Birth Stories

I don’t like the way my daughter was born.

I wish I could rewind. I wish I could write the script myself. “Open on a clear blue pool, in the middle of a verdant green meadow; the sun casts a soft, golden glow.” Or “a soft cocoon of an apartment in winter, the softest sheets and blankets, warm and cozy.”

Instead, my daughter was born in a crummy New York City hospital, all sterile and institutional and ugly. And the nurses, those bastards, those well-meaning bastards, waited 20 minutes before they gave her to me, before they let me hold my baby girl. Well, I got to hold her briefly, after begging, but then they whisked her away for cleaning and various tests — tests the same hospital’s education department had told us, in childbirth class, were not necessary. “Skin to skin contact for the first hour of the child’s life is essential,” the instructor told us — for bonding, for the child’s health — and I craved it, yearned for it. I dreamed about that first hour of her life, alone with me and Jordan, like the 10 minutes we stole after our wedding ceremony, before the reception. Private, intimate time, amidst the hubbub. And they stole that from me.

“A healthy baby, that’s the most important thing.” That’s what so many people say, and of course, yes, that’s right — at the end of the day, if I had to pick one Important Thing, that would be it. And I say a prayer of gratitude every day for my daughter’s continued health. But the experience of giving birth, and the experience of being born — those are other Very Important Things. And there is a sadness in my heart related to the un-beautiful way my beautiful daughter came into this world, and those missing 20 minutes, that gap, that time I can never get back. The first 20 minutes of my daughter’s life, when she belonged on my chest, goddammit, not in a hospital tub getting birth material washed off of her, not getting poked and jabbed with tests that could wait.

You can see that I’m still very emotional about this, 8 months later. I don’t talk about it. I try not to think about it. What’s the use? She’s healthy, I’m healthy, and every day we have moments together that I cherish. I didn’t write a detailed birth plan because they seemed like nonsense — why bother scripting the way you want it to go, since it’s gonna go however it goes? But I swung too far in that direction. It’s one thing not to get locked into expectations. It’s another to not to take any steps to try to create the experience you desire. And I didn’t take those steps. I’ve taken more care to set the atmosphere of every dinner party I’ve ever hosted than I did to create the kind of birth experience my heart craved.

And yet. If I’m being honest… my heart mostly craves it in retrospect. Only now, as a mother, knowing my love for Alison, do I care so much about the atmosphere in which she took her first breaths, spent her first days. I craved it somewhat beforehand, but less for her, and more just because I’m always drawn to comfort. I didn’t realize the significance that comfort, and warmth, and nurturing, would have on this of all days. It seems so obvious, looking back. But we only know what we know when we know it.

Everyone has an origin story. Maybe it’s the story of your literal birth, or the story you tell yourself about your upbringing, about where you’re from. So often, these origin stories don’t serve us. They make us feel small, like less than we are. So why do we keep repeating them to ourselves? What kind of sick urge makes us tell ourselves stories that don’t serve us, again and again? And here I am, doing that to Alison’s story; maybe, if you’re a parent, you do the same thing.

The truth is, it’s easier to hold onto something negative, because it gives us something to fix. At least, I’m realizing that about myself. My brain wants something to chew on, to puzzle over, to worry about. When everything’s ok – it doesn’t know what to do. We are addicted to stress. We are afraid to relax.

Maybe we need to practice accepting that everything’s ok.


4 thoughts on “Birth Stories

  1. I can very much relate, as I think you know. Not in the particulars but in the sense that very important things were hijacked. Very. Effing. Important things. Things that matter so little in the bigger scheme of days and life, but yeah. I thought that at Del's first birthday I'd write his birth story a-fresh (his? it's mine more than his, to be fair) and compare it to the raw, wild story I wrote in the first couple of weeks after he was born (the one that took me five hours and many tears to write down and still makes me cry to recall). I comfort myself with the successes of that day though, when I do think about it. I make myself turn the page from the dark/ugly/lost part and reread the amazing part. Whatever else happened ("healthy baby is most important thing" babble aside – because babble it is), YOU gave Alison life. From your body, you gave her life. I gave Del life from my own body. For that, we deserve standing ovations.


  2. Both of my birth stories were bad, but in opposite ways. With Freddy I was in so much physical pain from the doctor using forceps that I couldn't walk upright for a month after. Then had to have some out patient surgery a few months later to "fix" the area. The nurses kept telling me it was better than a c-section, but after I talked to several women who had c-sections I realized they had it so much easier. Now I know why doctors really don't use forceps anymore. I was in so much pain after the epidural wore off, I was crying and begging for pain medication. They thought something might be wrong since I was in so much pain. So, while I was still crying out in pain, before I got pain medicine they did a vaginal exam. I just begged them to stop. Warn every pregnant woman you know, that if the doctor offers the choice between a c-section or forceps during labor, tell them to get the c-section.With my other son Chris, I didn't even think I was in labor, just thought it was a complication. So, I went to the hospital alone, while my husband and son stayed home. 45 minutes later I gave birth to my 31 week old boy. I felt alone even though I was surrounded by nurses, doctors and a midwife. There was no way my husband could have gotten there in time to see his son born. Apparently my son's heart stopped after he was born and he had to be resuscitated. No one told me this. I found out when I was signing the paperwork to leave the hospital. In a way, I am glad they didn't say because I would have lost it. It was bad enough not being able to hold my son until 5 days later in the NICU. But, at least I wasn't in physical pain this time. My son Chris had to bare that burden.I didn't even want my sons births to be special or perfect, I would have settled for normal and boring. I am just so thankful everyday that they are on this Earth and I get to see them grow. As my husband said, "if it had been a hundred years ago Anne, you wouldn't have lived through Freddy's birth and Chris wouldn't have lived through his birth."Thank you Amanda for sharing your story. I think it's important for more woman to talk about their bad birth stories. It helps us heal. I couldn't even hear the word "birth" for a month after I had Freddy without breaking down in tears.


  3. Jesus Christ Anne – I had no idea. Why would I, but still – thank YOU for sharing. I am in awe of you. You're right that we need to share our birth stories (good, bad and ugly, I'd say) – who else is going to tell the story of what it feels like or means to give birth?Thanks again for sharing – it means a lot. Katie… hijacked is the right word. No matter how much I tried to let go and realize I wasn't in control from the moment I learned I was pregnant – I got attached to those 20 minutes. And so, in the way of the universe, I guess, I didn't get them. A lesson?Tree – thanks 🙂


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