Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hanging Naked from a Squatting Bar, or How I Got Over My Body Issues

Tsunami on the Square 2012

When I think back to the day I gave birth to my son, even now, almost 20 months later, it’s a bit hazy. I went into the whole birthing experience pretending to have an open mind – “Oh yes, whatever happens, happens. I’m open to any sort of birth, as long as my baby boy is healthy.” And yes, of course I didn’t care how he arrived, as long as he did arrive, but when it came down to it, I absolutely did have a strong idea of what I wanted my experience to be like.

In my mind I envisioned a quiet, dim-lit room. My hair was up in a messy top knot and my cheeks had a nice rosy glow to them. It would be a natural labor, happen quickly, and sooner than I could say “push” in a breathy voice, darling Henry would be in our arms.

And it’s not like I live in an unrealistic fantasy world or something. You know those women? The ones you may have heard your friends talk about? “Oh, my sister’s neighbor’s friend’s birth was just one hour and so easy, just a few pushes and she was out! It was so easy- she was seriously up and walking a minute later. No horrible pain really, no tearing. She was made to have babies.” Yeah. Well I know about three of those women in real life, so my own reality based on my surroundings was perhaps a little skewed. I thought that I’d be one of the lucky ones too…but no. No, no way.

Instead, my natural labor turned into three hours of natural pushing hell as Henry got stuck behind my pelvic bone. I turned, I twisted, I shimmied, I shaked, but that boy was not coming out. Do you know what it feels like to want so badly to get something (someone!) out of your body, trying for hours and hours, moving from position to position? Everything in your body is screaming push, push, push- but nothing. And then in my case, towards the end, even though your body is still screaming push, push, push…the nurses and doctors inform you that you absolutely cannot push, because your baby is not moving, and all you’re doing is slamming his head into your pelvic bone.

And that’s when I found myself half-naked, hanging from a squatting bar.

I remember when they brought the contraption in. Henry needed to be turned, and the boy wasn’t turning, so we resorted to trying out different positions. When the nursing student walked in with the long bar and attached it to either side of the bed’s poles, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But to be honest, after so many hours of the worst pain of my life, I would have done close to anything to move this process along.

They instructed me to get into a squatting position, arms up on the bar, and push into it as I felt the urge to do so. There was a moment during this portion of the birth where everything went into a bit of slow motion, and I remember looking around the room – the nurse in her blue scrubs pressing some buttons to my left, my husband – white faced and panic stricken, a nursing student, trying to be helpful but coming off more annoying than anything, and random others who were in and out, checking and re-checking.

In this slow motion moment, I recall having a very striking realization as I looked down at myself between my contractions.

There I was: Me, the girl who is sometimes a little shy about changing in front of others, me, the in-shape and athletic girl who for some reason hadn’t always felt the most confident in a bathing suit, and me, the girl who dealt with a bit of disordered eating in college. There I was- all modesty gone, any shred of caring about covering up gone, hanging there naked from the waist down, while strangers in scrubs walked in and out of my room.

Some say that once you actually have your baby your body issues disappear. You realize that you sustained this little life for so many months and your body deserves all of the respect and love you can give it. You might look down at this magical little being, and from that moment you are forever changed; you suddenly have a new view as to what is important. But just as my (incredibly lofty and ridiculous) expectations for my birthing experience were not met, overcoming my insecurities didn’t happen just like that either.

So how did I get over my body issues? Taking a step out of myself at that very difficult moment and realizing that once you hang from a bar naked, with all of those people staring here and there (and everywhere), nothing I could ever wear, do, or experience will ever make me as vulnerable as I was in that moment. There I was, in all of my naked glory. There was blood, sweat, who knows what else, and in that snapshot of my life I almost wanted to laugh at how ridiculously far it was from my top-knotted, rosy-cheeked birthing fantasy.

