I was blessed in many ways to be spared the idealism of planning the perfect birth experience six and a half years ago when I had Caroline. Although I had wanted a baby since I was a teenager, I had never been romantic about the delivery process. I’m not big on pain and no matter how anyone spins it… birth involves pain. I was interested in the child. The delivery process was just an unavoidable necessity (if I’m going to be truly frank).
Over the years numerous doctors told me that I would likely not be able to deliver naturally and so when I did become pregnant and my OB/GYN told me the same thing, I was not terribly surprised. I had a planned c-section after a high risk pregnancy. The c-section turned out rather traumatic and my first days of motherhood were not really blissful. But I had a baby. And my baby and I were both healthy and safe. That was really all that mattered to me.
I wrote Caroline’s birth story and shared it here about a month after I had Caroline. I don’t really think about it much because, frankly, it isn’t necessarily a memory I want to revisit. In fact, when Christian shared her birth story with Little Sister (complete with lots of pictures), I was surprised by how much it stressed me out. I seriously had to walk away from the computer and stop reading. I could feel my blood pressure and stress rising with each sentence. The images and story had too much in common with my own.
In Put Down Your Birth Plans: How Idealizing Motherhood is Causing Post-Partum Depression, Lauren Lund discusses how both the culture and the church have created a bit of a monster when it comes to motherhood. She writes:
Even the Church has gotten in on the baby-glamour action. Many religious circles over-correct the push for women in the workplace by putting too much emphasis on affirming ladies to have and rear children. The Church is supposed to be a place of community, vulnerability, and support. By idealizing motherhood, the Church can actually cause mothers to compete rather than support one another. It can also set up women who don’t want to, or can’t, have babies to become the object of inappropriate judgment. Life is always a good thing, and having children is a cause for celebration. But it is also hard, and it is not for everyone.
Lund goes on to write about her own experience with post-partum depression (PPD). She writes that once she realized what was going on, she talked to other women who overwhelmingly shared their own difficult stories. Unfortunately many women suffer alone out of shame or fear of being judged.
I am thankful that David worked at home when I had Caroline. I believe God knew that I could not handle alone what was coming. Looking back, I think David and I both suffered from depression the first six to nine months. We were both home all day with a demanding high need baby and shared the challenges of understanding this spirited infant who didn’t follow the advice we received from every direction. I truly believe that if David had been working full-time away from home I would have ended up with severe PPD. It was hard enough with both of us there. If I had been alone… God knew me better than I could know myself and in His infinite grace he put David at home to be there with me. Between the two of us we muddled through in sharing the parenting duties and, yes, even shared the depression.
I measure my success as a mother in terms of the big picture, not what kind of a birth experience I had. I am a steward of Caroline’s life until she is old enough to assume control of it herself. Caroline is a gift. It’s my privilege to take care of the gift, nurture the gift, and present the gift back to God. He has purposes for her life that I can’t imagine. In stewarding this gift I’ve been given I ask God to direct my choices that impact Caroline. I study her. I try to figure out what makes her tick. I try to discern what God might be trying to do with her so I can cooperate with Him and His loving plans. I define my success as a mother by my willingness to work with God where Caroline is concerned.
The birth was just a brief blip in the span of my life. It was a brief sixty minutes when God presented me with a precious gift I had waited literally a lifetime for. But the birth was not the defining moment for me as a woman. I could probably list a hundred other things in my lifetime that have frankly defined me more as a woman and person in Christ.
I find it incredibly sad that there are women right now who feel like failures because of a failed birth plan. We are so much more than a birthing process. Birth does not define us. It is a miracle to be sure. But it is only a tiny moment in this grand life that Christ offers us.