"When babies are born, so is the mother" is a common phrase among birth workers. While that's true, it's also a somewhat incomplete and limited reflection. Here our client, author, Sarah Showalter-Fuillette, expands on that idea as she shares her birth story and beautiful insights of her own birthing experiences.
We Birth More Than Our Children
The birth of my first child, my daughter, Clover, in 2015 was a long, challenging, and wholly transformational experience. She was born at home in San Francisco after 55 hours of labor. The long and short of her birth was that, well, it was long and not much about it was short.
I had prepared for the home birth with my husband, my midwives and doula, and internally with my own mind. I worked hard to stay present in the experience, long and meandering as it was. (I distinctly remember my midwife observing me at the 50-hour mark and declaring I was still in “early labor.” I contemplated punching her.) And I spent a lot of time reflecting on the birth in the weeks and months that followed. Reflecting on the significant shift in who I felt I had become. Reflecting on my transformation because of the powerful act of birthing.
The birth itself was a lesson in letting go of control. Of releasing to the experience of birth and, thus, those that come in life. It was a crash course in learning to trust the part of my being that is wholly separate from my thoughts and mind. It was an awakening of a deeper, ancient side of my femininity. It connected me to the billions of women who had come before.
Birth released my dormant, inner power.
After birthing my daughter I wondered why we women even bother trying to prove we can make it in a man’s world, as this now seems like child’s play. Climb the corporate ladder? Obviously I could do that. DID YOU SEE THAT I JUST PRODUCED A HUMAN WITH MY OWN BODY?!
It took awhile for me to understand but I now see the day of Clover’s birth as also they day I birthed Sarah-as-a-mother, it marked the end of an era of being focused on my individual-self, and the day we began the journey to a new family unit.
Overnight, I felt my priorities shift from my previously nuclear family, in which I had years of participation as the little sister and daughter to my new nuclear family where I was, more firmly, a wife and, most notably, a new mother to this perfect little being.
When it came time to prepare for the birth of my second, two-and-a-half years later, I felt ready. Now living in San Jose, I had to find new birth providers. I had to prepare for another homebirth which takes logistical, physical, and–most importantly, in my opinion–mental preparation. I spoke to the doula I’d had during my first birth and she charged me to remember that the things I needed first time around might not be the things I’d need this time. This certainly rang true. First time around I sought women who were strong in a somewhat more in-your-face, activist kind-of way. Women who outwardly fought the patriarchy and the “system” (though they absolutely respected hospitals, doctors and medical interventions when necessary or wanted.) The second time around my team consisted of midwives and doulas with a quieter strength. A strength that wasn’t so much heard as felt.
My doulas–Wendy and Kersti–especially embodied steady, calm confidence. Their confidence in a woman’s birthing body, in me, was infectious. It emanated from them and was felt in every unhurried, loving interaction. They assured by their presence. They eased my fears. With them, I felt ready for whatever might come.
My second’s birth story:
On June 2, 2019, two days before my estimated “due” date, I began having contractions around 6am every 6-10 minutes. They were not increasing in intensity, but were not abating. Walking, sitting, lying, showering changed nothing and I had to breathe through them. Then, around 9am they backed off completely. I was disappointed that they’d backed off and very tired. By 12:30 I was convinced birth was not happening today, so sent my husband, Romain, and daughter off on a bike ride and laid down to watch T.V. I had 3 more contractions, 10 minutes apart and then my water broke at 1:15pm. I felt good, texted my team, called Romain and Clover to come back, and hopped in the shower.
In the ensuing minutes between my call and their arrival back home I began to move through transition. On hands-and-knees in the shower alone I thought, “I do NOT want to do this.” When Romain arrived, I said “Call everyone. Tell them to come.” Romain set up the bed while timing my contractions. Clover would “help” him set up the bed and every 2 minutes, when a new contraction started, she would run into the bathroom and stare between my legs. “The baby isn’t here yet” she’d inform me, slightly annoyed, when the contraction ended.
I moved to the toilet and my team arrived. Wendy joined me and used some aromatherapy as a labored. Her presence was calming. I told her I wanted to move to the bed.
Romain told the midwife he was going to begin setting up the tub. Even though she’d yet to lay eyes on me she could hear me in the other room. “Don’t bother,” she responded. “You’re going to have a baby in about 15 minutes.”
On the bed, I asked Romain to hold my hands. I hadn’t requested his presence like this during Clover’s birth. But this time around, he grounded me.
I moved to a “soccer squat” on the bed and soon felt my body push baby down during the surges. The only difference for me between “contractions” and “pushing” is that the sensations during “pushing” have an additional, extreme downward force. To me, they are otherwise equally intense.
My 3-year-old Clover was mere inches away at the corner of the bed watching with a smile on her face. When the baby’s head emerged and hung out for 2 minutes, suspended between two worlds, she kept exclaiming, “Hi little baby! Hi little baby! Hi little baby!”
And then he came! He was a boy! Fast and fierce he arrived 1 hour and 14 minutes after my water had broken. It’s as if his fast birth was to say, “I’m ready to be in this family with you guys, let’s get this party started!”
I had been warned that second births go quicker than firsts, but after 55 hours the first time around, I really didn’t think it would move *quite* so quickly for us.
I was in a bit of shock, to be perfectly honest. When Clover was born I felt elated, powerful, and healthy pretty much right away, despite the 55 hour labor. Wi