But you know what? I did it. There was no other option. There was no time to cover up, no time to care, and in that moment, there was nothing else to do but push through it. And when you’re faced with obstacles like this one, you can either falter, or triumph. And even though I didn’t have the choice to falter (that baby was coming!), my triumph came in my own mind. Everyone has their own “squatting bar” they will face. Something that will make you look at yourself in a new light, and realize that so many of the things you thought were so important aren’t really that important after all. For me, I gained a bit more respect for myself- not just because I pushed through and ended up with the most wonderful little boy to show for it- but because in a moment where I felt so scared and felt like I could have crumbled under my own insecurities, I rose above it and came out a better woman on the other side.

In the next hour my son would be born via emergency c-section after both of our vitals dropped and we had to be rushed into the operating room, but in that one moment, everything changed. And of course later when I saw my baby boy for the first time things changed even more, but nothing will throw you into the deep end of body acceptance, than hanging half-naked from a squatting bar in front of an audience.

Nothing can compare to that crash course in getting over yourself.

So now, give me a bikini, give me short shorts, and maybe even a crop top for the summer. I’m all in.


*This one of the many pieces I'll be re-sharing here over the next year. This originally published on Hello Giggles, but since I am not writing for them anymore, it's important to me to have all of my writing in one place. If this is the second time you've seen this, I hope you didn't mind too much! Thank you for reading!

34 comments:

  1. im sure you get this all the time but you are very good at writing! i love it.
    Beautiful post

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  2. Wow Dani, I wish every girl in the world who has issues with their body (me included) could read this post. This is the most vulnerable heart wrenching post I've read from you, thank you so much for sharing.

    And you my friend are beautiful and I know your sweet baby boy thinks you are the most beautiful mama in the world
    xo

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  3. I appreciated your story very much! I'm roughly 14 weeks from delivering my own son (FTM here!) I'm so excited to meet him, I'm doing so much on my own, with his father, and with girlfriends to get body and mind ready for this huge event... I definitely have a certain picture in my mind of how I want things to go ;-) Thanks for giving me a bit of reality!!!

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  4. Your words are so incredible and inspirational. I too struggle with insecurities as most women do but reading so many of your posts eases my mind. You are an extremely beautiful woman and mother and to know you have trouble seeing your beauty just shows that we all do. Thank you for posting! I admire your honesty. Best wishes for you and your little family.

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  5. I definitely feel more confident now that I've had a baby. It's not like I've given up on my body or anything, I still care a lot about working out and eating right... but before pregnancy when my body was way more awesome than it is now, I rarely pranced around in a bikini with people around. If I wasn't tanning or in the water I at least had my lower half covered up. I was so self-conscious. Now, I don't even really care if people spot the few dimples I have in my bum. It's so weird, but I do think it's because I'm a mommy now.

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  6. I can really relate! It is almost as if I wrote this post myself. Thanks so much for sharing :)

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  7. I must have missed this piece on HG. It really is fantastic.

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  8. I appreciated this so very much....I get it. While the squatting bar was not there. The emergency c-section was. And appreciate your perspective....more than words can ever describe. CHEERS TO YOU!!!! Cheers to us...

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  9. I haven't had a baby or anything, but I can relate to body issues and your story is wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I'm so glad you're resharing your work here! I stopped wandering over to HelloGiggles so I'm happy to read your wonderful writing here. Beautifully written. Perfectly honest.

    Kacie

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  11. Giving birth and pregnancy has completely changed my thoughts on my body as well. Previously I was healthy and athletic yet never happy. Now I'm amazed by what my body has done and whilst I had no bar, there was nothing covered for my entire labour. Things also went bad in the end for me and my idea of how I would give birth was shattered. Yet none of it matters because I have a healthy baby boy.

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  12. Wow... So scary! Glad everything worked out. <3
    Val
    http://valentinaduracinsky.blogspot.com/

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  13. I love that you wrote this! So open and honest! I don't have children, but I know that giving birth is messy and painful and scary. And I know that if I have to be half naked or more I'll do it because who really cares, right? The doctors and nurses see that stuff all the time. Not that I walk around naked or anything, but I feel like in that moment all that matters if giving birth, you know.

