What Story Will I Tell?

by Rachael on June 12, 2012

Welcome to the June 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Embracing Your Birth Experience

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month participants wrote about at least one part of their birth experience that they can hold up and cherish.

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In March, I started posting the Gnome’s birth story. I still haven’t finished writing it. Consider the following to be an interlude in the telling of it.

Much of my exhilaration in the hours and days following the Gnome’s birth had to do not only with my pure delight in my beautiful boy, but with the feeling that I had gotten away with something.

the gnome day 1

I had agreed to a medical induction — and then went on to give birth without medication of any kind! No medications to start or augment the labor! No medications for pain! No postpartum Pitocin! I didn’t even take any of the ibuprofen that the nurses on the postpartum floor seemed so eager to give me.

I got my way.

And then a strange thing happened, having to do with my discomfort with even writing that sentence.

I felt guilty for having gotten my way.

Never mind that the way my birth went put no one — least of all the Gnome himself! — at a disadvantage. My goodness, even the timing of his birth — just after midnight — gave my husband, midwife, and doula a shot at getting a decent night of sleep afterward.

Other uncomfortable feelings followed.

Anger for having been pushed toward an unnecessary induction — never mind that the induction never happened.

Disappointment that I gave up and gave in — never mind that letting go of what I wanted may have actually made it possible for me to have what I wanted.

Regret that I did not enjoy the last few weeks of what was in all likelihood my last pregnancy — never mind that I had good reasons to worry and feel sorrowful.

And so on and so forth …

What a mess! It’s as though something within me is determined to distort, even destroy, the exhilarating story I was telling in those first hours and days just after the Gnome’s birth. And so I’ve been stalling and stalling and stalling at finishing the writing of his birth story.

Like Ina May Gaskin, I believe that the stories we tell about birth matter. Indeed, like Thomas King, I believe that we in fact are the stories we tell.

So. What kind of a story do I want to tell about the Gnome’s birth?

Maybe it’s a story about surrender. Maybe it’s a story about how my true outlaw self took over.

Maybe it’s a story about how I got my way — and it was good.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama June 12, 2012 at 10:05 AM

I’ve read Ina May, but I don’t recall that particular thought. You’ve made me want to reenvision a few things about Kieran’s birth! At any rate, I’m incredibly proud of you and how strong you’ve been. You are amazing.

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Rachael June 20, 2012 at 1:04 PM

Thank you, Dionna!

Ina May writes a bit about birth stories in her most recent book, though she talks about them more as a source of information about birth than as a source of empowerment. I am so grateful to her and to my prenatal yoga instructor (with the Critter — no yoga with the Gnome, alas), who would read aloud the stories from Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth during the rest period of most classes. Those stories were certainly a source of power for me as I faced giving birth the first time.

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Seonaid June 12, 2012 at 3:43 PM

I’m so glad you got away with something. I have a bunch of thoughts about this, but I don’t quite know how to fit them all into a comment… they go all around Buddhist practice, narrative construction, feminist analysis of power…

I will content myself with what looks like a complete non-sequiter, and trust that you will gather it as the offering it is intended to be. (Perhaps a koan?) This weekend, near the end of a 4-day retreat, I was on a “silent aimless wandering” and I found myself realizing that there was nothing objectively “wrong” with my life as a series of moments, but that my desire to impose a coherent narrative on them was the source of the suffering I was experiencing. (Regarding identity, work, achievement, representation and a host of other things.)

Also, maybe we should actually get on the phone/Skype and have a conversation one of these days. :)

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Rachael June 20, 2012 at 1:06 PM

I’ve been working with your koan, Seonaid. And yes, we should get on the phone or Skype! And methinks I owe you a letter, too….

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Julia @ A Little Bit of All of It June 12, 2012 at 5:13 PM

I do something similar with life experiences as well. I had a beautiful birth with my daughter but focused for a long time on the transfer after the birth and how horrible my in-laws were that I didn’t really just enjoy the beautiful birth experience for a long time.

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Amber June 12, 2012 at 7:55 PM

You know, I think that as women we have this story about how we shouldn’t really want anything. So getting your way pushes a lot of buttons for many of us. It does for me, anyway. I remember even as a kid arguing with my sister about whose turn it was to do the dishes and then feeling guilty when she gave in and did them.

I love the end of this post, though. You got your way AND IT WAS GOOD. I think there’s freedom in that statement.

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Rachael June 20, 2012 at 1:12 PM

I totally agree as women we are fed this idea that we shouldn’t really want anything. Women who are mothers *especially* are not supposed to want anything. And if you are carrying a child with medical issues, then apparently you are not supposed to have any desires whatsoever about how that baby is born — even when those desires have no effect at all on the baby’s health. Hell, even when those desires, such as refusing routine IV (which I did refuse), probably even benefit the baby.

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Deb @ Living Montessori Now June 12, 2012 at 11:16 PM

I think childbirth is an amazing experience even if it isn’t perfect. And yours is truly amazing. I like the story that you got your way and it was good! :)

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Amy W. June 13, 2012 at 7:44 AM

While I am thankful that you didn’t have to have the induction that you agreed to, it very well could have been the surrender of power over your birth that ironically, allowed you to have the power over your birth! Whatever happened, I’m sure that your birth story will be beautiful, and I can’t wait to read it!

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Rachael June 20, 2012 at 1:18 PM

I really do think that agreeing to the medical induction ironically did help me go into labor more or less spontaneously. (The labor didn’t really start spontaneously, as I had my membranes swept twice on the day I went into labor.) Because I agreed to the induction, I got a sub for the class I was going to be teaching the night before the induction, and my dad and stepmother came to Brooklyn to take care of my older son. In other words, I handed all of my non-labor responsibilities to other people — which I think helped me to relax enough to let my body do its thing.

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Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama June 13, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Aren’t our minds such funny places? I’ve been waiting for the rest of your story, and I’m so glad to find out that you rocked it!

Do you think hormones played a role in these challenging thoughts? I’m still on the post-partem hormone train, and they are pretty powerful!

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Rachael June 20, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Yes, I am certain that hormones played a role! I am a true believer in the power of hormones, which is actually why I wanted to avoid artificial oxytocin. I didn’t want anything interfering with my happy hormones, especially because I was a total mess in those last weeks of the pregnancy and reasonably fearful that PPD would follow the birth.

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Andrea June 19, 2012 at 1:44 PM

Ok – of course now I am wondering how you will tell your story. However you decide, thank you for your honesty. Birth is so much more than a physical act. Our feelings and emotions and spirituality and bodies all meet on that day. It’s not for the faint of soul.

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Rachael June 20, 2012 at 1:23 PM

For those who are wondering, I did follow up with the Gnome’s birth story in a post last Thursday, which you can read by clicking here.

And thank you all for your lovely comments!

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Alinka @ Baby Web June 23, 2012 at 4:11 AM

What a story! I’m glad you concluded that it was good. I also love Ina May’s writing, sentences like “women are beautifully and admirably designed to give birth” give you the necessary encouragement to go through the birthing process. It’s going to be my turn next month!

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