter. It is not the same as the resultant baby, and therefore should not be compared as such. Not to mention that there are many women who give birth to babies who must struggle as they enter this world. Those babies are just as beautiful. Their mothers are just as strong. A blanket statement such as the one above does no justice to anybody and completely misses the point.

It’s 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning. I awaken to a great pain in my abdomen and stumble up the stairs to the bathroom. I hate being pregnant – always having to go to the bathroom, always being in pain. There is a burst within me, and the ground is splattered in a clear liquid.

Could it be? Impossible. I’m only 34 weeks along.

But the liquid keeps flowing. I’m in a puddle. Could it be?

I stumble back downstairs.

“Baby,” I shake my husband awake, “I think my water might have broken. I’m going to drive to the hospital. I’ll call you if it’s anything major.”

Within seconds he’s out of bed. We’re at the hospital. It’s the closest one to us, and it has no NICU. They haven’t seen a preemie birth here in years, let alone twins.

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The doctor arrives two hours later. An ultrasound shows that Baby B is still breech. I’d been told that doctors will attempt a vaginal birth if the first baby is head down. Not this doctor.

“Baby B is breech. I’m going to operate.”

Well, I figure, she knows her strengths. If birthing babies is not one of them, who am I to contradict her.

A rolling cot, white walls, white gloves, an IV drip. The smell of ammonia. A sickly green-tiled room.

“Sit very very still,” someone says. “If this goes in wrong, you could end up paralyzed.”

What a thing to say to someone in labor.

Suddenly, I can’t move. Numb from the waist down. Sawwing, cutting, burning, pulling, jolting. I can’t see a thing. They’ve graciously put up a thin blue curtain between me and myself. My husband is at my head, keeping me calm. And then we hear it. The baby’s cry.

Little Dulce was born at 9:14 a.m. Natalina followed at 9:15. They weighed less than four pounds each.

I heard counting in the distance, but it wasn’t fingers and toes. The staff was counting medical equipment to make sure they didn’t leave anything inside of me. They brought each of my babies to me for a quick kiss before they whisked them off to the nursery.

And it was the best day of my life.

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Should I be upset about this story? Possibly. Nothing went according to plan. Nobody spoke to me or asked me what I wanted. No one held my hand, no one tried to understand that I wanted a vaginal birth. I didn’t get a chance to attempt breastfeeding. They didn’t treat me like a person in control of my own decisions. They took over. They did their jobs.

It was the best day of my life.

So many mothers are disappointed with their birth stories – with themselves – and they have every right to feel that way. Far be it from me to tell someone their feelings aren’t valid. That’s how these poor women ended up here in the first place. Doctors can be crass, they can be business-oriented, and they can be wrong. There is never any reason for a medical professional to power-trip over something that is a daily routine for them but a once-in-a-lifetime for a mother. Still, no matter what happened in that hospital, or in your living room – no matter who ignored you when; no matter if you were induced or cut open, maybe even against your will – you still gave birth. They can’t take that away from you. They can mess with the experience, but there is no denying that in that hour, in that moment, you were giving birth. They can’t take that away from you. In that instant, you were all that your baby knew and loved and needed.

As a good friend of mine said, “Apart from all the noise of doctors and midwives and epidurals and Apgars, you made a person. You are amazing. Even if you don’t feel powerful about any other aspect of that day, you should still feel powerful about that.”

For those of you wrestling with your birth stories, know that it is possible to be upset or disappointed with a process and still in love with the result. All birth is beautiful. It is the beginning. It is the end. It is all there is. It is life. You are life. You should be proud.

Darlena Cunha is a television journalist turned stay at home mom to twin todders.  She holds a B.A. in Journalism and a B.S. in Biology from UConn and currently resides in FL with her husband and children.  Darlena has a blog as well Tales from An Unlikely Mother

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  1. I want to say that I think Darlena is absolutely right that every birth is beautiful and that no one can take away the fact that you gave birth.

    Where we do disagree is the drama some women have over the fact that their birth plan was not adhered to/ that they didn’t get the birth they wanted/ that they were cheated. I’m concerned about a culture that has grown up (I don’t know how recently, but it was alive and well 2 years ago when I had my daughter and shows no signs of abating) that says “you can control your birth experience” or…more to the point that “you SHOULD control your birth experience.”

    IF everything is great and you’re full term and in good health and the baby’s in great shape…by all means, knock yourself out. Homebirth, waterbirth, midwife, vaginal with/without drugs…whatever. Nurse right away. Don’t cut the cord/let your partner cut the cord…whatever. It’s all good.




    I see a lot of women who had less than perfect scenarios. Who didn’t dilate. Who needed pit. Who decided on drugs at the last minute after planning a drug-free birth. Who weren’t able to nurse for whatever reason. Who are complaining and whining to anyone who will listen that they were cheated and wronged. When, if you listen to the story carefully, the doctor did what was necessary to ensure a healthy baby.

    Are people entitled to feel whatever they want to feel? Of course.

    But were they set up to fail? I think that’s the question that deserves examination. How many births go according to plan? I’m serious…do an informal poll and ask your friends how many of them had the perfect birth experience they thought they would? I can’t think of a single friend who did…there was the friend who went into labor prematurely and had a baby at 34 weeks, the friend who wanted a homebirth and labored at home for 18 hours without getting past 6cm even after going to the hospital and got a C, my daughter had breathing issues and was rushed to the NICU after allowing me to hold her for all of 30 seconds, the friend who decided to get painkillers in the moment (and loved them in the moment) and then was made to feel like a failure afterward by her fellow “natural birth” community posters, and so forth.

