I believe Fear is a companion at every birth. The question perhaps is how will I answer her? I could try to ignore the rising panic or maybe be overwhelmed (done both!). But Fear is sure to show up. Even the helpful Birth Without Fear site is really about making choices in the midst of anxious thoughts. Teresa found that Fear caged her even after their baby girl nestled in her arms.
Early one chilly January morning I woke up pretty sure that I had the stomach flu. I texted my doula just in case this was labor and let my husband (who was still suffering from the flu) sleep. After about an hour I realized this wasn’t the flu, I was in labor. And even though I was twelve days over my technical due date I was still surprised at how fast things were going. I had planned for and prepared myself as best I could for a natural, un-medicated labor, but after an hour and a half I wanted relief in any form and despite our doctor telling us to wait, we headed to the hospital.
After a 10 minute drive in which I found myself frustrated by my husband obeying normal traffic laws, we arrived in triage to a nurse who very routinely asked why we were there. At this point I thought that was obvious, but a confirmation that I was fully dilated brought this whirlwind of a morning into a delivery room. And just like that, two hours after arriving at the hospital and only four and a half hours after I realized I was in active labor, our little girl was here.
On paper the birth of my daughter looked perfect, natural, un-medicated. Everyone I told marveled at how fast and seemingly easy it was. But I knew the real story. Later that night as I tried to get some sleep I found myself kept awake, shivering in a cold sweat, reliving that traumatic morning. Weren’t the feelings of unease surrounding childbirth supposed to disappear as quickly as my previously enormous belly? Why could I not shake the feeling I had earlier of being a caged animal, frantic to escape the pain and path before me?
I began to realize that the unease, stress, even trauma of birth does lessen and eventually dissipate. But as with my previously full baby belly, it takes time.
As I learn to put order to the fear that surrounded me I am reminded, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
I thank God for His care over me and my daughter. I thank God for His provision of a loving husband without whose hand holding mine I would have been lost. I thank God for His protection through my wonderful doula who wrapped me in her loving arms. I thank God for His skill through the hands of my doctors who gently encouraged, guided, and gave peace to me as my daughter was born. I thank God for his mercy in bringing my daughter through the waters of birth into this life and through the waters of baptism into the next.