I picked up the phone at 3 am, while Easter morning hadn’t dawned yet, instantly awake. All I heard on the other end was panting. Then a pain-strangled voice: “It’s time for you to come.”
So I stumbled my way out of the dark bedroom where my husband softly snored, got into the car and navigated the primitive, windy, very dark road to my friend’s house. Her long-awaited phone call had summoned me in the middle of the night, so I could support her in labor and giving birth.
Just as I did with all my three children, my friend chose to give birth at home. We live at the edge of the wilderness, with the closest hospital an hour away, so it was extra important to have an experienced midwife and a birthing assistant (me!) to help. The midwife was the same midwife that delivered my own three children, and it was amazing to be present at this birth, where I didn’t do all the heavy lifting (or should I say pushing), got to watch the midwife work her magic, and witnessed my friend’s incredible strength, commitment and courage in birthing her baby naturally.
I’m still flying high from this. It was a difficult birth, with the baby positioned “sunny-side up”, and the poor Mama needing to work extra hard to get the baby out. But despite the intensity of it all, it was a beautiful, beautiful experience.
Dear Mama, let’s face it: giving birth is one of the hardest, splitting-apart, soul-bending experiences we women will ever have. Giving birth stretches us, literally, to our limits. It’s not only flesh and bones that are being stretched, but our minds, our limits, our stamina. It’s frigging hard.
For me, giving birth three times were the most spiritual, empowering experiences I have ever had, and watching my friend go through it just reinforced this feeling. I am so awed by us women. I am so deeply touched by the strength and reserve we have to find in the face of so much pain and seeming impossibility of getting that baby out of our body.
Whenever something hard happens in my life, something so big and difficult that I’m scared I can’t bear, I feel back into the space I was in when I birthed my babies. And I say to myself, “I could give birth, so I can do this as well.” And it’s true. There’s always deeper to dig, more reserves to be reached for, no matter how dire things seem.
Please let me say this: even if you didn’t have a home birth, or a natural birth, or even if things went wrong and you didn’t get to have the birthing experience you envisioned, you still grew a baby inside of you, got it out somehow, and have been nurturing it ever since it got born.
No matter what happened, you still created a being that relied on you for nourishment, nurturing and guidance.
Wow. It’s a big job, this mothering. It ain’t for the faint of heart.
I am proud of my friend, whose brow I wiped, face I stroked, and legs I supported when she pushed and pushed and pushed. I am proud of myself for the way I gave birth to my own babies. I am proud of you, too, no matter what kind of birthing experience you had, because the fact is: you are a mother. You are doing it.
One more thing: I am incredibly lucky to be married to a man who supports me 100 percent. He’s kind and sensitive and strong, and I wish that every woman had a man like mine by her side. He supported me during my labors, and he did it well.
Many men don’t know how to handle the intensity and helplessness they feel when their woman suffers, and when they can’t make it better for her. It’s hard for a man when she moans and yells during labor, when she tells him not to touch her in a particular way because she has to concentrate so hard during a contraction that she can’t stand anyone’s touch on her skin.
My husband was right there with me every single minute of labor, anchoring me to my body when the contractions threatened to sweep me away, communicating through his eyes the immense love he felt for me, even when I yelled at him not to breathe into my face.
I saw the same commitment on Easter morning, when my friend’s husband held her while she leant on him. The quality of his gaze and his commitment to be there for her was just as I had experienced years earlier with my husband.
When the baby was born and settled in with mama, he and I stepped out of the room to fetch some things, and I told him how well he did supporting his wife. He told me he felt like he didn’t help much, but I told him the truth: “You were her rock, and you were there when she needed you. Believe me, you made all the difference.”
So here’s to us, Mama! Here’s to our strength and resilience and willingness to do the work, even when it’s hard beyond anything we could have imagined.
Here’s to the people who support us, be it a husband, friend, sister, mother… no matter who we lean on, it takes a village.
Now it’s your turn: In the comments below, tell us about your birthing experience. What did you learn?