giving birth: how it really feels.
There have been some new babies born in my circle of friends and family. Last night I received a text message at 3:30am letting me know that my cousin had delivered a baby boy at home with a midwife and doula. I was up, just finishing a feed with Florence and it left me lying awake for a little while, taking deep, thoughtful, joyous breaths, reliving my own experience.
There is something magical about giving birth in the middle of the night. Although I wouldn’t consider Florence’s arrival at 1:37AM the middle of the night, the hours that followed sure were. You know that everyone else is sleeping, except your new family, and perhaps other mothers around the city that have just given birth. It’s one of those stunning, holy moments that takes your breath away. I cherish it everyday, although the warmth and familiarity of the moment are fading as time passes.
Now that I’ve experienced the wonders of giving birth and the thrilling and exhausting first few weeks with a newborn, I have a tenderness that I never had before towards new mothers. I imagine what they are doing with their new arrival, what the first night is like for them, what the baby sounds like and that delightful moment when the baby cracks open both eyes, wide and full of sleepy wonder.
Watching Florence sleep now, her chest rising and falling with a predictable rhythm, I’m reminded of her first night with us. How I couldn’t take my eyes off her. How I fretted over her unpredicatble breathing, the fast and slow breaths she would take, the groans and whimpers and grunts that had me swooning and worried at the same time.
She was a stranger to me, yet my daughter, well known and loved. I still remember those first moments, and I see that look in my eye right after birth…bewilderment, detachment from the situation. It was the most shocking moment of my life.
I dealt with it by holding back my words and breath and opening my eyes wide, trying to wrap my trembling arms around her. I could barely touch her with my hands, because my brain was stalled on that glorious and confusing moment of her arrival. After a few seconds (that felt like minutes) I placed my pale hands on her blotchy pinkish purple skin, noting the contrast, smearing the pasty vernix between my fingers. She was slathered in it, protected, nourished by this white gold. She wasn’t early, she was a few days “late”, and yet here she was, coated in vernix. My midwife said she had never seen a postdate baby so covered. During labor my doula constanly scooped the film of vernix from the tub. She was actually worried that Florence was going to be premature, and kept giving the midwife raised eyebrows (she told me this a few days later). I’m not sure why she was covered in it, but my midwife said it’s a sign of a healthy baby and a healthy pregnancy. I was both boggled and releived, because I believed my pregnancy was not ideal, in any way.
After that first touch, like kissing the ground after a long journey, I cried deep wrenching sobs that woke my spirit, that removed me from my shock. And I never looked back.
She was here. And she is here. She is just so different from that little soul I met on March 7th. She is no longer a stranger, no longer a part of me, like she was in the womb, but now a part of my heart. I am a part of her, and always will be. There are days I look back on her birth, with joy and sorrow. I will never have that precious time back. The woozy high that hits you after giving birth, I want to drink it in everyday, but it’s slipping from my memory. Instead I see her beautiful face, lighting up with smiles. She recognizes mama. And though I yearn for that holy moment of her arrival to wash over me again and again, I know that I won’t experience it again. Not with her. But, it will carry my mother heart through the rough and turbulent times to come. It’s just like the courting stage of a relationship, when the foundation of love is laid, thick and rich. When you see no fault in your lover, for the purpose of carrying the marriage through the inevitable arguments, rough patches and moments of silence to come.
She has ruined me in the best possible way.