I’ve been working on a collection of ten short stories themed around birth and early infancy in the Kentucky mountains. All the characters are healing, coping, dealing, grieving, rejoicing, and pondering the situations surrounding the birth of a child. Fiction writing is my passion, and ultimately what I hope will become the permanent gig for the rest of my life. I am nearly finished with the collection and am in the process of submitting the individual stories to literary magazines that I enjoy reading.
What I didn’t consider when I started this collection was the outcome it would have on my emotional health. I know many people look to writing as therapy. Healing through getting it all written out. Writing a letter and burning it and all that jazz. I never did really. I looked to it as more of an escape. Except upon the near completion of this collection, I realized that writing it has brought me to a point of acceptance. Accepting the experiences of my own births.
Ro was born at 38 weeks. I had had a wonderfully healthy pregnancy. I gained only 35 pounds. I exercised throughout the entire pregnancy and worked as a teacher. I had written a birth plan for a natural vaginal birth believing that having chosen a practice of all women that that was very likely for me. I had never been in a hospital as a patient. At 38 weeks and after 7 ultrasounds the doctors convinced me, through scare tactics, that attempting a vaginal birth would endanger the health of my baby in tremendous ways. They told me she was upwards of 10 pounds and my pelvis would not accommodate her. I begged for another option, but they gave me a list of bad outcomes. I, crying reluctantly, signed the waiver and had a c-section without experiencing labor. My baby was 8 lbs. 13 oz. We both experienced health problems after the surgery and stayed in the hospital 5 days.
I began grieving this birth immediately. I felt Ro and I had been betrayed by not even being offered the chance to try. I felt as if we had been reduced to a number and an obstacle in the way of the OB’s chance to go home early. I got angry. I was happy to have my baby, but I felt sorry that she was jerked from me before she was ready.
Even though it was never my intention to have more than one child, I started wanting another. I rationalized about how it would be good for Ro to have a sibling (I still believe it is), but the real reason was I wanted another chance. I struggled with getting pregnant again, but I found myself with child in August 2007. I chose to VBAC and to do that at home with an awesome direct entry midwife. I did everything she told me to do. I immersed myself in the world of VBAC and natural childbirth. I learned the anatomy and physiology. I prayed. I took Bradley classes, got chiropractic care, and hired a wonderful doula. At 41 weeks 6 days (April 26th) my water broke in a flood in a restaurant before the onset of labor. My baby was posterior with a cocked head. Her cord was wrapped around her arm several times. After finally laboring intensely for many hours, transitioning, but not dilating, I was transferred to the hospital where eventually I had to agree to another c-section (April 28th) due to health concerns. Plo was 11 pounds. I am so thankful for the experience of natural labor, my midwife and doula who gave me the best possible care I could have received, a healthy baby, being respected and treated like somebody, and for being given a chance. But, I always wondered why the circumstances didn’t line up for the kind achievement I had so longed for.
I could not imagine having another baby at this point. I know if I ever found myself pregnant again, I would chose VBAC and homebirth. I was left a bit jaded, and envious of those who had been able to do what they were created to do – birth without assistance.
When I started my collection, I wanted to visit birth in the mountains throughout history and the present because that is all I could think about. I chose to write about the most triumphant situations, the most devastating, and everything in between. I explored the feelings of both men and women living with their choices, and the outcomes of births that effected them directly. I stayed with them through tears of joy and immense pain. Not running out the door with jealousy, hurt, or anger. I wrote it as real as I could get. As in your face truth of birth. All of the stories, no matter the result, were worthy of words.
Now, that I am coming out on the other side, I am realizing that my births are stories worth sharing as well. That my experience is part of a larger collective of women who have experienced it all. That the experiences were what they were and there is nothing I can do to change it, and that the only way to live with it is to embrace it. Not to say “oh, well”, but to live with the test, the history, the experience that is the reality of birth.
I have found myself in many ways healed. Healed of the constant dwelling. Embracing a new found appreciation for pregnancy, birthing, and the amazing capabilities of a woman’s body. I have found myself more present in the moment. Not revisiting my births, but trying to grow in mothering my beautiful girls. I’m thankful that God put me here with the desire to write, and heal through the process of it.