Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Birth of Athena Aurora, Part 2: Athena is Born

Nothing about my birth was textbook. From the incredible stressful circumstances under which Athena was born to the long and stressful labor that eventually produced her, everything was different from how I expected. I never experienced evenly spaced contractions or distinct stages of labor. It was a bit unnerving for labor to deviate so much from my expectations, but the stressful circumstances under which I entered labor prepared me to release my desire to control everything.

Jeff and I spent months planning for labor, dedicating endless hours to talking about what I wanted, what we both needed. We were extremely fortunate to have providers who supported my every wish for her birth.

But still, you don't know labor until you experience it. You don't know how--or if--you are going to cope. I tried a number of labor preparation programs, and failed at them all. Hypnobabies sent me into a deep, hypnotic panic every time I attempted it. I thought the Bradley Method was deeply patronizing and misogynistic. I liked many Birthing From Within concepts, but found the art assignments ridiculous.

I finally arrived at my own system for coping with labor. I thought labor should be built around Jeff's and my relationship; after all, that's what created Athena in the first place, and that the best way to cope with contractions would be to lean deeply into that relationship. It worked pretty well, and there's a lesson there: every woman, every labor, is different, and successfully getting through the marathon of pain and exhaustion requires you to trust yourself while leaning on care providers who allow you to retreat into what works for you.

Much about labor is ridiculous. There's lots of pseudo-spiritual advice, and a hefty emphasis on shutting down logic in favor of emotion. I didn't understand this until I went into labor myself; giving birth is a primal experience full of strange sensory experiences. I realize that much of what I describe about my own labor might sound ridiculous, even crazy--unless, of course, you've been there yourself. And then you know that labor is ridiculous and crazy. 

Like my first post, this will be long, detailed, and graphic. It is for my own edification and memory, not for anyone else. I'm dividing it into sections because I know women can benefit from learning about other women's birth stories, so if there's a particular component you're interested in, feel free to scan. Otherwise, this is for me; any value it offers to my audience is just a bonus.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Birth of Athena Aurora, Part 1: The Prelude

I am a control enthusiast.

My birth plan was six pages long, with requests for every conceivable contingency, two medical proxies, and many more "shall nots" than most providers would feel comfortable with.

I plan my day in 15-minute intervals, making time budgets every night.

People kept telling me that you cannot control pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. I laughed at that notion.

Calling forth a life into this world is perhaps the most profound thing a person can do. My control freak personality is a way for me to control anxiety and create an environment that feels safe. Birth has taught me that giving up control can also be a form of safety, but I had to go through an extremely trying lead-up to birth to finally reach this conclusion.

I spent most of the day that I went into labor on the verge of a panic attack, intermittently sobbing over the complete loss of control over my own life I had experienced over the previous weeks. This turned out to be a good thing.

I'm still trying to understand the profound transformation that happened to me while in labor, and to adequately understand that, I have to understand the three weeks prior to the birth of Athena. This is long, primarily for my own records, and no one is under any obligation to read it.