Ten years ago today was our first daughter's due date. I was 22 with a horrible haircut. It was so bad. In January of 2006, roughly 2-3 weeks before the due date, our baby was still in breech position. The OBGYN says, "No problem. We'll turn her. You'll go to the hospital and get hooked up to monitors. I'll force your baby around the right way by pushing on your stomach. I'll even get on top of you if I have to. Oh, and if she has a good reason for being positioned the way she is, like if there's a cord issue, we'll just do an emergency c-section"
"Hmm. Let me get back to you on that," I say.
We get home. We weigh the options. We Google it, and get completely freaked out by horror stories. Cord issues was a horribly cool acknowledgement of the risk factors of this particular procedure. We sit in the baby's room. I'm 22 and can barely take care of myself. He's 23 and hadn't planned on being a father. We are still in the insane stage of love. High on life love. Googly eyes, catch a shooting star and ride it to the moon love. We sleep in the twin sized bottom of the bunk beds I took to college.
And we are committed to this baby. Committed. Committed enough to get our lives together.
What do you think?
I don't know.
I need a cheeseburger, like, now.
What do you think, Baby? Do you want the doctor to force you around?
Baby says no. Let's trust her.
Okay, yeah, I agree. She knows what to do. Let's go get cheeseburgers.
That's how we decided. I mean, our faith in this kid was strong. She was wiser than us, this much we knew for sure. We were pretty confident that we could keep her alive. We were determined to, at least, do no harm.
Later, days past the due date, doc says, "I'm going to strip your membranes to see if we can get this moving."
Nothing moved. Except my eyelids which raised dramatically in response to the sudden ripping of inner flesh. If your doctor ever says she's going to strip your membranes, do not expect a massage.
Anyway, baby was not intimidated or impressed. Ha! You cannot make me come out, lady.
Then, days later, it's late, and I'm like, "Hey, something is happening."
The next morning I'm doubled over in pain saying, "I don't want to go to the hospital." Hospitals are for people who actually give birth to their children. Mine obviously wanted to stay in me for all time.
Pain or no pain. Having a baby inside for the rest of my life suddenly seemed like a better option than having a human to keep alive. Too bad. It was happening. He called my mom who agreed that it was really time to go.
The doctor on call was annoyed. She was fairly shallow, and I wouldn't be surprised if she was annoyed because I was a 22 year old mother with a bad haircut. I laid there imagining that if I were a mother with great big hair like hers and professionally manicured fingernails that the doctor would not have been so dismissive. She did not hide her disgust well. Everyone was yelling. It was the classic television scene with the doctor yelling, "Push!" and the mother screaming, "I can't!" Only, in Lamaze class they told us that wasn't the way it was actually supposed to work. "It's never like it is in the movies," they said. I was as angry as I've ever been that day. I felt unsupported, and bathed in judgement. But something clicked inside of me, and I think it was her.
Tap, tap, tap. Mom. I need you here.
I shut my eyes; shut out the noise, the regret, the anger, the disappointment, the shame.
Just you and me kid.
Those minutes were like magic. She was born and I was born and the rest is history.
As soon as she was born I started yelling at the doctor. Give her to me. I did not want her fancy, fake hands anywhere near my baby. But those hands were expertly unraveling the cord from my baby's neck. It was wrapped twice and tight. Once she started crying, the kid raged. Red as a tomato and loud as a lion. She was not amused by her birthing experience any more than I was.
It didn't hit me right away. Cord issues. Like an umbilical cord wrapped snugly around the neck? Yes, exactly. The cord wrapped around her neck was not the only thing threatening my child's life, though.
It took everything inside of me to stop listening to the expert in the room. It took everything to stop reacting out of shame and anger and blame. Dropping everything and listening, and being willing to stand up to my responsibility alone was the hardest thing I'd done up to that point. It was necessary for both of us. It made me a mother through and through.
I'm a big believer in miracles and angels and stuff like that. We've had too many divine interventions in our family not to be a believer in being rescued by Grace in big and supernatural ways. I'm also a believer in all the events of our lives being largely symbolic. If we're willing to look at our experiences from all angles, they're bound to teach us everything we need to know. Life is the most profound teacher. Some moments are so loud and raucous that it takes years to hear below the noise.
There was a cord around my neck that day, too. The two plies were disappointment and shame. I'd disappointed everyone, and the shame I felt about the direction my life was heading in was so thick I could have suffocated in it. Those moments, just me and her, were the first glimpse I had at my personal power. It changed me irreversibly, and eventually I gathered all the tools I needed to cut the cord around my own neck. She was my motivation every single day.
I once told someone that my daughter's conception had challenged my destiny. Would I lay down and die or would I rise up and live? Once she was born the question became: How will I choose to live? Big difference. Miraculous difference.
Anna Turner is the woman behind Little Hearth. She's an ordained interfaith minister, a writer, a believer in purposeful living and healing, a perpetual student, and a full time feminist mother.