Sunday, April 1, 2012

About that CJane Birth Story Post

Last week there was some commotion over on CJane's blog. Instead of writing her originally intended book, she is writing her memoir in blog posts and bravely opening them up to comments. Appropriately, she began with her birth story, which she learned from her mother was an induction during a snowstorm (perfect dramatic background for the entrance of CJane!).

Her mother told her that the induction was scheduled because she was two days overdue, and that the labor was "horrible", with "no feelings of sanctity or holiness," only agony and loneliness and the feeling of "fighting her body to the end." CJane was grateful for the honesty of her mother, but long after their conversation, the details of her birth started arousing feelings of great sadness inside of her. She writes,

"While I understand the need for inductions in high risk situations my heart always breaks when I hear of them as normal procedure. I want to feel like I can trust my body with its innate knowledge of timing and truth. But even more than that, I don't want to rob my baby of the first gift of mortality: agency. If I were to induce my body into labor I would send a message of distrust to both me and my baby. Birth is not about control, it's about something so much bigger than control."

That line incited quite the controversy in her comments, about inductions robbing babies of their agency in when they decide to come to earth. I've been thinking of it ever since. Women are highly defensive of their birth experiences, which is understandable. Some women have strong opinions about birth, and others don't so much--they just really want a healthy baby--but they are still defensive of their births, whether they were carefully planned or medically-intervened processes. I've had uneducated, ill-informed hospital births, (including an induction) and carefully, thoughtfully planned, beautiful home births, and after both experiences, I have to say, that I can completely respect CJane's point of view. I never thought about an induction in those terms, but I think she has a point, and I love, love, love that SHE thinks about things so deeply and so internally and is willing to share her opinions and intuitions so publicly.

Our lives do not begin at birth. We are beings that have existed infinitely, first as intelligences, then as spirit children living with our Heavenly Parents. As such, we had personalities, strengths and weaknesses, relationships, and agency. Indeed, we made the choice to come here to this earth life. It is my feeling that even those who realize the blessing and necessity of coming to earth to receive a mortal body, may at times struggle with the actual leaving heaven part, that glorious realm of light and love. In very, very simple terms, I really want Lyndsay to go off to college, and I know it is for her good, but at the same time I don't want her to leave. She feels the same way. She knows this is the necessary next step and she is so excited, but she also is sad to leave the safety and familiarity of home. I can understand a spirit wanting to come, and yet being hesitant to leave. And I believe that the spirit coming has a say in the timing.

Anyway, because coming to earth to receive a body is an act of agency, I can imagine that there is much anticipation and also much action in preparation and readiness in the heavens for when that spirit will actually slip through the veil of mortality and make his/her grand entrance. I think that element is part of the reason that the exact mechanism that starts a labor has yet eluded medical science. Medicine knows some of what may be involved, but really, it remains a great mystery. Even with that lack of knowledge, medicine sometimes uses its overinflated ego to call the shots that may not be its to call, relating to length of pregnancy and timing of delivery. As with so many other things, it is possible that we sometimes interfere with heaven's dealings with earth life.

(Now I do understand that we each came to earth with imperfections and sometimes those imperfections show up in our abilities to conceive, carry pregnancies, or deliver babies. I'm not talking about those obviously different circumstances, when medical knowledge is what gives the gift of motherhood, but I'm also not excluding those circumstances from effect.)

I am saying that if I believe that I existed before I was born, then it is plausible to believe that I have been affected and shaped by things that have happened before I was born, as well as during my birth, and after my birth. I only remember the things that have happened after my birth, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been affected. I also believe that all the experiences that I have had--whether they are experiences that I am consciously aware of or not, whether they are experiences that I have had before, during, or after my birth--have been experiences that are necessary for my growth and progress, and have been divinely appointed for my ultimate benefit. I cannot exclude the details of my birth, though to be honest, I don't really know them, except that my mom was alone and my dad paced the hallways waiting nervously.

