This week I jump forward to week 37, right to the end of pregnancy, when it gets close enough that every twinge in your body makes you think, “is this it??” Stacie Ruiz Bingham, a childbirth educator, doula, and breastfeeding counselor, has plenty of experience with birth and gathers strength from her memories of incredible birth stories from inspiring women.
“I am currently 37 weeks, 6 days pregnant. This means, like Arnie Grape says, “I could go at any time.” In the past have I ever gone this early? No. But two nights this last week I started having irregular contractions in the evening — more than those warm-up Braxton Hicks, but less than what I deem to be “true” labor. And it has given me a little bit of anxiety as to the realization that yes, someday soon, this baby will have to come out.
I have taught families about birth for years! I have touted the benefits of minimal-intervention during birth as long as mom and baby are okay. I have been excited for birth, pledged my allegience to birth, shared my mammalian theories about birth, and basically been on fire for the wonders birth can bring — simply from a new, sweet baby, all the way to that complicated glimpse into what we are capable of as women. Birth has been my world — it has been something I believe in, something I put my faith in, and something I have experienced as an incredible part of being a woman.
Yet here I sit, getting heart flutters and panic, as I experience a contraction that feels a little stronger than normal. When I get those nagging self-doubts or scary flashes of fear, I push them right out of my mind — I can’t even entertain them. If I had business with them, if there were something fruitful to come from their company, then there would be a purpose in having them hang around. But I know this much about myself: Negative thoughts are part and parcel to my brain and its chemistry, and they mostly have no function to fulfill.
To counter my own inclination of dwelling on the negative, I have found some solace: When I think about the women I have supported during their own experiences of birth, I find my confidence in birth being rebuilt.
There was Karen, who birthed her second son at home in a horse-trough-looking tub, all 12 pounds, 2 ounces of him, like nobody’s business.
Amanda, who exercised her right to attempt a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) in a local hospital; she walked into the hospital (no wheel chair for her!) at 7 centimeters open and soon after birthed her baby in a squat, close to the floor (I don’t know if she even sat in the bed at all before the baby was born!).
Kim, who had her baby in the car on the way to the hospital with just the support of her husband.
Tara, who labored at home with a walk to Jamba Juice while she and her husband shared the story of how they met years before, as co-workers, at that same Jamba Juice (he snuck a kiss in the walk-in fridge!). Their baby was born a few hours later, peacefully and in the water.
Another Tara, who labored hard for almost two days to bring Brian Patrick into the world, on St. Patrick’s day, no doubt, after being thisclose to having a cesarean birth.
Leah, who didn’t let her fears get in the way of the hard work that birth is.
Kim, who was on bed-rest — she ate breakfast, had a conference call for work, realized her water broke, went to the hospital and had a baby within an hour, had a follow-up call from someone at work regarding the conference call, and then had Thai food for lunch!
Laura, who experienced the worst kind of tragedy during pregnancy which she used for strength to have a home-water-VBAC — I will never forget the words she kept chanting during transition, “The only way out is through. The only way out is through.”
There are so many more. I remember them all. One thing I will say about birth — no matter how you have a baby, no matter where you are or what your personal experience will be made up of, birth is a day of hard work. Regardless of whether a woman has a spontaneous, normal birth, an epidural, a cesarean birth (or whatever combination), it is generally not a day at the spa. But one thing I have always said, it is mostly a mind-game: You can psyche yourself up or you can psyche yourself out. I, for one, am working on the former, and I am so grateful for all those families who have allowed me to witness their power and strength, because right now, that’s exactly what I need.”
Catch up on previous stories from The 52 Weeks of Motherhood Project here. If you’d like to contribute, send an email to email@example.com.