Monday, February 9, 2009

Imagine Our Perfect Birth

In our hypnobirthing class we did an exercise called "fear release." In this technique, you imagine yourself in a safe space, visualize your fears around birth, and then destroy or dispose of those fears. For instance, you might imagine a book containing pictures of the things that worry you. You tear those pages out of a book and burn them. You then replace the frightening images with peaceful images of a birth going just the way you want.

I honestly don't have many fears around the birth. Leigh's birth was long and much more difficult than we expected, and we survived just fine. As a bonus, this time my vagina and uterus won't be involved at all, so I'll probably be able to walk afterward.

I went into the fear release hypnosis pretty confident. I imagined scary scenes, most of which just had to do with my confidence as a person, not specifically around birth. I burned all the fears up and felt free. Then the hypnobirthing instructor told us to imagine ourselves  in the moments after birth, having had exactly the birth experience we desired. I got stuck. I was supposed to imagine myself as happy and fulfilled as I could be, but I suddenly felt sad.

In the picture in my head, I wasn't holding my baby. In the moments just after birth, Lyn gets to hold the baby first and put it to breast. I will be right there touching those little fingers and toes and glowing with pride, but I will still be just a supporting player.

So there I was, imagining one of the greatest moments of my life and I wasn't really part of the action. I started to wilt, worrying that the baby wasn't going to love me or that I wasn't going to love the baby. Suddenly, I was facing my real fears and they were right in the stinking middle of my beautiful birth fantasy. I realized that I will miss being being  the center of the birth experience this time, and I do have some grief around my baby starting his or her life deeply connected to someone else, not to me.

So I did the only sensible thing with my beautiful birth picture -- I moved the baby into my arms. Yes, in reality I'll have to wait for just a few minutes longer than Lyn to hold my delicious baby. But it's my fantasy, dammit. In my fantasy Lyn and the new baby have an amazing labor, peaceful and joyous. I catch the baby, place it on Lyn's belly, and we both drink in this new person, bonding as a trio as the baby wriggles its way up to the breast. Then Lyn hands me the baby. We have our long-awaited moment to get to know each other, and my joy and wonder erase any sadness that we were separate for so long.

9 comments:

Lex said...

I have had some of the same fears . . . this being my first go-round as the NGP after birthing our first 3 children. People keep asking me how I'm doing with NOT being the pregnant one this time, and I can honestly tell them that I'm loving, it because I make a pretty miserable pregnant person. I also say that I think the hard part will be after the birth, when I'm not the one nursing the baby in bed for hours everyday. That said, I also have plenty of memories of my wife handing me fussy babies who needed to nurse, and then of me handing my wife happy babies who she got to enjoy in their most alert and calm states. I used to worry that I never really got to enjoy the babies because I was just the milk station (this was especially true when we had twin newborns who weren't nursing at the same time). I'm looking forward to parenting a newborn without a post-partum body (and the hormones that go with it), and to taking the baby for walks while my wife naps, and being the diaper-changing champion. But I'm sure there will be some sadness about my new role as well.

Gail said...

I wonder if (bio) fathers ever experience some of this sadness. I know that many of them feel left out of the baby club, and that feeling may come from this same place.

I also remember spending hours trying to feed a really crabby baby who needed to feed but couldn't/wouldn't. I may not be able to get out of that if I'm inducing lactation though!

JHM said...

Bio-father here.

I actually got to hold Frieda first. She was whisked across the room, weighed and measured, and daddy got to hold her for a few minutes while mom was being sewn up.

To be honest, after several days of labor and relatively little pushing we were both so exhausted and overwhelmed that perhaps we missed that first wonderful moment of baby in arms.

I guess it's just very natural for the dad to realize that if he wants a relationship there's no built-in biological imperative that provides one. I'm (only a little guiltily) thankful that we occasionally need to supplement Frieda, but mostly I just feel proud that my baby prefers me to strangers, relaxes in my arms, goes to sleep when I put her down, and apes my funny faces.

Lyn said...

JHM-- So lovely to have you reading! We need more dads around here. Your experience at the birth with Freida sounds a bit similar to mine with Leigh. And you're right, us NGPs do need to step in and do the work of building relationships with our kids. I worry that not all of us realize the work it takes ahead of time, or get the space to do it, though.

JHM said...

It helps when they're super cute...

amy said...

as the non gestational parent this time around my wife requested in her birth plan that the baby be put in my arms immediately following her birth. i didn't communicate any feelings of loss to her about our role change but she wanted to make sure that i felt as involved as possible. and, in fairness, she held our daughter first. i had a c-section so didn't hold our daughter until i got into recovery. interesting dynamics. our baby will be born any day now so i will be sure to blog about the differences in the 2experiences from my perspective.

giggleblue said...

this topic is incredibly fitting given my pending assignment from the midwife and our conversation we had with our doula this past weekend.

we talked about how i saw the birth and besides the whole natural thing, what is most important to me is that TL catch the baby. TL was shocked to hear this, as we hadn't discussed it before the doula brought it up, but it's been something i've been thinking about. ultimately, i would like for her to be the one who catches pepita and for her to announce the sex and subsequently cut said cord. needless to say, she was overjoyed.

i'm hoping that this, although a small thing to many, will start her on a successful road to bonding with the baby. besides, i've got to hold the baby for the past nine months. she deserves some time now!

Lo said...

Catching Jo, and cutting the cord, were some of the highest moments of my life. I also got to spend more of the early time with him because Co wasn't feeling well so I needed to be with him. I didn't (yet?) have the other experience, of course, but the joy and love was amazing.

Susan said...
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