Lyndsay was an induced birth. Looking back I think it was totally unnecessary, but at the time I was not informed enough to know better. I was in a drugged fog, and after pushing for an hour and half she was vacuumed out. I cannot exclude the possibility that maybe she was just not quite ready to come---that she did, ultimately, obviously, but maybe that first mortal experience has shaped her in some way that I am unaware of (contributed to her stubbornness? Or maybe, the very first manifestation of her stubbornness?). Of course the best blessing is that she was here, safe, healthy, happy, and so, so beautiful, but I cannot be so defensive of that fact that I deny the other possibility that her consciousness was affected, that her agency was infringed upon. Maybe? I don't know. But I allow for the possibility, and I don't think it makes me a bad mother, because again, every experience we have is necessary.

Many commenters on CJane's blog were ruffled by the thought. They took it personally, which they shouldn't have, really. I mean this is CJane's memoir, her experience, her beliefs, her thoughts. Some said something like, "I wouldn't be able to give birth if it weren't for inductions! My body doesn't go into labor!" To which, in my mind, I say two things. One, we really don't know if your body truly would never go into labor since modern medicine would probably not allow for the real possibility of finding out for sure. They'll intervene long before that. And two, even if it was a proven fact that your body lacks the ability to go into labor on its own, be grateful for the fact that medicine could help you, but don't deny the possibility that a medically induced birth may have affected your child's experience in some way. Weigh the pros and cons---and the pros definitely outweigh the cons, but the cons may still exist. We can save premature babies, but they may still have complications. Other commenters said something like, "That idea is nonsense. You are not shaped by things you have no control over!" To which I simply shake my head and say, "Really? What mortality are you experiencing, because I've been shaped by many, many things that I had no control over!"

I equate it with divorce, for example. I did not choose divorce, though I will admit that some of my choices and actions led to that outcome, and my children certainly did not choose divorce, but it most definitely affected them! Sometimes divorce may be the best option, but even then, it leaves a mark. And things like this in life affect people differently. Some children of divorce grow up to thrive and achieve great things, with healthy, intact self-esteems, and go on to have successful marriages of their own. Others never learn to trust, or communicate, or believe that they were not at fault.

There are countless other examples. Sometimes things are medically necessary. Heart surgeries, brain surgeries, amputations, for instance. But being medically necessary doesn't mean that they don't affect the consciousness of that person or change him/her in some way. And it doesn't mean they are changed for the worse, either.

CJane's realization that her birth was an induction helped shed light on the sadness she has always felt when she hears that a delivery must be induced. She never understood, until her mother told her her own birth story, why it made her feel so sad. It was an innate part of her being. So, it affected her. It also helps to explain why she felt so strongly to trust in her body's abilities and let her 3rd daughter come when she was ready--3 weeks after her due date, born unassisted at home with just her husband helping her. She didn't know her birth story at that time, but it's possible that her spirit did know, and helped to create the consciousness surrounding those feelings and those decisions.

I believe that there's so much our spirits know that we don't. Things about us, who we are, what we really feel, how our experiences have shaped us. Maybe that sounds really "out there" to some people, but I think much of our existence here is lived unconsciously, unaware, numb, and out of tune. I actively try to fight that in my own life. I think we are marvelous beyond imagination in our capacities. And I don't think it does any good to live defensively, blindly, and unconsciously, pretending that what we don't want to be true, can't possibly be.

I think possibilities are wonderful, and openness to them even more so. And conversations about them shouldn't make us feel threatened, only empowered.

I thank CJane for starting the conversation, once again.


Southern said...

Well thought out post, Jenna. Nice commentary on whats going on at CJane. Remarkable empathy from a future healthcare provider. I hope you can maintain that. SouthernMan

Cynthia said...

It's an interesting and valid viewpoint- I guess. I, through my sister, have seen the other side. She lost a baby at 36 weeks for no apparent reason. She was then on a support board for women who had late-term losses and it was amazing how many 40 week+ women had lost babies due to problems that could have been avoided by inducing. Overbaking can be quite dangerous.

We were the opposite. I tried with every bit of strength, determination and fear to keep my little twins INSIDE me when they wanted to come out at 26 weeks. I laid in that hospital bed for weeks and it was so awful. Had we allowed them their 'agency', one or both would be dead.

