To all those who said birth is beautiful

I want to say you’re either a liar or delusional… but that wouldn’t be very nice. And it’s (probably) not true. I’m sure for some bringing their baby boy or girl into the world was, in a way, beautiful.

But that just begs the question: What’s wrong with me?

The last word I would use to describe my birth is beautiful. Excruciating. Long. Isolating. Definitely not beautiful.

Other mothers have described an overwhelming feeling of love once they hold their baby in their arms, or said it was so worth it, they would do it a thousand times over. I had none of those feelings. There was no all-consuming love that washed all the pain away. The strongest feeling I had was astonishment. For some reason I was still shocked to find that there had actually been a baby inside me! Other than that, I was too exhausted after eighteen hours of contractions a minute and a half to five minutes apart to feel much of anything except relief that it was over.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my baby boy. I didn’t want to put him down for even a moment for the first two months of his life. I laugh in delight when he smiles, makes funny faces, and trills his enjoyment of the world. I hold him close and breathe in his scent and tell him mommy will always, always love him.

But still, there was no moment of “I didn’t know I could love this much!” after he was placed, slimy and wet, on my stomach, the cord still connecting us to each other. If there was a rush of endorphins to help me forget the pain of childbirth, I couldn’t tell. The second night, when the baby wasn’t screaming, the memory of the pain kept me awake crying. The memory of a pain that sent chills and heat washing over my whole body until I felt like I was going to pass out, a pain that made me not care that I was crying out or that strangers were seeing me naked. The memory of the way my body took over and pushed without my permission—out of control. The “ring of fire” that just kept getting worse, and worse, and worse until I didn’t even feel my skin rip apart because everywhere else hurt so badly. A pain that made me turn to my husband once it was all over and I was holding my baby against my chest and say, “I don’t ever want to go through that again.”

Four months later, I still don’t think I ever want to go through that again.

But then women have given birth every day for thousands of years. It’s a normal part of life. I didn’t even have any complications or anything to make it extra difficult.

So what’s wrong with me?

The question haunts me every time I get a moment to think, which (thankfully?) is infrequent since Remy was born.

I remember the videos we watched in birthing class. The women laboring hard and long, but without cries of pain—with cries of joy when they saw their baby for the first time. One of them was actually walking from the toilet to the bed when the baby came sliding out into her astonished hands. All of them were able to get up after a few minutes and take a walk with their newborn down the hospital corridor. There is NO WAY I could’ve been standing when he came out, let alone strolled down any corridors afterward. For three days, I could barely make the few feet from the bed to the bathroom. I had to lean on my husband and pause after each step to breathe heavily, feeling like my lungs couldn’t get any oxygen no matter how much I gasped for it.

There was nothing beautiful about it.

In fact, it seemed like a cruel joke. You go through the equivalent of running 6 marathons, through excruciating pain, and then you have to try to recover from this event with barely enough sleep to keep you alive! Four months later, I’m still lucky if I get three consecutive hours of sleep at night.

But again, that’s just what moms have to go through. We wear the scars on our bodies, and it’s normal. My experience is not unusual. Not like the woman who labored 30 hours and whose baby broke her tailbone. Not like the woman who labored 32 hours and passed out afterward. Not like the women who have multiple children (how?!).

So why can’t I let it go?

What is wrong with me?