Art by Miranda July
“The birth experience matters so deeply that women in their 50′s or 60′s and beyond still remember vividly how their children were born and how they felt when it happened. I have heard women talk about a cesarean that they didn’t think they needed . . . I have heard them talk about how incredible it was when, after multiple births without their husband present, they finally experienced a birth during which their lover held their hand. They tell me of their regrets regarding their decisions.
To these women, their birth experiences mattered deeply. That sacred time of labor and birth doesn’t just impact the immediate postpartum period or even just baby bonding – it impacts women, and it impacts them for the rest of their lives.” ~ Sarah Barre Clark
At the moment of her child’s birth, a woman is flooded with more love hormone than she has ever experienced in her life. This hormone is known as oxytocin, and it is released in our bodies when someone smiles at us, when we are kissed, when we make love, and when we breastfeed our babies. Oxytocin teaches us to trust and bonds us deeply to those we love. It connects us, keeps us faithful, helps us forgive, and teaches us how to care for others. It teaches us as parents how to protect our fragile babies so that they survive, and thrive.
Birth teaches us how to love. Not only does it teach us how to love our babies, it changes the way that we love forever.
Can the way someone gives birth really change their life?
Before my daughter was born, I was wracked with fear that I would not know how to be her mother. That I would make the wrong decision, that would leave some emptiness in her heart that she would spend the rest of her life trying to figure out how to fill.
Like any female born in this country, there were times when I suffered from low self-esteem. As a little girl I hated the fact that I had freckles. I was jealous of my best friend because her lips were thinner than mine. I was too fat, or too thin, or my legs were too short, or my breasts were too small. In short, I didn’t know how to love myself.
I don’t think I truly knew how to love my body until my daughter was born. My first lessons came during pregnancy, as I heard my daughter’s strong heartbeat for the first time and watched my belly grow big in the mirror. My body grew an amazing little creature that swam and hiccuped and did belly rolls, who was perfectly healthy and thriving in there despite no book ever teaching my body how to grow a baby.
It just . . .
kept . . .
My labor and birth was one of the most intense experiences of my life. While others may experience birth as “orgasmic”, during labor I felt like I had a brick covered in glass coming out of my butt. My biggest fear during labor was that it might be possible to barf to death! I felt like I was not “coping well,” until I got checked and found out I was going through transition. My body took me for a wild ride while my silly little ego came dragging along behind. “LOW SELF ESTEEM? Phhhmph. I’ll show YOU what this body can DO!!”
I pushed my baby out like a champ. As her warm, wet little body lay on my chest I had the craziest realization. She was mine. I was responsible for her, that day and for the rest of my life. My (and Mike’s) body created her. And she was absolutely perfect.
No one told me I couldn’t. No one took her away and did anything to her that I did not give them permission to do. No one even taught me to breastfeed. They just put her on her chest and let her – TEACH ME. They let me be her mother. And in that moment I realized that the richest men in the world did not have the strength or power that I had. I knew how to love with my whole heart.
My daughter’s birth taught me how to be her mother. And as her mother I have the gift of watching her blossom. She is the funniest, silliest, wiliest, most talented little two-year old beauty that I know. I could never make a more beautiful work of art or contribution to this world than making her.
Who knows what that girl will grow up to be. I can’t wait to find out.