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I lost birth. I know that sounds trivial but birth was important to me before Noah died (stillborn at term due to a cord knot). I had trained as a doula and birthed my second baby at home. I was engaged, on the periphery at least, with the women – doulas, midwives, body workers, etc - who make up the birth community in our small city. I was (am I guess) one of those lucky women who believed in natural birth, was able to have it, and felt empowered by it. I have never had a great relationship with my over-sized body – but giving birth….it just made me so proud – so amazed at what MY body could do.
Noah’s was a planned hospital birth because our insurance would cover it 100% and would not cover a home-birth at all and we just did not have the money. However I went to great lengths to find a doctor and hospital that would support my desire to birth naturally. When we discovered at a regular appointment that Noah had died and I would need to be induced, I wanted an epidural for his delivery. In the end I didn’t need it. He left my body almost painlessly without the meds I thought I’d need.
My husband and I were blessed to receive another life just three months after Noah left us. I struggled the entire pregnancy to reconcile what I wanted to believe about birth with my new-found unwanted knowledge that babies sometimes die before they are born – that my body wasn’t the safe place for my babies that I thought it was. I didn’t want fear to win. I looked for mentors – babylost women who still trusted their bodies and birth. That is how I found “Glow”. I hoped I could find someone who could help me see a way to embrace, even revel in pregnancy and birth as I had before, but I never did.
I had every intention of having a stare down with Death in my pregnancy after Noah’s, but instead I scurried around hiding behind rocks, under beds and in closets, trying to keep the Grim Reaper from finding the daughter I carried. It didn’t help that her pregnancy was the most medically complicated of my four to make it out of the first trimester. On top of that I was 40. Forty, babylost and lots of bumps in the road to delivery day – NOT a good combination to inspire strong prenatal mental health.
In the end I delivered our daughter in the same hospital where I delivered Noah, under the care of the same family practice doctor. I was induced at 37w4d because Joni repeatedly failed her bio-physical profiles. My doula/midwife could not be there, but she sent her back-up and she was lovely. I birthed as naturally as one could while dragging around an iv pole and hooked to machines. It was an honest day’s work, but it was not the triumphant, healing experience I had hoped for. Our daughter – skinny but healthy, strong, gorgeous and simply amazing – has tempered my ache for her brother. But her birth did not heal the hole left in my heart when birth and death renewed their acquaintance in my womb.
I have been around here long enough to know that this particular brand of crazy talk really irritates some. I hope I’ve conveyed the distinction that I make in my mind between the baby and the birth. I would have done ANYTHING to get my babies here alive. I believed pregnancy and birth with minimal medical interventions was the best way to do it. Beyond that, the acts of growing a life inside of me and delivering her safely into the world are about my relationship with my body and my own sense of power – a perk separate from the real prize, but important to me none the less.
Now, almost 19 months since Noah was born, and 8 months since Joni arrived, I have little contact with my birth community acquaintances. I went to a natural birth and baby expo last night, under the pretext of buying a new sling, but really so I could show off Joni. I saw many people I hadn’t seen since Noah’s funeral. There were smiles, congratulations, warm hugs. It wasn’t the place to touch on hidden grief, but I could tell just by looking in eyes who realized it was still there and avoided it, and who assumed it had been replaced by the babe in my arms. If they only knew how I grieve still - for my son and for the shared faith that used to make me part of their sisterhood.