April 22, 2018 Janet West


Reflections On A Birth Story

The last year has definitely been one of transition. Starting a new business and the pending birth of my first grandchild has prompted a lot of reflection.

In my work with RVA Baby, I’ve been supporting mamas and listening to birth stories that range from beautiful and empowering to harrowing. But even with all of that, I hadn’t seriously reflected on my own birth story.

But then my own story came back to me in vivid color while I was watching a home video filmed in the hospital the day after my twins, now 21 years old, were born.
Honestly, I entered into the childbirth process with complete surrender not realizing that I could somehow influence or shape the process. While studying medicine, I saw a few instances where women were making an effort to own the process but it seemed to be a fringe movement at the time.

In the video, I’m sharing with family how my baby girl, who was born second, was whisked off to the special care nursery before I even had a chance to look at her. Let me be clear, there was nothing life-threatening happening to her. She was breathing on her own and oxygenating well. She just never cried after birth. She was described as being alert, eyes open and looking around. Despite that, she was kept in the special care nursery for 8 hours. I was told that I was not allowed to see her although I was assured that she was fine and just needed monitoring. And, for some reason, I didn’t question it. I had another baby, her brother, who was born first. So for that 8 hours, I spent my time doting on him. He was feisty, nursed like a champ from the start and I was so in love with him.

Well, the repercussions of that 8 hours are huge. Until I watched that old home video, I couldn’t truly understand why it took so long for me to bond with my daughter. I remember the breastfeeding struggles I had specifically with her. I also remember family members commenting that my son was my favorite twin. Because of the loss of those precious hours, I struggled with tremendous feelings of guilt, anxiety and, inadequacy for almost a full year.

Now the cute little girl so affectionately hugging her mommy’s thoroughly pregnant belly in the picture will give birth any day. And, although my birth story was not ideal, I’m thrilled that my daughter is being empowered to own and shape her birth experience and that my granddaughter will come Earthside into a world that will honor her right to do the same.