So for me, I will be completely grateful for the technology that enabled us to become pregnant against all odds and kept our babies inside until they were just barely big enough to live outside. If that's robbing them of their agency then I'll happily pilfer it and keep my babies!

C. Jane Kendrick said...

Thank you for thinking about these things with me. I loved reading this, obviously. Let's keep the discussion alive, shall we?

@Cynthia, let's eliminate fear out of childbirth and replace it with respect. How can we tell your story and your sister's story and her friend's stories without perpetuating the idea that birth is nothing but tragedy or danger? Let's be proactive and helpful to the next generation of birthers.

C. Jane Kendrick said...

Wow, thank you. I loved reading your ideas and thoughts. It is helping shape my own.

You know what I thought about when I read all those comments and Cynthia's here, and think we all are telling tragic, fearful and scary stories about birth. What does that mean for the next generation of birthers? How can we tell our births stories with insight and empowerment? How can we stop the trend of telling birth stories as if they were war stories? How can we show faith in birthing and not fear?

Can these women who lost their babies share their belief system about what they have come to know about these babies they carried? Not the "what ifs" or the "you better nots" but the beautiful insight that comes from women who know deep loss and yet continue to trust their bodies and their intuition.

Anyway, thanks for making me think some more.

Qwendykay said...

Very interesting. I too believe that we existed before we were born. I have never been pregnant, but I have adopted. I'm all for letting your body do it's thing, but I also think you have to be in tune with what is needed.

My son was induced 3 weeks early, because the OB just felt like something wasn't right. She had no data to back it up, other than a feeling. The birthmom was anxious to deliver, and so he was induced. The cord was wrapped tightly around his neck and if he had gone full term, he would have died in utero.

I think my whole point is while I don't agree or disagree with induction... I'm all in favor of intuition, you know what's best.

JamiLeigh said...

What an insightful post. I have always felt uncomfortable with inductions as a routine procedure, and you put into words some of the spiritual aspects of it I hadn't considered. Thank you for this.

JamiLeigh said...

@ C. Jane - I think it is vital that we instill courage in the next generation of "birthers." I personally had a beautiful, intense, yet calm experience giving birth to my son sans epidural or any other drugs.

At church, I work with the young girls. Some of the other leaders have made comments on the horrors of the pain of childbirth which incited many of the girls to say that they would prefer a c-section rather than to deliver their babies vaginally. I've made sure to include a reassuring, "Your bodies were made to give birth. Giving birth is natural, normal and healthy. And, it is totally doable. I did it without pain medication, and it was a great experience. You don't have to be fearful. Much more often than not, birth goes smoothly without medical intervention. When the time comes that you are to become mamas, talk with me more. Birth is a beautiful thing."

I don't know if it helps much because honestly the horror stories get so much hype from the media and us women! It seems a losing battle at times, but every time I hear a negative story being told especially to a soon-to-be-mother, I make sure to tell my positive experience.

As I personally prepare for birth, I do my best to shut out negative birth experiences from my mind and ears. I respectfully ask friends to not share negative experiences with me during my pregnancy. It gives me confidence in my body and my mind's ability to focus through the intensity of bringing a new life into the world.

Unknown said...

Oh how this made my day. I loved Cjane's post, and I wept reading her birth story. I was a huge advocate for my birth plan, and that plan was to let my body guide me. I knew i was strong enough, I knew I could handle it. Why would God give me the ability to have children if I couldn't do it on my own? I tried to be considerate of others' opinions about needing drugs or needing to be induced if I was late...etc. But in the end, I had a breech baby who wouldn't turn and I was robbed of the experience. I wept reading her birth story because it was how I wanted it to go for me, and after trying everything there was to change it, he wouldn't come any other way....

I don't really have an opinion on how others want to have their babies, that is and should be entirely up to moms and what they feel is best, but I do agree that birth stories have grown entirely too dramatic in a negative way and force new moms into fear rather than the respect C. Jane refers to.

Anyway, thanks for more insight, I always love a good chat about moms and babies. ;)

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