Racing along the freeway, under a midnight sky, I lay on my side with the passenger seat reclined as far back as possible. The pain won’t stop, although it undulates in waves. Across the bay, I see the Golden Gate Bridge — the lights reflecting off the dark water.
Another wave of pain ignites. And I remember the folklore that claims a mother will forget the pain of childbirth once she’s holding her newborn. But I focus on the bridge and vow never to forget this feeling. Never.
My body tightens involuntarily as a gush of water bursts onto the floor of the car. I try to modulate my breathing the way the instructor once showed me. Short, shallow breaths she said. But this only makes me hyperventilate.
The Lamaze coach also claimed I would get breaks in between the pain. But that was only true in the beginning. For several hours now, the pain hasn’t stopped.
I called the hospital earlier in the evening, but the nurse told me that my first birth would take a long time, so I should stay home and call back in the morning. Trusting the expert, I obeyed.
But now I’m about to give birth in the car, just hours after my phone call. And I’m realizing that some of the advice I’ve received over the past nine months hasn’t born true. What I’m experiencing doesn’t match what I’ve read in books or heard in class.
So I can’t help but wonder: What else about motherhood isn’t true?
I wish someone would have told me that every mother’s experience is uniquely her own.
I try to hold myself steady as the car veers around a corner and pulls right up to the emergency room doors. Someone dressed in white opens my door and quickly realizes I can’t move by myself, so he rushes to bring a wheelchair.
Wheeling me into the emergency room, the lady behind the desk points to the elevator and says, “We’ll check her in later. Get her straight to delivery.”
Four floors up, I’m leveraged onto a bed where I’m told to stop pushing.
“I’m not pushing,” I explain between pants.
“You’re crowning and there’s meconium, so you need to wait for both doctors. You need to stop pushing.”
“But I’m not . . .”
The pain makes it impossible to speak anymore. I don’t know what meconium means. I don’t understand why the nurses seem so worried. And I can’t figure out why I need two doctors.
The doctors arrive, and a nurse explains that one is for the delivery and the other is a pediatrician to make sure the baby is safe from the meconium. Within minutes, my daughter is born, and she’s immediately whisked away. The pediatrician has his own team of nurses, and they’re all surrounding my baby. They say she’s going to be okay. Then the doctor with me says it’s time to deliver the placenta, so push.
What? After the baby’s born, now I can push?
This isn’t what I read in the books. And this is my first lesson in motherhood:
Every mother’s experience is uniquely her own.
We may share certain commonalities. We may relate to general experiences. But overall, we each come into motherhood differently.
I love to read books. And I love to talk with other moms. Yet, it’s wise to be discerning. What may have “worked” for one mom, may not work for me. What may have been “easy” for one mom, may not be easy for me. And that’s okay.
I’ve been a mom now for 18 years and counting. Here’s what I know to be true:
Motherhood is an art, not a science.
So the best mothering advice I could ever give is to really listen to what our own hearts tell us.
We’ll make mistakes and try again. We’ll figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. We’ll also meet moms who do motherhood differently. And when we do, I pray we’ll extend grace to each other.
Because we’re simply moms. Doing the best we can. With what we have. Because every mother’s experience is uniquely her own.
If you’re a mom, have you written your birth story?
Do you know the story of your own birth?
Today, I’m thankful for . . .
A healthy birth
An answered prayer
A chance to stay home
Snuggles on the couch
Walks around the neighborhood
Books that help
Helpers in the nursery
Mommy groups that nurture
Playdates at the park
Counting gifts with Ann Voskamp.