As wonderful and amazing as his first hours and days of life were, Triton Jaune’s labor was incredibly hard for me. It wasn't long by average standards. 10 hours from first contraction to last; only 5 truly uncomfortable hours. But afterwards, I didn't feel like super woman. With my other two labors I came away feeling like I could conquer the world and I wanted to tell everyone all about the experience. I feel like this is a very normal post-labor experience for women. It's life changing, in an amazing way!
After Triton's birth, however, my thoughts were very different. I didn't want to tell anyone anything. When asked I would just make general statements that attempted to be positive or at least neutral; like "Water birth is the way to go" or "it was longer than the girls'" or "It was hard, but I was glad I was at a birth center". I think I may have managed to tell some version of the story to some folks and I am pretty sure those folks were hugely congratulatory and complimentary. But didn’t feel like I deserved it.
I felt like labor had undone me.
I felt like labor was not something I had done; but was something that had happened to me.
I felt like I used to joke "If I ever had to push more than once, I wouldn't be able to do it", and now I knew that was true.
I felt like I had no idea why I had wanted an unmedicated labor.
I felt terrified on behalf of my friends who were expecting in the weeks to come, knowing that if they'd asked me about my experience, I would be forced to tell them horrific things that would make them dread labor.
I felt like I had failed.
I would sit on the sofa, nursing Triton and look at the books about birthing that I have on the shelf, wanting to read them now and figure out where I went wrong. Why was this so hard for me?
Truth be told, I know why this labor was so hard for me. I was not prepared mentally, or physically. I blame last year's miscarriages which is probably at least partially true. But whatever it was, I started this pregnancy majorly stressed and kind of acting on the assumption that it didn't matter what I did (or ate) because this pregnancy, like the others, wouldn't amount to anything; and even if it did, I had been through so much, I deserved to be lazy and eat what I wanted. For 9 months I ate poorly and didn't exercise at all (I can blame the ridiculously cold winter for the lack of exercise, right?).
I gained 60lbs (which is significantly heavier than the hefty, but normal-for-me, 40-45 that I gained with the girls) and was majorly out of shape.
Mentally, I was also not prepared. Again, perhaps it was partially the miscarriages and my checked-out mentality because of that. Or perhaps it was because I this was going to be my 3rd labor, and my first 2 were incredibly fast and relatively easy. Why wouldn't it be quick and (relatively) easy again? So I didn't prepare. No rereading any of my books on labor. No prepping for the possibility that it would be a long labor. With Papillon's birth, we brought our favorite TV show to watch, and all manner of distracting, time-passing things. So I think I was undone before things really got going. When the contractions started getting intense, but weren't accelerating rapidly to the end, I had nothing to think about except the next contraction and how much it wasn't going as fast as I had hoped. So by the time it got really intense, I was already defeated.
By the grace of God, however, I was not actually defeated. By no strength of my own, Triton Jaune made a safe entry into this world. And at the end of the day, as I have been muddling through processing the whole experience, that's been the thing that's stuck with me. Just as my experience with the miscarriages had taught me that I was not in control of anything; my experience with this labor reinforced for me how God is still in control, even when I have completely lost control.
I have always loved the verse Phillipians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength". But I think, in my pride, I loved the "I can do all things" part more than the strength of Christ part. I liked the thought that I could do anything.
Very recently I've come to a deeper appreciation of a different verse. 2 Corintians 12:9 "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Could it be any more fitting to describe my experience with Triton's labor? I was incredibly weak, utterly spent; and in that weakness, God's power was perfect. Oh that I would learn to sincerely boast in that weakness.
I don't want to end this (epically long) tale without a nod to my wonderful sister. For a number of reasons I am incredibly grateful that she was there for this labor. First, her affirmation that Triton's birth was an incredible and amazing thing was very encouraging to me. At least once (and possibly more than once), after Triton was born, I apologized for how crazy that labor was, hoping that she wasn't scarred for life and wishing she had been at a less traumatic birth. She seemed surprised at these sentiments and said that far from being traumatic (other than the midwife's insistence that she photograph the placenta, haha), she thought it incredible. Her declaration that I did an amazing job was hugely encouraging to me.
Secondly, I am grateful for the pictures that she took. I never thought I wanted labor pictures. And I don't have any of the girls' labors. But, thanks to my sister, I have some wonderful pictures of that day. I will cherish these pictures.