It’s hard to imagine what childbirth will really be like before you have done it. You can guess, of course. You can read all the books. You can take the classes and do the prep and imagine every possible way it could go.
While I was pregnant, I used to wonder a lot about what it would be like to give birth. Would I be calm? Would I be loud? Would I want a lot of support or to be left alone? (Spoiler alert: I mainly just swore a LOT.)
I also spent time planning for my baby to come home. I packed an outfit and installed the car seat. I bought diapers and bottles and tiny little clothes. I thought about where they would sleep and what soap I would use when I bathed them.
But nothing could have prepared me for the sense of complete shock that hit the second I felt an actual person slip out of me.
I had been laboring for hours, which was itself a surreal experience. Knowing that with each contraction, my life was that much closer to changing forever. Feeling as if I was in some weird time-warp where minutes and hours meant nothing.
Time after time, I came to a point where I thought surely, SURELY this was the last contraction. I didn’t know how the intensity could continue to build, and yet it just kept going!
By the time I was pushing, I felt like childbirth was just my life now. There was a moment whenI was pretty sure there wasn’t actually a baby in there. I was quite convinced that I was just experiencing some kind of rare medical condition in which I would just have to live the rest of my life being in labor with nothing to show for it.
And then all of this sudden...poof. There was a human.
A real live tiny person.
They weren’t just an idea anymore. They weren’t just a date on a calendar or a to-do list to be completed:
-Organize the nursery.
-Outgrow all my maternity clothes.
-Watch my due date come and go.
-Give birth to a human.
Check, check, check, and... whoa!
The first time I heard them cry I thought that maybe my heart was going to explode into a million pieces. This wasn’t just a wiggly little thing taking away valuable real estate from my vital organs anymore. This was a little human. A whole person with needs and desires and very loud opinions!
Did I really grow an entire human inside my body? Did I really just give birth to a whole new person?
In the moments after giving birth, I was in complete shock, physically and emotionally. I was exhausted. I was covered in blood and amniotic fluid and baby poop. (Surprise! Birth isn’t always as mess-free as it is in movies.)
But nothing...not the commotion of the birth team or the numerous bodily fluids...could distract me from the overwhelming sense of wonder at the fact that this PERSON just came out of me.
Five minutes before, I was a pregnant woman.
Then all of this sudden, I was a mother, and there was a whole other human in the room! I knew that technically, they were already in the room...but they were separate now where before we had been quite literally a part of each other.
How did that even happen? How did I just give birth to a PERSON?
I shouldn’t have been so surprised, really. After all, it’s not as if I thought I was growing a giraffe in there!
But knowing that a baby is on the way is so different that holding a little person that just came out of your body.
When I first held my baby after I gave birth, I was mainly focused on how they felt in my arms. I noticed their tiny fingers and stared into their fresh, curious eyes. I stoked their fuzzy hair and soft skin and kissed their squishy cheeks. The same as countless other mothers have done before me.
Over the days that followed, I started thinking a lot about how they were going to grow. They would become a sassy toddler soon. Then an inquisitive child. Then a teenager, try their hardest to gain independence and be taken seriously.
One day, they will be an adult. A person with hopes and dreams and skills and talents and maybe even a family of their own. And all of it...every last person who they love and experience that they have...is possible because I birthed them.
It’s hard to believe some days that I did it. There were moments that I didn’t think I could. There were times when it didn’t seem real and I didn’t feel like a mother yet. There were moments when I thought that maybe it was all just some crazy dream.
But my child reminds me every day that they are here. They are real. They are a person with their own unique personality and future. They depend on me for pretty much everything right now, but the time will come when their little legs are strong enough to run on their own.
Maybe it’s silly that I find it all so unbelievable. Mothers all over the world have been giving birth to people since...well, since the very first people!
But every time I remember that day, a part of me still can’t believe it.
I grew a person! I pushed them out of my body! One day they were just hitching a ride inside me and the next they were part of the outside world.
Yes, it happens every day. And yes, it’s been happening since the dawn of humanity. And no, there is not actually anything out of the ordinary about childbirth.
But if you are getting ready to give birth...remember that it’s okay to be a bit overwhelmed by the thought.
Believe me...I STILL can’t believe I birthed a human.