Birth should be an intimate, relaxed, and vulnerable event.
Intimate and relaxed? Vulnerable?
If you want to birth with as little pain as possible and as much joy as possible, you must be both totally relaxed and very intimate with those around you. You must open yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually to a very scary, exposed and vulnerable place.
People fear vulnerability, and birth is deeply vulnerable.
When you speak of the realities of it, it triggers some of our deepest fears and things we have been trained since childhood to feel shame for.
Normal birth involves: poop, spread legs, vomit, tears, giving up, feeling overwhelmed, intense pain, incredibly vulnerable positions with genitals exposed, animalistic noises and nudity. And that’s just the beginning! It can involve tearing of the perineum, grunting, inadvertent and uncontrollable events like breaking of water and more.
The very process of labor and the hills and valleys of contractions are involuntary. The things that trigger labor are unpredictable. This all by itself seems to frighten people to no end and inspire a desire to control, time, stimulate and schedule. How dare nature and our bodies do something without our permission?!
When you give birth to this squishy baby, who could be a boy, a girl, healthy, ill, perfect or flawed, there are many unknowns. This is scary! What will they be like?
It is impossible to really know.
Personally, I think this “unknown” aspect of our baby helps us tap into our inner self, our intuition, and our self- trust while all the tests that tell us the future and predict everything from gender to health can undermine that…but that is another story…
Breastfeeding requires more exposure of body parts generally considered taboo – our very culture is uncomfortable with the bearing of nipples and the unseen nature of milk production.
Is baby getting enough? How much is she/he getting? Am I doing this right?!
It is difficult to even tell! At least it is if we like math, measurements, schedules and absolute proof regarding every element of life itself.
Yet women are expected to track every moment of the baby. How many feeds? How much did they get? How long did they last? How often do they poop? Pee? Did you write it all down?!
Pretty much every part of birth and baby raising is without categorization, scientification and measurement.
Oh, but we try, don’t we?
We ultrasound the living heck out of our unborn in an effort to predict everything from size to health and overall perfection. We induce labor whenever possible, subjecting the rhythms and unpredictability of nature to the timers, clocks, and calendars of modern medicine.
We place IVs to control, epidurals to numb, pitocin to speed, and catheters to remove the pesky need for bathroom breaks (made far more difficult due to numbness). We do our best to categorize and control birth.
We shine bright lights on pereniums, we touch them, guide heads and tell women to speed up or slow down. Dang it, the unpredictability of birth is really annoying…
You want to have a great birth? You want to enjoy the trials of a newborn baby?
Try embracing the vulnerability of birth.
You may pee on your floor.
You join a fine league of women who have done the same.
You may poop involuntarily.
There are few times in life past the age of two when others will be excited to see you have a bowel movement. Especially if you are sitting in a tub!
Fear the vulnerable positions of birth?
Surround yourself with only people who lift you up and with whom you can be totally fearless, then love the fact that they exist and are there for you. Yes, even if you are bent over or spread eagle in front of them.
You may yell, grunt, scream, weep, or otherwise “lose it.” Know that this is not weakness but strength.
There is great strength in the surrender it requires to lose the self you try to put forward to the world and accept the real “ugly” self that we all try hide.
Worried about exactly “when” your baby will be born and how you can schedule all the things you feel you “need” to schedule like work, family visits, and tax returns? Take a breath and accept that some things can’t be controlled, no matter how hard we try. We may pick the date, but that doesn’t mean the baby will agree to it.
But accepting the vulnerability of birth isn’t just about natural births (though it does apply there), it is about all birth. Sometimes the most difficult thing about birth is not having it work the way we planned. Sometimes the vulnerability comes when we need interventions.
Every aspect of every birth involves vulnerability.
Researching how to schedule the sleep and feeding patterns for your baby? If you haven’t learned vulnerability and your own lack of control from pregnancy and birth, then a baby would be thrilled to teach you about it now. They wake, they sleep, they get teeth, they have growth spurts, they conquer milestones. They don’t however read books, follow recommendations, or comply to the strict plans and schedules of self proclaimed baby experts.
Whether we like it or not, birth and babies tend to teach us that we are not in charge, no matter how smart or organized we think we are. This is scary.
It is scary to be imperfect. It is scary to be vulnerable.
It is scary to do things we find shameful. It is particularly scary if these “shameful” things (like losing control over our bowels) are common in birth.
It is scary to care for a totally dependent being who also has their own will and desires with minimal communication skills.
Accepting this vulnerability as normal and important is incredibly comforting. It might be the most important thing you can do to prepare yourself for motherhood and birth. It can bring you peace, help you forgive yourself, and help you triumph over hard things.
Go ahead. Embrace the vulnerability of birth. You deserve it.
PS- loving this book by Brene Brown! It inspired this post.