The only thing I heard from the women around concerning birth growing up was how awful it was. Painful. Long. Something to dread for nine months. I watched TV like everyone else so I knew how it would go. My water would break and we would rush to the hospital, where I would begin screaming and crying out, probably in a shared room with another screaming and crying woman. I would beg for drugs. An army of nurses and doctors would be present to ward off the dangerous situations likely to happen. The doctor would come in and tell me when to push, if I was lucky enough to be able to push because chances are high I would have to have a c-section, and then a screaming baby would appear and all would be well once again. I would be able to join the ranks of battle scarred women who endured one of the worst experiences a person can ever go through.
20 years after I tortured my own mother in this way, I signed up for a class called Intro to Women’s Studies. One of the sections involved dividing the classroom into groups and assigning a book for each group to read and present on. I was placed in the group that read A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. During the group presentation we discussed many different aspects of female life during this time period but it was the time we spent discussing midwifery and childbirth that really stuck with me. Birthing stools, babies born outside of a hospital, the perils and triumphs of childbirth. It all felt so new and exciting, and I knew that I would never be satisfied if I “settled” for letting those around me dictate the kind of experience I would have during childbirth.
One of the members of my group invited her sister in to come in and talk about her birthing experience. This woman had created something called a “birth plan”, a document which detailed the kind of hospital experience she hoped to have. She presented it to the hospital staff and rejected some of the standard procedures while embracing others. In short, she educated herself about the birth process before it occurred, and then she put that knowledge to good use. She handed out a copy of her plan, something I’ve held onto through all the moves and life-changing events I’ve experienced since that time.
I knew that when I had a baby, I was going to educate, plan, and execute. I would be prepared, and I was going to have a better birthing experience than the childhood version of myself ever thought possible.