Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Birthing (and Re-Birthing) a Mother

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." ~Rajneesh

Our babies births are not the only births that are important. We become the mothers we are through a variety of different channels and experiences and, if we do so mindfully and really embrace change, we continue to evolve and grow just as our children do. In the end, we birth ourselves into the new world of motherhood and, later, we can emerge as better mothers and women. I truly believe that birth is just the beginning of that path. Clearly, a good birth experience can be a wonderful beginning for that journey. However, we sometimes focus a little too much on the actual, physical birth experience and not enough on the spiritual evolution of what it means to be a mother.

Recently, I was reading about birth and I came across an article that disturbed me. (I will not mention the article or the author of this article because I feel that midwives are already maligned too much and I do not want to impugn all the good she writes and does for women and their births because of one part of one article.) I'm not as "birthy" (yet!) as some of the other amazing women I know, but I do love a good birth story. I whole heartedly believe in a woman's right to choose her birth and that women in our current birth culture are not given all of the information they actually need to choose the best birth possible for themselves and their babies. Women also often don't have enough access to birth settings that are best for them because of insurance concerns. However, in this article, the author was talking about the long term effects of birth and mentioned a conversation she had with another midwife in which the midwife pointed to women playing in a swimming pool with their babies and stated that she could determine the kind of birth (natural, cesarean, or medicated) each baby had by the connection (or lack there of) the mother/baby had in the pool. That moment cut me to the quick because I am a mother of a baby born through cesarean and it hurt me deeply that there was an assumption that because of the way my baby was birthed, we somehow could never grow as deeply connected as mother and child as a mother who had successfully had a natural birth and that difference would somehow be obvious even to the most casual (but interested) observer.

As important as birth is (and it is very, very important) to the health and well-being (physically and mentally) of both the baby and the mother, it is still only one part of the relationship between mother and child. When a c-section happens it is still a birth; when a medicated birth is chosen, that is still a birth. Both are just as much new beginnings for mother and babies as much as natural births are and each new beginning holds just as much promise as the next one for the people who are involved in it. Bonding after a cesarean or a medicated birth is not impossible and lack of initial bonding (should that occur), is not as insurmountable as the author seemed to suggest in that vignette. In fact, what brings many women into birth activism and attached parenting practices are their difficult birthing experiences and from those sad beginnings spring strong women who work tirelessly to connect to their children in new ways and to make birth safer for the women who become mothers after them.

Our children may only be physically, literally born once, but they are spiritually born many, many times as they grow and change. We, as their mothers, also have the chance to birth ourselves into new kinds of mothers and women. Every day, we are offered the chance to make a new start and, personally, I avail myself of those opportunities as often as I can. When we focus too single-mindedly on the importance of physical birth and any regrets we have about our past decisions, we risk missing the rebirth we have available to us every day. I know that my son and I are not the same people who met on the day of his birth after an unplanned c-section. We have grown beyond the mother and son that were birthed that day. The love we share and the relationship we have worked to build has helped us evolve into something better. I love him more every day. If we were swimming in that pool, I don't think anyone could ever see us as anything other than what we are, a completely bonded, loving mother and child in spite of our less than perfect birth experience.

Thanks again for reading,


Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

Again, you hit the nail right on the head! Thank you!!!!

Mama Mo said... [Reply to comment]

Wow... That mothers/babies in the pool disturbs me, too. My boys were born via c-section and it was traumatic to say the least (

I spent a very long time trying to "make it up to them". We're incredibly bonded and securely attached. I resent the thought that someone could tell our birth method by observation... but to be honest, I also worry a little bit that it's true.

Thanks for a great post. I'll be coming back to this one.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Mama Mo I know exactly what you mean! And that's why the quote hit me so hard, but I think, eventually, you have to give yourself enough credit that the beginning does not dictate the end result of your relationship! That's the hope I cling to, anyway!

sassyshell said... [Reply to comment]

Great post, thank you!!!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@sassyshell Thank you for reading!

CSJ said... [Reply to comment]

I don't always agree with posts on this site (and that's okay), but this entry was really needed. As the mother of a six month old who was born via c-section after a hospital transfer from a home birth, I often feel an enormous sense of failure and worry that our birth experience will adversely effect our relationship. Thank you for reminding me that that's not true.

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