This morning I was in the same place I was fourteen years ago when my daughter was born into my arms. I was at the same exact place, at the same exact time, with the same exact nurse. It was a bit surreal. I said to the nurse... "Do you know what we were both doing 14 years ago at about this time in the morning?"
I was 17 years old. I was at that age in adolescence where one thinks they know so much, they aren't afraid of anything. I wasn't afraid of labor. I don't think I was afraid of mothering even. It was the unknown for me. No one I knew (really) had any babies yet. My then boyfriend's sister had a couple kids and one of them was a newborn, but she wasn't especially candid about the entire process.
My water broke sometime in the very early morning of January 27, 1997. I wasn't quite sure that was what was happening to me, because it didn't seem like what happened in movies. But, what else could it be? Also, there was some internal ... voice?... telling me... "your water broke..."
This was my first lesson in trusting my body. Trusting myself. Listening to my body. Listening to WOMEN.
When I arrived at the hospital I did not feel trusted, or listened to. I believe it was due to many factors... some of them might have been my age or the age of the father of my baby (he was 10 years older than me). We weren't married at that time, and I felt a shame about that too. Now that I work in that field, and I hear what is often said about patients in this group (unwed-pregnant-teen) I guess... well... it has reinforced what I have always perceived was said about me.
When my contractions became harder - stronger - longer there was an instant where I became afraid. I felt alone. I wondered how long I could endure such a laborious task (yes I see the pun). I knew that I had to endure it for however long it was to last. However long it was meant to be. However long it needed to be. There was not to be any time restrictions. I asked the nurse who came into the room to check on
me the fetal monitor, to please take the clock off of the wall.
This was my second lesson in trusting my body. Trusting myself. This was my second lesson in listening to women.
The nurse looked at me very queerly and did not move towards the clock. I asked again. I remember having to be very firm, and clear in my wishes to NOT have a clock on my wall in my labor room. I remember having to fight to be heard.
It wasn't much longer that I felt the indescribable urge to push. This time the voice inside me wasn't quiet, and I couldn't use a quiet voice either to express my wishes to push either. I asked my boyfriend to please go get the nurse. (I really did say please.) He actually wanted to know why. When I explained that I felt like it was time to push, he actually said, "But the nurse was just in here." I don't know if this meant he didn't want to bother her again, or if this meant it couldn't possibly be time to push. I didn't care. Bother her. It's time to push.
This was my third lesson in trusting my body and in listening to women.
I had (apparently) labored and dilated rapidly for a primip (first time mom) and no one was expecting such a quick delivery. The nurse (who had just gotten on shift for the day) came in and asked what I needed. I said, "IfeellikeIneedtopush" in that low, grunty, "already pushing voice" that so many of us L&D nurses recognize.
I remember her saying, "Well then push."
That morning I became a mother. Whether or not I wanted to. Whether or not I was ready. Whether or not I liked it. That little baby changed my world. I won't lie and say it was "the best thing that ever happened to me." Because I don't understand what those words mean. I will say, giving birth to her, changed my world. I got married. I lived straight. I had four more babies. As soon as I held her in my arms, I knew I wanted to be a mother... her mother.
Another thing happened that morning, the morning I became a mother. It was the beginning of learning to trust my body, to trust myself. I was heard. Finally. As a survivor... this was huge. That nurse who said those three words has no clue the impact she made on my life... even fourteen years later.
I became a mother. But also... I think this was the beginning of becoming a midwife too.