I didn’t count her toes.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
I didn’t count her toes, or run my finger against each perfectly smooth miniature nail. I was about to. I was about to breathe her in, to smile down at her and envelope those tiny feet in my trembling new-mama hands.
But then it all went white.
My baby girl, just a few minutes old, was taken from my arms. Faces hovered above me and needles pierced through skin, into my veins. I remember pain. Hot, pulsing pain, as the man who would save my life worked to stop the bleed.
I remember turning my head, only slightly, as my oxygen mask tugged against my cheek. I remember gloved hands repositioning it so that my view became only ceiling once more. But I sneaked a peak. I caught a glimpse of my little girl, held tightly in her daddy’s arms as his ashen-white face stared at the scene before him. But nobody was looking at her.
Nobody was counting her toes.
In those moments, color left my world and only white remained...detail and shading were redundant and sounds were muffled as time slowed down. Sleep invited me, but I clung to the white, to the brightness, because subconsciously I knew that I had some counting to do.
In my head, I must admit that I was thinking about myself. This is a hard sentence to write. My baby was minutes old and I was thinking about myself. About my pain, my dizziness, my confusion, my life. But I understand now, all of these months on, that my heart was bound to my daughter; I realize now that it was my heart holding on...holding onto the hope that I would live to count those perfect toes.
You see, I lost more than blood at half past six on that summer’s evening. I lost what I assumed was my right to claim those first hours of my daughter’s life outside of the womb. I lost what I assumed was my right to enjoy her 10-minute old self, her 11-minute old self, her 12-minute old self and so on. What if she had rooted for milk at minute 14, as the doctors set up yet another IV drip for me across the room? What if she had looked up in search of her mama’s face at minute 16, as the nurses told me to stay with them? What if she was counting on me to count her toes?
It’s taken a while, but I am at peace with the questions above. I have a steady ache that those moments were lost for us, that I didn’t get to live out my fairytale birth, but I am at peace.
Because, in truth, the moments that I am talking about are just that: they are moments. And as life thunders on and as my daughter grows bigger and bigger, those initial moments become surrounded by other moments in our vast fabric of existence. Never superseded or overlaid, because a woman’s birth experience cannot be brushed aside or forgotten, no matter how uplifting or crushing it may have been. No, these ‘lost’ moments are threaded between others, interwoven between first words and knitted against happy gurglings.
You see, these ‘lost’ moments are paid homage to every time that I crouch down and take off her shoes, every time that I catch a wiggle of a big toe beneath grubby socks. These ‘lost’ moments are saluted every time a little foot smacks me square in the nose during a gymnurstics session...or square in the ribs during our sleep dance.
In truth, these moments are with me at every new turn, at every junction of motherhood. They remind me of the gift that I was given: I am still here.
I get to be mama to my wonderful little girl, and for that, I am ever thankful. I don’t know how long it took me to actually count baby bean’s toes; in honesty, I cannot remember much through the overwhelming fog of love and fear and awe that engulfed me in those early weeks. But it simply doesn’t matter, as there was more for us; more time, more life, more chances. And there will be more again tomorrow.
Because it’s never too late to count toes.
This post originally appeared on Mama Bean Parenting.
Women go through labor in a similar manner to the way they live, and because childbirth can be a hyped-up and emotional time behaviors are often magnified. Coping skills are vital to have during this process, as certain personality characteristics are potential risk factors for a high or low risk birth. Inner conflicts and anxieties that are not dealt with before labor can make a woman feel out of control, victimized, and in crisis. Northrup described some of these issues as physical abuse, sexual abuse, self-image issues, dependence, passivity, resistance to change, and lack of support (473). What is necessary is that women become aware of their weaknesses and strengths so that they are capable of physically and psychologically enduring the labor process and becoming a mother.
Fear of Pain
When the average woman enters the delivery room they have no idea of the extent of pain or discomfort they will feel. Pain is a strange experience and perceptions vary. Their reactions to the pain also vary and are often influenced by the way they deal with stress or fear. First time moms often feel that the experience will never end. Some women enter the labor and delivery room and the first words they express is, “I don’t want to feel a thing.” These women convince themselves that they are not capable of giving birth naturally. Some are scared, many feel unprepared, and others believe that labor is a complete inconvenience. Other women react to labor pain as if they are being wounded or physically hurt - instead of relaxing into the contractions they resist.
Surrender or Resistance
It is common for some mothers to come into the hospital with a list of items that they refuse during pregnancy- no IV, no monitors, no students, particular room requests, and no interventions. I want every mother to feel safe and in control. I agree with most of these requests under the right circumstances, trust me! Sadly control is often a survival mechanism and an attempt to remain safe when scared. The longer list of items a woman attempts to control the higher tendency there is for intervention.
If you desire to - write a birth plan - be prepared and know your options. Also know that you are entering a hospital – many of these facilities are focused on business and protocol. If you feel that the medical team is moving too fast ask them to slow down and explain what is going on and offer options.
Events do not always go as planned and it is necessary to have adequate coping skills. A woman should know herself. Her attitude towards life and the way she deals with problems will come up during labor. Northrup described potential risk factors in childbirth (473). Here are some questions based off this research that all women should ask themselves as they prepare for labor and delivery. If you answer yes to most of these questions statistically you have a better chance at a low-risk childbirth. If you have issues in these areas, start to address them so you will be prepared during birth and into motherhood.
Do you consider yourself an active and independent woman?
Are you able to take support from others?
Are you able to deal with changes in an appropriate manner or do you tend to resist?
Are you honest in your communication?
Do your spiritual beliefs match your birth plan?
Have you been abused or sexually abused? If so have you dealt with these issues? (women who have experienced sexual abuse are more likely to have dysfunctional or high risk labors)
Do you ever consider yourself powerless? If so what types of situations does this happen in, and how do you deal?
Do you and your partner have a loving relationship? Do you trust one another?
Do you have an internal control of your life rather than a supposed external control?
Is there anything you are scared of, if so are these fears being worked through?
For more information on this topic, pregnancy, or to read birth stories visit: http://birthwithbalance.com
Northrup, Christiane. Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing. New York City. Batman Books. 2010. Print.
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