Her birth was not what I had planned. Well, actually it went according to plan. She was delivered on time at 37 weeks and 1 day gestation through a scheduled c-section. At 8:47 a.m. her lips breathed her first breath and with a much-awaited and dreamed-of wail, she entered the world screaming, her little being fierce with life.
It went as planned, but I still felt like something was missing.
No one speaks of the little losses of motherhood and childbirth, which don’t seem so little when you look back on them. Most would say, “You came home with a healthy living baby. That is all that matters in the end.”
I used to believe this too. Actually, it was my mantra during my pregnancy with her. Please just let her be born ALIVE. Let her have a heartbeat. Let her be living. The bar is set rather low when your first child is stillborn.
When you are pregnant again after a previous loss, all you want is to birth a living, breathing child into this world. If and when you accomplish this goal, you sometimes feel that you do not have the right to talk about the other smaller, more minor losses that creep up and coalesce along side the most devastating one, the loss of your child.
These more “minor” losses are often made blatantly apparent to you right after your child has died. They actually enhance your grief. Most do understand their importance in your life. The loss of birthday cakes and high school graduations. The loss of first words and first kisses. The loss of dirty diapers and shoes never to be worn.
When you are pregnant again and have lost the birth story that you wanted for your next child, people don’t seem to take your grievances around this loss seriously. Even you undermine your own thoughts of wanting to have a healing birth. I mean, how dare you ask for more than a living baby? You just know that would be asking for too much.
Weeks later, after she was born alive and brought home and we had settled into life together as a family of five–three living humans, a furry dog brother and a star bound sister–I felt that I had missed something. Her birth, even though somewhat healing, had a loss within it.
My second daughter’s life has been shrouded in loss.
She is like a lotus blooming from the damp, dark mud of grief. But, I am now a forever companion of Loss, and I know Loss when she enters my sacred body, for she has been in my womb. Something about my second daughter’s birth was not obvious, but it was filled with sorrow.
I had lost the birth story I wanted. After my first daughter was born silently into this world through a traumatic vaginal birth, traditional birth was then taken away as an option for my second child. A vaginal delivery was now too high of a risk to my life and to that of my daughter. It was a risk I wasn’t willing to take, and there is where my smaller loss lies: in not having the birthing processes I so wanted, but would never admit to myself that I desired. My ultimate goal was for her to be born alive, no matter what I went through to get there. I didn’t have the luxury to consider the other needs of my body and heart. I thought I was acting as a mother, sacrificing my needs for the greater good of her’s.
Some say birth creates mothers. I don’t believe this. I think desire to have a child creates a mother. I do, however, believe that birth is a sacred ceremony bonding mother to child. This sacred ceremony doesn’t have to be the birth itself. It can be any ceremony with intention of uniting mother and baby.
The moments of her birth were bonding and will forever be her story, but I needed them to be different, to be more healing after what I had gone through with her sister. I didn’t feel fully healed from her birth alone.
One day, not long after she was born, while nursing my sweet girl, I came across an article that described exactly what I needed to move forward: a ceremony that could meld my heart and soul back with my body, so the two would become one again. It was called, a birth reclaiming ceremony.
Lisa Chalmers, a doula, had shared about the Birth Reclaiming Ceremony on BellyBelly. She described that other mothers, mothers who have lost children, mothers who have lost the birth they desired, that other mothers besides me felt this way. Chalmers gave a way to recreate their healing birth story with this baby, even after having a disappointing birth.
I had to try it!
As the long spring day celebrating my second Mother’s Day–this time to a living child as well as a dead one–turned to dusk, I drew a warm bath. My husband, having slipped into bed early, preparing for his evening feeding shift with the baby, was already asleep in the extra bedroom where he hoped to get some shut-eye while our baby and I co-slept upstairs. I seized this opportunity to be alone with her, to have our moment.
With candles lit and the lights dimmed, we sunk into the water together. She was safely nuzzled on my chest with me embracing her, while my naked body was submerged in the warm bath. I could feel the water wash over my wound from which she came. It was her feeding time, and I had planned it for then. She rooted her way to my breast, and with her suckle tears started streaming down my cheeks, landing upon her forehead. She didn’t blink. I didn’t wipe them away.
I thought of her sister, and I recalled her birth. I thought of her, and I recalled her birth.
It seemed to have come full circle. Our bodies met on the outside this time, and with the touch of her skin to mine, my heart and soul again connected with my human form. A part of the trauma of her sister’s birth subsided; a part of the trauma from her birth dissipated. It was healing.
It’s been over a year since our moment. This is the first time I’ve told anyone about both of our rebirths in that warm bath during a Mother’s Day’s sunset. Before that moment, something felt like it was missing. What was lost was that moment of connection, one that is not surrounded by surgeons, sterile scratchy paper gowns, or death. What was found this time was revival of body and spirit and belief in hope that life will live. Which was healing.