I hated wedding prep. Or more accurately, I hated the part of wedding prep that was all about the bride. Primping, perfecting, picking apart... it became a series of mini-sessions examining every one of my imperfections as if under a microscope: You should really pluck those eyebrows. Your eyelashes don't stand out. You should get highlights. You're too short for that wedding dress. Your lips are too small. Your nose is too big. It made me break out just thinking about all my flaws. Great. Now I had acne.
I decided to do my own makeup.
I loved childbirth.
I gained nearly 60 pounds in my first pregnancy. I never blow-dried my hair anymore. By the end, I was wearing hand-me-down maternity clothes that hung off me like deflated parachutes and regularly borrowing T-shirts from my 6'2" husband. My subpar eyelashes hadn't seen mascara in months.
When I was ready to give birth, I arrived at the hospital at 2 a.m., 4 cm dilated, after laboring at home for over 24 hours. I looked like crap. No one cared. They welcomed me in (or rather, did so after making me walk the halls for two more excruciating hours until I dilated to 6 cm). They celebrated my body. I knew I didn't look beautiful. They told me I was.
Whoever you are, you are more of that person when you're in labor. Because you know what? You don't have a choice. You're in pain, you've lost control of your bodily functions -- you simply don't have the wherewithal to sugarcoat your personality. You are your true self. And everyone loves you anyway.
I didn't have a birth plan. If I did, it was to not plan the birth. I felt I couldn't control it, so I didn't even try. We opted for the one-day childbirth prep class; we didn't hire a doula; at full-term, I "crammed" so at least I knew the different stages of labor -- I yielded to the inevitability of it all. It was highly uncharacteristic of me.
Oddly calm and curious, yet stubbornly determined, I embraced every wildly ecstatic, uncontrolled minute of it. When the relentless back labor became more than I could bear, I requested pain medication. When the OB declared a C-section inevitable after an hour of pushing, I pushed for over three hours more. When I could feel, finally, that my son was not coming out on his own, we went to the OR. And there -- there, my husband held our son for the first time. He brought his soft cheeks over to my trembling lips. I lay, crucifixion-style, on the operating table as I gave him the first of so many kisses, my tears falling onto his.
I became a mother.
Now I'm training to become a doula.
What? But you had three C-sections!
Yep. I also had back labor, a posterior baby and a sweet, sweet epidural.
But I still believe the birth experience -- however planned and however actualized -- is transformative and life-alteringly beautiful. It is the imperfectly perfect path to motherhood. It reveals that you are at once supple and strong, fierce and adaptable. It teaches you about yourself, your partner, your body.
It will be nothing like you expect. Neither is parenthood. But that's the best part.
I want to be there when that mother is born. Telling her she's beautiful. Helping her see that, beginning with the birth, becoming a mother means embracing your true, flawed self. Real and raw. No filter. Unretouched.
When you nurse your 3-month-old back to sleep at 2 a.m., puffy-eyed, hair haphazardly thrown into a messy bun. When your mushy midsection perfectly pillows your toddler's head. When your nail-bitten fingers brush your 3-year-old's hair out of his eyes or your chapped lips lay kisses on his soft tufts. When you hold rhythm-less dance parties in the living room or sing tone-deaf lullabies before bed.
You will see your best, and worst, qualities reflected in your children -- and you find their beauty. Your beauty. You'll realize you have the strength to do more than you ever thought you could. That you're exactly who your children need. Just as you are.
You may have a birth plan, or you may not. But birth has a plan for you: once your child is born, you will see yourself as a mother. And realize you've never been so beautiful.