The Birth Story I Never Told You
Who wants to know that on the day of their birth, their mother was thinking about death?
You had both eyes wide open when you came into the world.
Your father tells it this way: Suspended between two worlds, halfway in and halfway out, you turned and looked him full in the face. He positioned his hands the way the midwife instructed, palms open, fingers spread wide, ready to catch you when you slipped from my body. Your dark, round eyes looking straight into his weren’t what he had planned for.
I remember that moment from a different viewpoint. I can feel my feet grinding into the sheets, my teeth clenched, and my eyes squeezed shut. I had a faint awareness of a scuffle happening, of someone strapping an oxygen mask to my face. I put so much effort into those final pushes that I had forgotten to save any breath for myself.
You’ve already heard these stories. The story you do not know is what happened two weeks before you arrived, when your entire universe was still my womb.
Since month six of pregnancy, I had been drawing up a careful blueprint for the day of your arrival. The birth books recommended mothers create a “Birth Plan” to present to medical professionals that guarantees the childbirth experience she wants.
I made my plan very clear. I wanted to eat, bathe, and walk around while in labor. I didn’t want any pain medication, not even Tylenol, and I definitely didn’t want an episiotomy (a last-minute surgical widening of the vaginal opening). I would rather be torn naturally than have to heal from a scalpel wound.
I’m sure she had approved hundreds of birth plans, but for some reason, on the day she saw mine, Beth exhaled long and slow.
I’m not sure what I expected from Beth, the midwife, when I delivered my birth plan to her in all of its large, 14-point font glory (because when things teeter off course, you want to make sure you’re seen). Beth was a well-known and highly referred midwife in our area and I wanted to impress her. If I’m honest, I hoped she would see the effort I put into my birth plan as a good indicator that I was worthy of…