Monday, January 25, 2010

The Pleasure of Childbirth

If only I could bottle it up.

When women talk about birth and labor, the conversation usually centers around one thing: pain. Ok, two things: length of labor. I don't know why this is, but the stories always seem so horrible, terrifying, and long. Often, it seems a competition to say who had the worst labor.

Is labor really that bad? Are the horror stories real? Probably. So how about some not-so-scary labor stories?

Yes, childbirth is painful. It's also pleasurable. Generally, if I tell people that, they say that's because I had an "easy" labor. Or, I was just lucky not to have pain. No, I felt pain. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say it was in the 8 range. But I also felt joy, and with that joy, pleasure.

Part of it is control. Or rather, letting go of control. It's true one can really work with the pain, make the pain work for you. That's not to say I was the picture of calm during labor, though I was for most of it til the last hour. I had my fair share of "Holy Cow this hurts!" comments. Yet that powerful, intense, overwhelming contraction is telling you something. It's telling your body the next step for birthing that baby. Giving in to it is to ride the wave of that contraction like a body surfer in the Pacific Ocean. You come to the crest, then ride it out. You can't stop the pain, so you let it work for you rather than against you.

And then, when finally, FINALLY, that baby makes its way out, the relief and pure joy. That's what I really want to bottle up. There's a feeling, immediately after the baby is born, and for me at least, lasting the few hours after until I finally gave in to sleep, that is so overwhelming: peace, joy, love, pleasure, ecstasy. Ok, and some exhaustion too, but the other elements are far more powerful.

Sure, with Angelina I was puking for hours and couldn't move. With Lenaïc it wasn't much different: contractions on top of one another, begging Frédéric or my midwife to aim that shower head at my lower back NOW. But that's not what I remember most. I remember the anticipation, the excitement that each contraction brought. And yes,even the pleasure of pushing. Sure, I do remember the PAIN of pushing, but when your body has the urge to push the baby out, it's an incredibly positive feeling.

Even with Angelina, whose final hours of labor were traumatic thanks to a hospital transfer, and she was immediately intubated and whisked off to NICU, so we didn't get that physical bond, those feelings were there. And now, with Lenaïc, whose birth at home was intense and beautiful, I can definitely say this feeling is overwhelming, all-powerful. And the most beautiful thing on earth.

I feel truly so so fortunate to have been able to experience it.

And so now my one piece of advice to all my pregnant friends is this: enjoy it. Enjoy the anticipation of birth in the final weeks of pregnancy, and most importantly, enjoy labor. If I could bottle up those few hours after the baby is born, I would. Instead, I just remember them every time I'm up at 3am nursing....

(I do actually have one photo that shows this - Frederic smiling, Angelina in awe, me in a sense of utter calm and baby nursing. Alas, it also shows a bit too much of me, so I'll leave this one, taken the following morning)


Monica said...

Great post! That just-post-birth energy is so wonderful!!! The exhaustion is even important... because we can finally REST! The reward for the effort is so priceless. A slimy soft baby!

Madame K said...

You're a rock-star.

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