What going "overdue" taught me
When this photo was taken at 40+3, I thought I was so ready to meet my baby.
I had imagined what it would be like to grow and hold a child in my arms for the years of fertility doubts we’d traversed before her conception. I had cultivated a strong connection with her over many months of meditating, journaling and daydreaming. We had sunk into sleep to birth affirmations, had our “last hurrah” childless couple date and the birth pool was inflated, waiting.
Contractions started and stopped a few times, I grew impatient.
Sympathetic friends tried their best to console me: “You’ve treated your body like a temple these last few months. Why would a baby want to leave such a good paddock?”
I want to say it helped, but it didn’t. I begged and pleaded with her to come, but she wasn’t having a bar of it. I was so ready to meet my baby. The problem was that I wasn’t ready to meet myself.
Going nine days overdue was my first foray into not being in control of my own schedule - she would come when she was ready, not when I wanted, and I was shocked to feel how uncomfortable this made me feel. I was dissuaded from driving too far from home alone in case labour hit hard - my first real taste of resigning my absolute autonomy over my body to my baby. My “post-dates scan” at 41 weeks saw me defending my maternity care choices to the on-duty OB, who did her best to coerce me into immediately scheduling an induction, without any consultation with my Midwifery Group Practice team. I met the part of myself who could keep their cool in highly emotionally charged situations.
As the days and nights dragged, I did all the oils, acupressure, teas... and cried. I wanted to believe she would come when she was ready, but the fear of an intervention cascade replacing my dream homebirth loomed large. The stories I’d been telling myself came out.
“I work in a hospital, I don’t want to birth in one.”
“Hospitals are a place of sickness, and I’m so well right now.”
“I am a c-section baby. I don’t want my baby to be sickly like I was as a kid.”
“The strength of my character is defined by the way I birth”.
Ooof. I knew how ridiculous these things sounded to my logical brain, but they hurt. As each one fell away I met a new part of me.
The part of me that was afraid of the very systems I worked within; the one that blamed myself for my own mother’s post-natal mental health; the one that was so hung-up on losing her (perceived) control over “achieving” a physiological birth that she was preventing her body from actually starting the process.
I raged. I cried some more. I journalled. I reached stillness. Then peace. Then surrender. Three hours later I went into labour.
Early on, I met the part of myself that could breathe through indescribable sensations I’d never had before.
In transition, as I felt my baby turn and drop into place, I met the part of myself who resides below my thinking mind.
As she crowned, I met the part of myself that generates primal noises I had never heard.
And when she was brought up onto my chest, I met the part of me that could never know the woman I had been just minutes before, ever again.
Every day since, she has shown me layers of myself I didn’t know existed. Maybe they were always there and are now being uncovered, or maybe they are brand new, grown just as per her custom order.
There are the ones that aren’t so pretty but can no longer be ignored: the part that doesn’t tolerate “no” for an answer, the part that feels overloaded by too much noise, the bit who worships the ground her loved ones walk on but lashes out at them as the easiest targets.
There are the ones that surprise me in a good way: levels of compassion, resilience, forgiveness and steadfastness that have never risen to these heights within me before.
She pushes my buttons like crazy, but how can we work on our buttons unless we know they’re there?
To paraphrase Matt Kahn, we can only meet others as deeply as we’ve met ourselves. As I stood on the beach that day I thought I was ready to meet her, but I was wrong. And for her lessons, I am eternally grateful.
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