As I write this, it’s been exactly one year since I gave birth for the third time. I have been reflecting all morning on the specifics of the day I pushed Nicholas into this world. So many little details that I will hold tightly to forever. I won’t tell you my story. Not in it’s entirety anyways. If we know each other intimately, you may hear pieces from time to time if it’s important for me to share them with you. Birth stories are sacred. For me, retelling it in the way our culture is accustomed to, the blow-by-blow, minute-by-minute medical version cheapens the magic of it. Birth is unbelievably intimate. The connection I had with my husband, the interactions with my midwives, the moments of meeting our baby and my older babies meeting my newest baby, those are for us. So here I sit, looking through pictures of the last time I will ever give birth, all choked up and reflecting on this last year. I’m not sure now, looking back, how I even survived.
What we tend to not talk about in our culture is the aftermath of birth. If you’ve taken a childbirth class with me, you know I believe birth is a rite of passage. I do my best to speak to the unspoken…the death that will and must occur in your birth. I watch you leave our final class together, knowing there is no way for you to really understand what that means until you walk the path yourself. I hope when you get there, you remember our time together and think, “ahhh yes, this is what she meant.” You will die. The you right now, before you give birth, will cease to exist. The woman is transformed to mother. The man to father. The couple to family. The unfolding can be messy.
You might think giving birth to my third baby; entering motherhood for the third time would be easy, right? Absolutely not. With each pregnancy and birth, the old version of us dies; we are brought to our knees, and must find our way out of the labyrinth once again. One foot in front of the other. I have been turned inside out by birth three times in three very different ways. My husband and I sat last night and reflected on the last year. Those first few months were so insanely hard. I remember having days where I wasn’t sure we would all make it. So many things happened in those early postpartum days that were not ideal to healing and integrating after giving birth: my husband had to travel when Nick was two weeks old, my mother became unexpectedly ill and couldn’t travel to help, all at the time I was painstakingly trying to recover my milk supply and maintain a nursing relationship with a baby who had a lip and tongue tie undiagnosed until he was over two weeks old. Add in a dose of colic. And the sleep. This baby did not sleep. We did not sleep more than a few minutes here and there for the first 4-6 months. MONTHS. Just this last week, Nick has finally decided he needs more than a couple of hours in a row, and we are FINALLY getting some decent sleep up in here. All of that….with two other kids who needed me. Rides, meals, homework, concerts, swim meets, one-on-one time. How did we all survive?
Somehow you just do. You look back and it’s been a year. I’m looking at these pictures, and I would give anything to be back in that bed with my brand new baby on my chest. But my allies…I wouldn’t have made it without my allies. Allies I didn’t even know were allies until they showed up for me. You know who you are. You brought me food, you drove my kids around, you showed up when I didn’t return your texts and poked your head in to “just say hi”. My best friend who was so insanely busy with her own kids and job, she came. She made me lunch and watched Bravo with me while I nursed, and washed my sheets and made my bed and put all my laundry away without me asking for a thing. She folded my underwear. She fucking folded my underwear. Konmari style, no less. She’ll never know how she saved me that weekend. My allies, thank you, you got us through. Because of you I was able to take one small step each day back towards the living. I have found my footing as a mother of three. A year later and I’m starting to feel alive again.
New mothers and families, I hope you can make space for this transformation. Know that you are not alone. Take the time to find your new self. Be gentle with your new self. Allow your allies in to help. And then…when you have come out of the darkness, show up for someone else. We cannot do this alone.
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