Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Maybe you don't need a natural childbirth to feel like a real woman, but I do.

I've started back to the gym after a long and much-needed break. I've struggled this postpartum taking on too much, too soon, and exercise is no exception. I need to just accept the fact that I need an ENTIRE YEAR, and maybe even more, to fully recover from childbirth. I've definitely bitten off more than I can chew this time around. I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that having two kids wasn't going to slow me down, like slowing down is a bad thing or something.

Aren't they cute together? 
I'm trying not to bite off more than I can chew in the exercise department, especially after I threw my back out at the beginning of the month for the first time in about 6 or 7 years. I'm trying to be gentle with myself, so I am just walking. I'm just trying to get back in the habit of getting up early and doing something to take care of myself. I have very low expectations right now. Actually, I have no expectations that walking will do anything for me except get me moving in the morning. That's okay. I'm starting to learn that I should probably never have any expectations about anything ever.

I'm not sure the last time you did it, but 30 minutes walking on a treadmill feels like a really. REALLY. long. time. I'd forgotten that that was what was harder about walking than running. Running wears me out, but it doesn't drag on forever like walking does. The last time I walked regularly was when I was pregnant with Lily. I did it some when I was pregnant with Kimberly, but I had Lily in the stroller and there was stuff to look at and some of the best company to keep me entertained. Today, I just had my brain. After I got over the hump of just thinking about how bored I was, I started thinking about birth. My mind usually turns to birth when I am on the treadmill. Don't ask my why. It seems to turn to birth when I am in the shower too. Or fixing my hair. Or driving in the car. Or sitting around doing nothing. Or when I am seeking it out on the internet. Or when I'm not seeking it out on the internet. I guess I like it.
Here's that same baby 1 year later

I started to think about when I first had Lily. There were two people in the world who believed in my ability to have a natural childbirth. My husband and my childbirth educator. Then I did it. I couldn't believe it. Imagine my shock! No sooner had I uttered the words, "I did it," than the naysayers started coming out to try to discount my experience. "Well, you must have had an easy birth." "Well, you just got lucky." "Well, I don't need a natural birth to feel like more of a woman." You know, all those lovely comments that people hear when they accomplish something awesome. It's very similar to that time I was in high school and made a 30 on the ACT the first and only time I ever took it, and after having absolutely no prep classes on it, a kid says, "It must have been easy this year." Oh wow. Thanks, jerk. I guess because *I* managed to do it, it must have been easy.

There were several reasons that I wanted a natural childbirth. The biggest one was my fear of the epidural. As I started to learn more about it, I wanted one, well, just because. I JUST wanted that kind of birth. Is that so wrong? Maybe I romanticized it a little. Maybe I thought a natural birth just seemed so AMAZING. Kind of like I just wanted to play the flute because I wanted to. It's funny how no one has really asked me to justify my desire to play the flute. No one gets mad at me when I say I succeeded at auditions. It's just...being excited about natural childbirth is not allowed for some reason.

But I started to think about how there are many people who think that women want to have natural childbirths so that they can feel like more of a woman. Or that we think we are a better mother because we had a natural childbirth. Or that we think we are a better mother than someone else who didn't have a natural childbirth. Or something like that. I don't know anymore. I've sort of given up trying to figure out what people think.

My two little cuties that keep me humble
When I first started this journey, it never crossed my mind that having a natural childbirth would make me a better mother. I never thought that I would be a better mother than someone else who didn't have a natural childbirth. I never thought that I would be more of a woman if I had a natural childbirth either. It just wasn't part of the equation. However, after the fact, I started to feel like I was a better mother for having had a natural childbirth. Not a better mother than anyone else, but a better mother than I would have been had I not had a natural childbirth. Because I know myself. I would have grieved my birth experience. I would have struggled with that for a very long time. If I could struggle with not getting into LSU as long as I did (and still do sometimes; there are things that trigger an episode of major upset), I'm sure I would struggle with not getting the type of birth that I was hoping for. It would take me a long time to feel at peace with it. Postpartum life is difficult enough for me with two satisfying birth experiences that I am terrified to think of what it might be like for me if I had to come to terms with an unsatisfying birth experience on top of it all. Motherhood is hard for me. I knew it would be. So much of it has taken me by surprise, and it changes every day. My children keep me on my toes and really make me earn my keep around here. Every time I think I am finally starting to get the hang of things, when I have finally figured it all out, they change it on me. One of my favorite quotes is "Motherhood is savory humble pie, served hot fresh daily." (paraphrased from Let the Baby Drive by Lu Hanessian) Motherhood keeps me humble. Or maybe, motherhood is trying to teach me how to be humble. I bet there's some pridefulness in there somewhere.

I admire those woman who are not bothered by what others might perceive as a traumatic or otherwise unsatisfying birth experience. I really do. I'm just not that awesome. Or that strong. I really do need my two deeply satisfying birth experiences to draw strength from when motherhood gets hard. Nothing else in my life has left me feeling like, "I did that? I can do anything!" like those two births have. Nothing. And I really do need those experiences to be the best mother and woman I can be. I didn't do it on my own. Goodness knows I didn't do it on my own. No. I had so much support and help along the way, and I give thanks to my Heavenly Father every day for placing those amazing people in my life that helped me to have such beautiful birth memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

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