I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a birth, but I can definitely say that it’s life changing. You can take that any way you want. Some people leave feeling nauseous, but others, like me, are changed for the better. I don’t think anyone can really understand it in all of its complexity and beauty unless they’re standing in the room. Now, as a nursing student, I can say that I’ve had many opportunities to stand in on a live birth, but if you don’t work in the medical field, ask your second cousin if you can be there in the room. Hold the leg of your sister-in-law while you speak loud, powerful words of encouragement to her. Stand next to your mother while you watch. If you don’t know when your next opportunity to sit in on childbirth will be, I’ll quickly give you the rundown.
As the mother of the baby is progressing in labor, her body goes through a multitude of changes. Her psyche becomes more focused, her breathing more forceful, and you can always see tiny beads of sweat start to form on her upper lip as she rocks her hips side to side to try and alleviate the pain. Her cervix starts to dilate.
There are three stages to this: stage 1 begins with a burst of happiness. Her water breaks. She looks at her partner lovingly. “We’re having a baby!” she exclaims, full of happiness. She feels a bit of pain, but you know it’s nothing yet. You don’t tell her this. You smile and make her comfortable. Stage 2, after the cervix gets thinner, is when she starts to think, “oh my God, how am I going to get this thing out of me?” Her partner will start to pace. You will find them in the hallway, squatting, with their head in their hands, realizing that they can’t really do anything. You don’t tell them that. You reassure them. Stage 3 is the what-is-happening-get-me-the-epidural-I-said-I-didn’t-want stage. Her partner will be sweating. She will be yelling. Her legs will go into the air. You will see the baby’s head crowning. Stay calm. You are her rock. Tell her that she is doing great – not that everything will be okay. Tell her that you’re so proud of how far she’s come – don’t tell her to look forward to seeing her baby. Focus on keeping her in the present moment. She needs to be right here, right now – if something goes wrong during the delivery, you don’t want to be the one who told her everything was going to be just fine.
When she starts pushing, she will experience a pain like no other. Her partner’s face will be pale. Catch them if they start to faint. With each contraction she pushes and with each push a part of her old self is leaving her. The part that was unaccustomed to pain, the part that wasn’t very patient, the part that didn’t find beauty in the details. She’s making room for something greater.
When the baby’s head starts to come out, it will be cone shaped. They will ask you after the delivery if it will stay that way forever. It won’t. When the baby’s small, cone-shaped head starts to squeeze through her pelvis, through a space you didn’t even know could fit a human, time will stop. Everything will stop existing except for this moment. The sound of muffled screaming quiets into the distance. The wide, unblinking eyes doctors and midwives sit fixed on the wet, bloody being trying to make it’s escape, and you won’t realize it at first, but you’ll start to cry. Before you even realize what that moment signified, the baby will be placed on the mother’s chest, and suddenly all the pain from before escapes her. The blood pouring out of her torn vaginal opening as the placenta prepares to slide out will only signify the last of her ignorance washing away. She is being baptised from the inside.
When her eyes are set on the screaming, beating life that lies against her skin, she will let out a sob. Her partner will smile, their eyes brimming with tears. She lies there, legs limply open, fully exposed, gently placing her hand on the baby as it’s heart beats 140 times a minute, adjusting its eyes to it’s new surroundings, trying to catch a breath.
This is what true love looks like.