Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What it was like to watch my mother give birth

Yes, you did read that right. I watched my mother give birth to my little sister.

Matt's birth
(this is not the birth I witnessed, but it's right after the youngest was born!)

I was in fourth grade when Michelle was born, and at ten in a life that was already unconventional and lived between cultures, I had no idea that this would one day be something that was seen as incredibly unusual... and sort of awkward. I was young enough to not be grossed out and old enough to remember it. Now when I look back on this experience it is added to the list of things about my mother that make me shake my head and marvel. She's quite a woman.

At that point she was having her fifth child, and she'd always had easy, early, and quick births. She also has incredible physical strength and endurance. We had just moved to Papua and most Western women left the province or the country when they were going to have a baby - the medical resources in our little town were shoddy and suspect. However, this year there was a missionary medical doctor that lived not too far from us, and since there were no complications they planned a home birth with the doctor present.

I remember that morning us kids were reading and playing in the living room while Dad and the doctor and nurse were in the bedroom. Dad came out and told my brother and I that we could come and watch, and we had no reason not to..... So we did. The experience of watching my mom in labor made me think later that the movies of women screaming and writhing during labor were ridiculous.... my mom just closed her eyes, breathed rhythmically, and was entirely focused. You wouldn't have necessarily known she was even in labor if you were just looking at her face - she might as well have been doing yoga or meditation exercises, and that was at the most intense part of labor!

Despite how incredibly weird it is that I watched my mother give birth, looking back now I'm glad for the experience. I am not my mother, I am a wimp about pain, and I have no desire to have five children without any drugs and most of the time without doctors present! However, what the whole experience did was normalize pregnancy and birth. I know what a newborn looks like, I've seen a woman in labor, I've watched the whole process. 

Last Saturday we spent all day in a Preparation for Childbirth class that was actually pretty fun. We got a tour of the hospital (with a newborn kicking around in the nursery - SO CUTE!), we talked about car seats and stages of labor, various kinds of births, breast feeding, recovery from birth, caring for a newborn, hospital policies, etc. Isaac and I laughed that he'd learned a lot of the things they taught from watching Jim and Pam in The Office. Still, it was nice - made us feel like we'd know what to do if we went into labor today.

The very last thing in the class was a series of videos of various kinds of births - all-natural, c-section, etc. As the first birth video became rather graphic, the woman at the table next to us practically had a heart attack. She must have never seen a video of a birth before! He jaw dropped, her eyes got huge and shocked, and I could see she was muttering, "OH MY GOD!" under her breath. Haha! I tried so hard not to laugh aloud and spent the rest of the videos watching her rather than the screen! I feel for her - if you were pregnant and suddenly realized for the first time exactly what this whole experience would be would be pretty shocking.

So, for that reason I'm glad I had the very unusual experience of watching my own mother give birth. Too bad I don't have grand illusions of me being as tough as my mom throughout the labor experience. I fully intend to get an epidural, although I hate needles so much that I do actually wonder if laboring naturally could possibly be less traumatic for me than getting a shot in the back. Hmm...


Camels & Chocolate said...

That's a whole lot of (really gorgeous) kids! I'm super squeamish--as in so much so, I had to turn my head when we were watching TV last night and someone was given a shot at the doctor's office--so I don't think I'd be able to handle watching anyone give birth!

Bethany said...

Aw, how neat! I did not watch my mom give birth (she didn't want us to, I totally would have!) but I was present at one of her best friend's baby's birth. It was such an amazing, surreal experience. I think I was 18 or so :)

Jaimie said...

I would love to watch someone give birth. Lucky!

PS. So glad you're liking Mad Men! It's just so, so, so, so, SO good.

Rach said...

My mom invited me to the hospital to watch her give birth to my brother Andrew (number 7, and the last bio kid in my family). The only reason she was in the hospital was that he was early...the 4 prior to that had been born at home! Anyway, I was 11 and it was an AMAZING experience. I cried tears of joy as I saw his head crowning. It will always be a precious memory for me, and she was so chill too (probably had something to do with it being baby number 7!).

Anyway, are you considering natural birth at all? It is an incredible feeling when you're done! I can't even describe it. feel like you can do anything! And I also love the benefits to mom and baby. It's so cool that you're getting close to meeting your little mann!

Kacie said...

Not even really a little bit considering natural birth! I'm like... anti-adventure in some ways. It's painful? Not interested. It'll take a lot of endurance? Well then lets do a hike I find manageable.

So yeah, I've never wanted to do a natural birth and now that I've looked into the benefits and drawbacks I'm still okay with an epidural. If it was bad for the baby it'd be one thing, but I'm unconvinced. :)

Missy said...

Just thought I'd say that I never saw the needle, so don't worry about it! =)