A birthing story (5,037 days later)

Motherhood is a beautiful phenomenon. It is perhaps the least selfish role that ever existed. Equally, motherhood is one of the least “rewarded” jobs in society. For about 50% of the concerned population, motherhood comes as a surprise. To top it all up, no manual is provided. You are expected to be on call 24/7 including during your summer holidays, and even on Christmas Eve. There is no job description (it would take thousands of pages to describe what a mother does), and it definitely has no monetary compensation.

For most, motherhood begins soon after conception is confirmed. A strange feeling of expansion begins to form. The woman’s well-being starts to become slowly and surely linked to that of her embreyo. This bond is formed in 9 months, and in most cases becomes unbreakable for the life span of the mother and her child(ren). Some would speculate that the bond is so strong that it lingers on into the after-life.

One would wonder, why would a strange and tiny creature growing inside the uterus have so much power over its bearer? Why would this nausea producing, sleep-depriving, stretch-marks-generating life-form enchant its carrier? What makes mothers smitten and cooing for a good portion of their years to come, despite being depleted attending to every whim and need of their newly-acquired midgets? Now, why do these poor mothers sacrifice their health, wealth, careers and waist size for these minions?

Last I checked, women and mothers are not by default crazy, or enjoy life-long self-inflicted pain (honestly this last point is highly debatable, but you get what I mean). So why do some women work consciously towards having children? To highlight this further, why do we freeze our eggs? Why do we go through multiple IVF treatments and spend money that would buy us a couple of convertibles? Why do we keep at it and get our hopes crushed every bloody time? There must be a reason, and a good one indeed.

Motherhood changed me profoundly, more than any other life event. Once I found out that I was pregnant, everything else in became less important in comparison to this piece of bewildering news. Mind you, I was full-on career woman, with a plan to conquer the world. No time to be wasted, I was shuffeling two and sometimes three jobs at a time, commuting insane distances to go from one to another. As a psychologist, I was teaching undergrads, doing research, and also working hard on incorporating psychology in mainstream businesses. I was on fire! Yet, once the lab results confirmed that line I saw on the pee stick a day earlier really meant I was pregnant, all I wanted and craved was nestling.

Ever since, my main concern, my main priority was and remains to be my child(ren). I got books, I joined prenatal classes, and I did my homework. How can I be ready for this creature? What should I learn to welcome it best? I even got a small alarm from Amazon to time feedings and diaper changes. I read about potty training before she was even born, and I got a baby-food blender before she even had a sip of breastmilk. I devoured books on sleep methods and learned how to swaddle a doll.

You guessed it right, I was so full of information that I felt I became a boss. My husband and I decided that we want to deliver naturally. And so we did. We chose midwives, waitlisted at the best homeopath pediatrician in town and managed to find a spot for our future to be born daughter. We booked a doula, found a lactation consultant, and prepared the apartment for home birthing. We got the plastic sheets, the big trash bags, and my husband rehearsed cooking for the birthing team. All was ready. Except us, except me…

The very first day of the new year my Layla, – our pride and joy- was born. For the sake of documentation, I will tell you how it went in great detail. I was overdue, like many expecting mothers. For those familiar with natural birth, you will understand that being overdue is quite terrifying. At some point, if things don’t progress naturally, the chances of a cesarian quadruples. We wanted the most beautiful and naturally welcoming birth for our daughter. I was due on Christmas Day, but Santa came and left and nothing happened. My midwives told me that if I don’t pop by New Years’, they will have to induce me. I was quite scared.

On the 30th of December 2008 I started to have contractions. A few hours in, they became regular. I called the clinic and signaled a birth. Not long after, the team arrived. They helped me set the bed. I got into my gown specifically bought for this occasion. They checked how far I was dilated, and it was a slim 2 cm. It was now nighttime. Nothing happened, except regular painful contractions. At some point, they asked my husband to go buy a certain drug that will get me more dilated. Meanwhile, they put me in the shower, and then my water broke. Now the medicine was useless. His errand on this cold and snowy day was useless. They couldn’t interfere. It was now up to Mother Nature to make this birth happen.

They checked me again because I was screaming so much. My baby had decided to turn and resumed a posterior position , or what is commonly known as “sunny side up”. This simply meant that she decided to come out to this world, not only head first, but also facing up. To translate this on the pain-scale, well there are no more digits left to plot my suffering then. This is the jackpot of natural birth: you got normal “beginners” front-door labour going on, accompanied by back labour involving the spine and the sacrum. Basically, a 360 degrees natural labour without any pain killers.

It went on and on, until I used to profoundly sleep the minute or two between contractions. I lost all sense of time. I left my human form during these 67 hours (2.7 days of active labour). I was an animal, or perhaps a goddess. I didn’t know what was happening, but somehow it felt right despite all the tears. I was screaming this child out into this world, willing it to get out of me.

I saw their faces change expression, I was crowning. I knew crowning was when the infant’s head finally shows. I was well familiar with this concept from reading and from the classes. I knew I had to push really slow or else I would really tear. I knew it was all about breath work and control. I tried to remain “composed” but this is the most confusing demand a person will ever hear. On one hand, your body wants to expel with all its might this being trapped inside, and on the other they tell you to take it slow. I couldn’t the first time, and neither the second as a matter of fact (a totally different birth story by the way).

New Years’ had passed, and the first day of the year brought some more snow. Around 9:30 AM and after pushing a few more times, my Layla came out. I had finally finished the long race. I was rewarded by this perfect newborn that stole my heart away. Would you believe me if I told you that the moment I saw her, I had no recollection of any physical pain? How is this even possible? To this day, I won’t be able to fully explain this dramatic shift in emotions. I know that oxytocin (the famous love hormone) flooded my nervous system. My neurons shot little cuddle-enticing messages all over the place. From now on, I would start to like cute animals videos and share them on social media. Facebook will remain my favorite medium. I will now play Candy Crush. I was officially a mom.

Meanwhile, my angel midwives placed princess Layla on my tummy. Is it just my daughter or are all new borns athletes; Layla “crawled” and reached my breasts. I instinctively wanted to feed her, but she had other plans. Layla began looking at me. Her gaze was intense, almost inquisitive. She said in not so many words: “It is you, finally we have met. I want to have a good look at you, and get to know you.” If I had melted from love when she was born, now I had evaporated! The conditioning was done. Looking at Layla = pure love. To honor and respect her birth and entry to this world, the umbilical cord was cut later after it had stopped pulsating.

I was sure then that I was a goddess, if not only a superwoman. No-one can do this except my clan of women. We are superheroes, and we produce amazing creatures. My hemorrhoids and even the double episiotomy were a totally fair price to pay to have the honor of birthing this child. Now, thirteen years later, I can confirm that I would do whatever it takes to take care of this beautiful gift I was given. I would do the same sacrifices and many more to have her in my life. I would move mountains to see her smile. I would also kill entire nations if someone just compte m’empilâtes hurting her. She makes waking up every morning worthwhile. She surprises me daily with how perfect she is. She drives me crazy and makes me pluck out my hair, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. She is all what I have ever wished for and much more. I am proud to have been granted the privilege to be her mother.

I love you Layla ❤️