Hold Up. I’m a mother of three little girls. I live in the midst of loud shrieks and cries, divorced socks, baby dolls, hair accessories, crayons, tears, tangled hair, sticky fingers, beautiful smiles and laughter. Is this my life? I never imagined my life would be like this. I thought about motherhood in passing. I didn’t have a timeline. I didn’t have a plan. I just fell into it. Before kids in my early twenties, I was a self-proclaimed party girl out every night of the week in New York City. I lived a carefree and colorful life hanging with artists and dancers and living only for myself.
Then I did the unthinkable or some may think predictable for a fun-loving girl – at age 26, I eloped with an artist. And overnight I became a wife, accountable to someone else sharing my emotions, my space and my future. After losing our very first pregnancy to miscarriage, I got pregnant again two months later. A roller coaster of emotions in a short period of time followed by a crash course in pregnancy and child development. At the time, I only had one close friend who had a toddler. She was a single mom who had a natural birth and practiced extended breastfeeding. Her carefree approach to motherhood made me think it couldn’t be that hard, so I quickly put together a birth plan and I decided that after years of hurting my body with junk and bad habits, I was going to transform into some earth mama and birth my child into the world naturally and transition into a new woman empowered by some inner magic that would suddenly be revealed to me.
I knew the deal. I had listened to Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. One of my friends from college, Latham Thomas (author of the latest book “ Own Your Glow” and her first book “ Mama Glow”) even had her own pre-natal yoga workshop and offered doula services. Did I go to a single class? NO. Instead I continued to eat poorly, work long hours, drink coffee and stay up late, reading birth stories and doing online shopping. I was subconsciously sabotaging my pregnancy and despite my doctor’s warnings of not gaining too much weight, I grew and grew. I was a hot mess. Perhaps it was my personality. I was always a procrastinator, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person. Maybe the miscarriage threw me off and took away the novelty off my first full-term pregnancy experience. Maybe I was just young, stupid and scared.
So what did I do? I continued my job in Brooklyn up until my due date. There were late nights and parties and I wore myself out. But I would take time to read books here and there, and then I started watching birthing videos. Without friends and family close by, I just settled and nested in my own way with my husband. I didn’t have an Instagram or Facebook support group to look to back then. My mother lived across the country and was so disconnected from contemporary birth practices, so I just let the months pass by without really even thinking about it.
I celebrated my last day at work and then spent a week prepping the apartment and cleared out space for my mother’s arrival since she was staying with us for a couple weeks. After my due date came and went with no baby, I decided to take matters into my own hands and induce labor. I looked up all the old wives’ tales online and drank castor oil, ate pineapple, climbed stairs, went swimming, danced, bounced around on yoga ball, ate spicy food. My daughter was enjoying her time in utero and finally decided to make her way out. The day I went into labor, I was restless and not quite ready to go to hospital. So I walked around Brooklyn, up and down Eastern Parkway. I even went to the bank and remembered my mom jokingly telling the bank teller to wait for me to finish my transaction since I was having contractions. Everyone at the bank was shocked and came from around their desks to look at the spectacle that was me. Forty-one weeks pregnant. Waddling around Chase Bank in Crown Heights, Brooklyn on a scorching hot summer day.
I finally made my way to the hospital, and through a series of unfortunate events with the nursing staff and stalled labor, found myself well into the next day arguing with the staff about my labor progression. My doctor was out of town and everything I wanted and asked for was thrown to the wayside. My birth plan was completely disregarded and I was hooked up to a heart monitor and IV drip and given an unwanted epidural. After hours of limited progress, I was also told I had a short timeline before they would force me to make a decision about having a C-section which was completely unnecessary. I had watched the documentary The Business of Being Born which instantly converted me into an anti-intervention naturalist committed to the idea that it was somehow a rite of passage to birth children naturally using our God-given strength. But at that moment, I was helpless, hooked up to a bed in fluorescent light with strangers coming in and out of my room touching all parts of my body and interfering with an experience I had previously imagined would be a spiritual and emotionally groundbreaking transition in my life.
My actual doctor had not yet arrived at the hospital so I found myself arguing with nursing staff and other physicians who threatened me and made me feel like my decision to continue laboring at my own pace was somehow a bad idea and that I needed to take the next extreme measure of having them cut open my body and pull out my child. At that moment I was so mad at myself. Why didn’t I go to that yoga class? Why didn’t I hire a doula? Why did I decide to have birth at a hospital instead of at home? Why didn’t I have someone there to make sure that what I wanted was actually going to happen? My mom was there and God bless her she didn’t see me in pain since she would have tried to convince me to just go through with the C-section as she had done when I was born. My sister flew at the last minute to New York and arrived at the hospital just as I was in the middle of it all, and there was nothing she could do at that point. Because of my distress, my husband jumped into beast mode. He fought off the nurses. He fought off the anesthesiologist. He fought off the doctors who came into the room repeatedly telling me that if I was not pushing momentarily I would have to have a C-section because according to them, my baby was allegedly under stress.
With emotions running high and feeling extreme discomfort and fear, I thought the worst, and I was mentally preparing myself for the failure of not having the birth that I had planned and potentially putting my body, my life and my child at risk through an invasive medical procedure that I was absolutely not prepared for. I felt like we were in some type of old Western showdown with arms drawn, waiting to take the next step. Luckily, we found a sympathetic nurse named Jackie, and we were able to talk her into leaving us alone to try and labor naturally in a last ditch effort to avoid the C-section. Since the epidural had left my lower body temporarily paralyzed, I needed the nurses help to get onto my knees so that gravity could do its job. Nurse Jackie and my husband hoisted me up on all fours on my hospital bed and my body suddenly opened up. With my last ounce of strength, I pushed and breathed and begged God to help me and my baby push through. With every squat, push and breath, I willed my daughter down into the birth canal. In my mind, I was in the midst of a miracle. My labor then rapidly progressed and I was able to change positions, get on my back and start pushing. The crew that had previously been down my neck about doing what’s best for the baby came rushing in like trained military, each taking their position in the birth show. We all played our parts, and I, the star of the show, delivered the grand finale. Then, like that, my baby arrived, and I was born into motherhood.
After the dust settled, my doctor told me she was proud that I stuck to my guns and delivered my child without surgery. In my head, I rolled my eyes and sucked my teeth at the whole shit show leading up to that point. I know many moms wouldn’t care either way and actually welcome the idea of scheduled C-sections and pain medication. But for me, I knew what I wanted and I knew what I didn’t want. I challenged my body to show me its power, and I bore witness to that very miracle. Overnight, I became a birth fanatic and vowed that if I ever got pregnant again, I would avoid doctors and strengthen my body to deliver on its own strength. I was given that opportunity two more times and had midwife/doula-assisted natural water births for my second and third daughters. I have since found my mom tribe and become an advocate for other moms. I’ve shared my story and encouraged friends and strangers to listen to their bodies and trust in their power. That was a challenge I gladly accepted and overcame which has helped me fight for myself in every other aspect of my life to this day. Even though I physically birthed my children, they actually delivered me into a new life and identity. I was truly reborn.
So for all you women (and men) who have these fantasies about your parenting journey, know that whatever plans you make are just that. Babies and bodies are going to do what they want to do regardless of your plans. All you can do is prepare your body, mind and physical space to receive your baby. The rest is out of your hands and that is perfectly ok .