I doze peacefully, blissfully, deeply, unaware of the world around me- until I'm awakened by another wave of contractions and remember the 'bad dream' that is my current reality.

I'm in the transition stage of labor- you know, the point when you'll consider almost anything to get you out of this 'mess.' (It's a good thing the devil isn't around taking trades for souls.) The time when you do not or cannot go through with this, the moment when you swear you'll never, for as long as you live, have another child!

Right now I'm making that sacred oath, and considering my options- should I walk (or crawl if needed) from the birthing center where I'm laboring to the hospital across the street? Perhaps they'll give me some drugs or even offer a cesarean. Anything to put an end to this prolonged, drawn-out, harrowing labor.

This isn't my first time at the rodeo- it's actually my fifth child (my fourth birth, we adopted the first)- all have been done naturally, without drugs, in the water.

The previous birth had been 'difficult'- twelve hour labor, half hour of hard contractions and pushing after my midwife broke my water, resulting in a healthy, 9 lb 6 oz girl.

But now that delivery pales in comparison as I reach 24 hours since my water broke. I'm weak, broken, shaking…and disappointed.

The Dissolution of Dreams

Since before I'd had children I'd read books on pregnancy and birth- mind-altering, idyllic books such as Grantly Read's Childbirth Without Fear.

I began envisioning my 'perfect birth'- the pain-free, blissful, 'my body was made to do this' birth that's idealized in all the books on natural childbearing.

Then I actually had kids.

Each birth was beautiful, empowering and significant. But not painless. Not blissful. Those certainly aren't adjectives I could use to describe my experience.

Still I held on to my dream that 'next time' it would be easier. 'Next time' I'd have my 'perfect birth.'

So when I became (unexpectedly) pregnant with number five I thought, "Here's my chance. Now I can have the birth I've always dreamed of."

I re-read all the books. I visualized how blissful it would be. Me as Powerful Woman peacefully and pleasurably birthing my baby into this world, connected with all creation in this dramatic event shared by women since the dawn of time.

Now I faced my reality, and I was being kicked in the teeth with it. To the far extreme of my 'perfect' birth, I was experiencing my most painful, agonizing labor yet.

I was weak, crying, scared, in pain, and wondering where I went wrong.

It's Not the Grapes

Aesop shares a fable about a fox who spies some juicy, tantalizing, mouthwatering grapes dangling just out of reach. The fox jumps, and jumps and jumps again to reach the grapes, but to no avail.

At last he trudges off, harumphing as he goes, "Those grapes were probably sour anyway!"

Do women have blissful, pain-free births? I'm sure it happens.

Should I scorn them for tempting me with such a high ideal?

No. Ideals and dreams help to give our lives a sense of purpose, a higher standard to strive for.

True, there is no 'perfect', and sometimes our high expectations can lead to our unhappiness.

But I like having high ideals that I can work toward.

Lesson #1: It's not the grapes (my dream) I should scorn, but my approach to obtaining them.

Once the dust settled and my head cleared and I could give an honest evaluation I realized that I was less prepared for this birth than I had been for any of the others.

I rarely exercised. My diet was poor. I didn't consistently do my Kegels. I didn't practice relaxation techniques. I hardly even took my prenatals or iron pills (I suffer from anemia during pregnancy).  I was in the worst shape of my life.

I didn't do what was necessary to properly prepare. When the time came to deliver, I wasn't ready.

Lesson #2: When the time to perform has come, the opportunity to prepare has passed.

How could I expect to sow from seeds that I hadn't been willing to plant?

True, I re-read books and did some visualization, but as my husband likes to remind me, "Visualization without action is the beginning of delusion."

It wasn't enough for me to want an ideal birth. I needed to take consistent action toward achieving it.

Lesson #3: Success comes from consistent action toward your objective.

Theoretically, if I continued to have children (not in the plans), I could alter my approach and, with practice, arrive closer toward the ideal which I hold in my mind.

As I continued to improve myself through exercise, proper diet, mind/body control, and modeling women with 'exemplary' births- each subsequent delivery would get easier, more quintessential.

That's the formula that 'successful people' follow in the pursuit of any dream.

Lesson #4: Success leaves clues- 1)Decide what you want, 2)Take action toward achieving it and 3)Analyze your actions and make necessary adjustments until you get what you want.

However, in my case, I have to make a decision about whether I really want to achieve that ideal birth no matter what or if I'm going to be done having children.

(I'm leaning toward the latter.)

I'm contented with the results I've produced so far- my births were challenging, empowering, beautiful and culminated in wonderful, healthy babies.

For now I've decided that its more important for me to effectively raise the children I have, and to learn from the lessons taught, than to pursue having the ideal birth.

Lesson #5: Sometimes we need to be content with our results thus far, reevaluate our dreams  and alter our course.

This challenge helped me to analyze my life. What goals or dreams am I 'hoping' will happen that I need to make sure will happen by taking appropriate, consistent action?

What changes in my behavior do I need to commit to? What habits do I need to lose and which habits do I need to acquire?

How about you? What dreams do you need to let go of? Which ones will you continue to pursue? What lessons has life taught you?



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5 Responses

  1. LM

    “All have been done naturally, without drugs”…. and you are worried about a perfect birth? I think that 4 drug free births is a pretty amazing accomplishment! I was begging for that epidural 🙂 But am so with you on how hard it is to admit to yourself (or just plain realize) that a dream just isn’t important enough to do what it takes to make it come true. Hardest decision I ever made was to quit professional acting. I came to the realization too that I just wasn’t willing to do what it takes. Tough.

  2. Kristina French, CD(DONA)

    I completely agree that birth – the experience of it – is a deeply moving rite of passage that teaches us great lessons.

    I’d like to offer one more lesson that I believe in…

    “Sometimes, birth, as in life, gives us exactly what we needed…even if it isn’t exactly what we wanted.”

    Often, if we look deeply (and sometimes it takes time to create the emotional space to be able to do this), we look back at that rough, raw and bloody battle and see the strength in the way we fought, the power of our battle cry, the scars we earned, and the strong, fierce warrior we have become. Often those battle scars over time turn into gifts in ways that we could never have imagined.

    Love to you, brave woman warrior. May your journey lead you to gifts yet unknown.

    • Rachel

      LM- you’re kind 🙂 It’s tough to face the reality of our dreams sometimes, but it makes us stronger, and better prepared to pursue what’s truly important to us.

      Thanks Kristina for sharing that!

      It was so beautifully worded, and I think you are absolutely right. It doesn’t always turn out how we wanted, but it is definitely what we needed (I know it was for me). It’s certainly made me into a stronger person.

      DelightfulBirth, thanks for your thoughts.

  3. DelightfulBirth

    @LM–I can understand your perspective of wondering why the author was thinking and pondering the issue of “the perfect birth” even after having 4 unmedicated births. On the surface, another woman would think she’s crazy for *still* pursuing a “perfect birth.” But every single woman’s birth experience is unique to her and no one else. And her perception of her birth, NOT anyone else’s perception, is what will shape her memory of the birth and how she feels about it as a woman and mother. The author here took full responsibility for her choices, owned them, lived with them, learned from them and is wiser b/c of them.

    What a wonderfully-written, insightful post this is! Thank you.


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