Hello from the baby bubble! For those who don’t already know, my son, Rowan Wilder Siham, was born on the new moon of September 30th at 9:32pm, weighing 8lbs 7oz and measuring 20 inches. I am still writing his full birth story and may share it when I finish. But while I work on that I want to give an update on what life is like for this new wild woman mother.
Motherhood has brought plenty of moments of bliss. Moments straight out of the romantic family story book, with my husband and I gazing at our angelic newborn son with stars in our eyes for him and for each other and for the beautiful life we have created. We laugh at his funny faces and smell his delicious baby head.
There are also plenty of moments of exhaustion-fueled anxiety and desperation. Why the hell is he still crying? We have already done all the things. Is he sick? Is he dying? Is he not bonding well? Does he hate me? Does he hate being alive? Will he ever, ever stop?
Overall, moving from maidenhood to motherhood has not really been anything like I thought it would be. (For example, I used to write a blog post every Tuesday morning after breakfast and before an afternoon of clients. THIS blog post took me two weeks of multiple five-minute increments to finish. Working mamas - I bow to you!)
As for the actual birth journey, I imagined my strong, feminine body showing me what it is truly capable of as I moved bravely through natural, unmedicated labor. I visualized a powerful, all natural home birth, perhaps with my baby sliding out into a tub as his father and I cried tears of joy at his arrival. I pictured lying my newborn on my chest luxuriously for his first hours until he breast-fed on his own and we could at last cut the cord and send my perfect placenta off to be encapsulated.
What I got was prematurely ruptured membranes and a load of meconium that sent me straight to the hospital before contractions even began. What I got/ended up choosing was every medical intervention the hospital had to offer – from nitrous gas to a full-on epidural. What I got was an unplanned C-section where I was too busy throwing up to even kiss my newborn son when he came out, let alone breast-feed him. And finally, I got a placenta so full of meconium that it was black and in no condition to be consumed.
(Factoid: Meconium is the baby’s first poop. It’s supposed to come out after he is born. If the baby poops in the womb, it’s usually a sign of fetal distress. The vast majority of home births are smooth and safe and require no medical intervention. Meconium is one of the few things that are a one-way ticket to a hospital transfer.)
I felt peaceful about each of these things as they unfolded along the way. Really, I did. I accepted the early transfer to the hospital with surrendered grace. I gave myself full permission to utilize medical interventions and still, in retrospect, feel like each one was necessary and helpful. And when it came time to face a C-section, I felt in my heart of hearts that I had given natural birth my absolute best shot. I agreed with the doctor and my midwife that it would be unsafe for me to continue trying for a vaginal birth 36 hours after my water had broken, 24 hours since I had eaten anything, on one hour of sleep, and with a rapidly rising fever and a baby whose heart rate kept dipping.
But even though I flowed through each stage of my son's completely surprising birth with presence and acceptance, all sorts of other feelings have unfolded within me in the weeks since.
Having a C-section means a much longer recovery time. It means that most breastfeeding positions are unavailable because they are too painful or put me at risk of having my tender belly kicked by my flailing newborn. It means a gigantic, unplanned hospital bill on top of all we already paid to our homebirth midwife (and guilt about birthing in a way that brought so much debt to our family.) It means that I am not strong enough to wear my baby yet, so I must watch my husband wear and carry him pretty much everywhere we go.
Sometimes it feels like my son is bonding with my husband more than me. Sometimes it feels like I was born without the ooey-gooey loving-baby gene - like I was made to raise a child from middle-school age and beyond and am just not cut out for this baby gig. Sometimes, in my lower moments, I even feel obsolete - like I could just walk out on this whole thing and as long as my husband had a bottle, my son wouldn’t even notice my absence.
All of this has me considering the question: what makes a mother a mother? Is it pushing a baby out of your vagina? Is it breastfeeding? Is it being the one your child craves more than dad - more than anyone? Is it knowing just what to do when your baby cries? Is it feeling instinctively “motherey” and nurturing?
If so, I’m screwed.
I got the maiden archetype down. I rocked my twenties and early thirties - leaving not-right-for-me husbands, traveling solo, starting businesses, generally being a badass and doing whatever-the-hell I wanted with my life. But the mother archetype? Not so much.
I never considered that I, Melanie, the "Professional Wild Woman," would enter into motherhood with so much medical intervention. I was ready to write a moving blog post for you all describing my beautiful, natural birth and encouraging all of you women to trust your wild, perfect, strong bodies. I was excited to become an advocate for home birth.
But the message I have for you today is different. It is not one encouraging homebirth OR hospital birth, but encouraging love and acceptance for all mothers, however they enter into motherhood. I am humbled to my knees and will never again judge a woman for how she decides to bring her baby into this world, how she decides to feed him after, or - barring outright abuse - pretty much any parenting decision she makes. This is the hardest work on the planet, from what I can tell so far. So hey, you do it however you need to, sister.
My son spent the first three days of his life in the NICU for an infection and a collapsed lung. My doctor explained that if we had gone through with the entire home birth as planned, he would have been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance and might not have made it. Turns out that my body is wiser than I ever could have imagined. It knew exactly what to do and where I needed to give birth most safely. Your story will be different and just as perfect whether it happens in your bedroom, in a hospital room, or in the forest. And you will be just as much of a mother.
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!