    So glad you triumphed! You go, girl!
    ~Sara
    sarastrauss.blogspot.com

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  14. Our birthing experience was so, so similar! I'm always amazed at that whenever I think about your experience compared to mine. But like you said, it's not how the baby gets to you, it's that he/she does. I wish more mothers felt that way and weren't so opposed to doctor supported births. :))

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  15. Thank you for sharing your story! That was wonderful

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  16. I seriously love this post. Having just given birth myself, it really hit close to home. I too had a "whatever happens, happens" idea of what my labour would be like. I started out wanting to try and keep my dignity and save my self image, but in the end, I had to throw that plan away because it was just too hard. It's amazing how having a baby can change the was you look at yourself, whether it be for the better or worse.

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  17. Great post. Love the honesty as usual.

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  18. This is a beautiful post. You are such a gifted writer. I actually just came to terms with my post two natural birth body. It's a process that's for sure but I couldn't be more pleased with how I look. I did a post about it to but yours... wow... you go girl ;)

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  19. Love this. I loved my postpartum body so much. The first shower I took at home after we came home from the hospital, I remember hugging my doughy, empty belly and crying because my beautiful body gave me my son.

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  20. Great post. It makes me feel so proud of myself when I look back on the craziness of my birth stories. But then I think about how each mother out there has her own story, and just how much empowerment there is in birth as a whole. Blows my mind.

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  21. You're awesome Dani. Loved reading your story!

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  22. Love this recollection! Sums up perfectly how I felt after giving birth. While I didn't hang from a squatting bar, I, just like most other women, had a steady parade of people looking, prodding and poking around my unmentionable area. Once you have a baby, your perspective definitely changes!

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  23. LOVE your blog. LOVE your writing style. LOVE your boldness and the fact that you are willing to share your insights with the world. Keep writing! You're such an inspiration!

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  24. a perfect description, nothing to add

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  25. I birthed my son the same way, naked and hanging from a squat bar on the hospital bed. Wouldn't change a thing! <3

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  26. This is absolutely beautiful. My mum said she had a similar experience when giving birth for the first time, in that everyone's seen everything, there's nothing to be embarrassed about - it's a natural process and whilst not the prettiest or cleanest, it's beautiful. One day I hope that I can overcome my own body-issues so that I can teach my children that however they look they are beautiful in their own right. You'll be teaching Henry just that! xx

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  27. I was one of those annoying women with the easy as birthing story. My first, my daughter, came out in just over an hour, no stitches or tearing. Then was up and about as if nothing had happen. My second, my son, well he was another story, over-due, induced, 30 hours of labour to end up having an emergency c-section. I was just thrilled to have him, I didn't care what I experienced in the labour ward.
    I have never been too concerned with my body, growing up with a mother who was/is anorexic, taught me life is too short to torture your body with starvation. My body issues are on the inside, years of fertility treatments and a miscarriage. My little man is slowly healing my hate of the inside of my body.

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  28. Danielle, this story really made me love you! Thanks for sharing!

    xo
    cortnie

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  29. I'm glad you re-posted this, it was indeed beautiful and moving!!

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  30. Hear hear. During my pregnancy with my daughter, I developed skin tags. DOWN THERE. When I realized that my OB, the nurse, and probably my husband saw them while I was pushing, a good amount of my body issues went splurting out with the placenta. That and the fact that I had a bunch of people fist me that day.

    Still won't wear bathing suits ;)

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  31. My birth story shares a similar story of being wheeled down the PUBLIC hallway butt booty naked on all fours to the operating room... where luckily I delivered vaginally. But yes, I feel ya. Here's a link to my story: http://www.thestorkandthebeanstalk.com/hoopers-birth-story/

    Thanks for sharing, beautifully written!

    Ashley @ The Stork and The Beanstalk

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  32. My oh my, it's like reading my own story. The student doctors, the pushing in all kinds of degrading positions, the blur of nakedness and pain and eventual relief when they decided to take him out the sunroof - MAN, it is a mans world in this respect! Thanks for sharing! x

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  33. Hi – It’s good to read such interesting stuff on the Internet as I have been able to discover here. I agree with much of what is written here and I’ll be coming back to this website again. Thanks again for posting such great reading material!!

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