    I also see a lot of this in the breastfeeding community…where there’s a belief that if you just want it badly enough and try hard enough you’ll nurse successfully. It’s just not true for 100% of all women. Or even 90%. It certainly wasn’t for me. And those of us who “fail” at nursing are made to feel as though we are lacking or wrong.

    Whenever I hear a woman talk about a bad birth experience, I try to really listen and discern if there was a genuine problem (an asshole doc or midwife, a HIPPA violation, whatever) or if it was this whole “things didn’t go according to MY plan.”

    Very few of us are actually OB’s or perinatologists or midwives. We haven’t had the training. How can we actually believe ourselves equal to their level of knowledge and judgment? And yet the birthing community perpetuates this, and when things don’t go according to plan, we get angry at the professionals who were (most of the time) just doing the medically sound thing in the moment.

    Are there too many C sections? Probably. Are doctors jumping the gun sometimes? Likely. But we also live in the most litigious country on earth. If something went wrong because the doc listened to your plan that wouldn’t stop you from suing them. The average OB has to deliver 150 babies just to pay their malpractice insurance bills. Maybe if we were less litigious, they would be more open to waiting and seeing/ taking a more laidback approach in some cases where they jump to pit and C sections now.

    I think every woman should be 100% informed about her pregnancy and her options and have as much say as is reasonable in her case. But we all need to accept that in the moment, the baby hasn’t read the plan…the baby doesn’t give a crap about our plan…and it’s our first time to step up to the plate and do what’s right for them instead of the narcissistic insistence upon following what WE want.

    Their needs, not our wants.

    But in the end, feelings are valid. Perception IS reality. But maybe we should, as a community of moms, take a moment to examine how we set up the pregnant women among us to have false expectations and try to change it.

  2. I am an avid and enthralled reader of Tales of an Unlikely Mother. I love how her advice is so inclusive, entertaining and beautifully written. Without in any way impacting on my enjoyment of these gorgeously told tales, as a childless female I don’t ordinarily feel qualified to comment on them. This is not because the blogger or subject is elitist in any way, but simply because I can see how once one has children (and I fully intend to someday!) words said while childless will likely wind up getting eaten!! However on this one I would like to add a perspective only a childless woman can.

    I sincerely hope that the comments in this blog, and in the comment that preceded mine, have been helpful to anyone reading them who is being hard on themselves, or has anger at others, for how their personal birthing tale unfolded.

    I can say with absolute honesty and sincerity that the single most terrifying thing I can imagine is childbirth. Any of the birthing scenarios listed above qualify! I mean no disrespect to anyone who has suffered a terrible tragedy or horrific experience. Since giving birth is something that I would actually like to do someday it makes it much easier to imagine than anything else.

    Having read this post I started to wonder why we make plans for childbirth, especially when the most rational corners of our mind know that everything the previous commenter said is true. There are complications. Things don’t always go smoothly. Some of our plans won’t be possible in conjunction with having a healthy (or in some cases 2 :) ) and happy baby at the end of it once circumstances unfold. Some things are truly outside of our control.

    I’m sure a lot of it is to do with our fears of motherhood, and our real (if often argued to be a product of social pressures, and sometimes argued to be unfair and unrealistic) desire to be good moms. But I wonder if some of it isn’t also to do with the desire to quell the terror that the idea of giving birth can produce. Bringing into the world a small human being in an event that we know will be unimaginably painful, is statistically proven to be problematic and complicated and will without contest be the beginning of the most dramatic changes to our lives we’re likely to ever face…who wouldn’t be terrified? Who wouldn’t want to exercise the maximum amount of control over such an important event? Who wouldn’t want to be made to feel, at every turn, like every single participant is completely committed to it’s going EXACTLY as we want it to?

    So I would also ask you to consider this, no matter how your child’s birth was handled, or how you feel about the ways in which it deviated from your original plan. Women like me think you are heroes. Even if you do feel like you or someone else did the whole thing wrong from beginning to end, you had a child! As our blogger quite rightly says, you SHOULD be proud. From my completely inexperienced vantage point there is no way you could have handled it wrong, you handled it full stop. At this point in my life just having managed that much makes you a Titan and a Goddess as far as I’m concerned.

    Women who don’t feel like I do could very well be projecting their own fears about motherhood and childbirth onto you. The ‘It’ll be different for me’ or ‘I would never have let that happen’ mind-trap is one that women have perfected over generations of finely tuned denial over the possibility of events outside of their control. It may also contribute to our eventual disappointment that our experiences weren’t as we planned.

    I know with a dreaded certainty that these words will also probably get eaten eventually. I can only hope that re-reading them, and the blog and comment above, will help me to go a little easy on myself and others for not living up to whatever potentially unattainable goal I set for my own birthing experience. Possibly they will help others do the same.

    Thank you Tales of an Unlikely Mother for your insight and even handed advice, as always!

  3. C – I completely agree. Women are set up to fail. And not just at birthing, at parenting as well. It seems at every stage of development there is someone telling us we’re doing it wrong. Parenting is one of the toughest things I have ever done. I have never come up against so much judgment in any other area of my life.

    I didn’t know I was supposed to expect something from my birthing experience other than what I got, therefore, I don’t feel bad about it at all. But I would never invalidate another for feeling upset about her birth story.

    I simply wish women would give themselves a break every once in a while. No one else is going to, you know?

  4. N – Thank you for your kind words, not only about the blog, but also and more importantly in support of women giving birth, however the means.

    You need never feel unqualified to comment! Your thoughtful words have rendered me quite speechless; they could have been the blog entry itself for how well put together they were.

    Thank you.


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