I once saw a picture of a woman near a stream in a field way out in nature somewhere. She had a beautiful baby bump and looked like she was ready to give birth. She had thick dark hair and her eyes were full of determination. I’m pretty sure the article was about how she gave birth all by herself in that setting. And that has filled my head with all kinds of ideas.

I’m 40 weeks pregnant and waiting so anxiously for Little Mr. Baby to come out. I want this experience to be beautiful and romantic and just, well, perfect. I guess I have that picture of the woman by the river in my thoughts, and somewhere in the back of my head, that’s what sounds kinda perfect to me – an experience so peaceful, so freeing, so raw and real, so empowering!

I have this amazing new life inside me and now I’m at that point of transition from carrying life to birthing life. I want to feel completely alive in this experience, to not miss out on anything that’s happening, to still be loving this experience of carrying our sweet new baby inside me, to be looking forward to that labor and birthing experience.

I have a picture of me giving birth in such a peaceful way, where the baby just kind of slips out in a strong “wave” (we don’t call it a “contraction, right?) and there’s no moaning or tearing or blood or anything. It’s just sort of magical how it all happens (have you ever seen those women on YouTube giving birth?! It looks like they just take a deep breath and the baby slides out!) But in reality, not much about my situation seems all that peaceful right now.

This pregnancy has been really, really hard for me. I’m so grateful to be pregnant for the 2nd time with another miracle child, but I just can’t quite forget how awful I feel. I’m achy all the time, only sleeping 5-6 hours a night, I feel heavy and bloated, my belly in constantly contracting (oh, Braxton Hicks, why?!!), and I’m still nauseous (not throwing up anymore, but still). Really, I just want my body all back to myself!

I’m not sure where I picked up the misconception that I could look and feel great all through pregnancy – I guess maybe from the photos I see online of women looking down at their bumps, all happy and in love. It’s been a struggle for me to even want pictures because I’ve felt so crummy.

But maybe I have an unrealistic expectation in my mind. Maybe it would be a lot more fair for me to stop comparing myself to what’s different about me versus the beautiful dark-haired woman giving birth by herself, and focus on what the true strength of going through pregnancy and childbirth is all about.

Maybe it’s not about how many pictures I post on Facebook that look like I’m loving every moment of being pregnant. Maybe it’s not about looking excited and vibrant and “glowing” all the time during pregnancy. Maybe it’s even OK that I feel sick and achy and have dark circles under my eyes.

Maybe the real beauty and strength in this experience comes in simply knowing that I did it! I’ve actually never heard of anyone having an “easy” pregnancy experience. No matter what it might look like on YouTube or Facebook, I don’t really think that anyone just “slips out” a baby. There is sacrifice and challenge throughout any pregnancy. It takes its toll on every courageous woman.

I’m starting to think that’s what it’s really all about. It’s an experience of courage, of endurance, of beauty in how women go through it all, often silent, and definitely unsung in what they actually are bearing. I think that is the true miracle and beauty of it all. No matter if we deliver in a peaceful setting, or if the baby comes out while we’re screaming in pain, the true beauty is that we value life enough to go through pregnancy.

It’s not easy, it’s not even always pretty. And sometimes pregnancy feels just plain awful. But we do it, we finish the marathon strong, and in the end when that precious newborn is in our arms, we somehow forget all the pain and anguish of the past 9 months (and even the labor and birth) and just see the remarkable and incredible new life in our arms.

I guess that’s what that woman by the stream symbolizes to me, in the end. She’s a picture of strength, courage and sacrifice. She’s doing it by herself. And she’s not afraid of her strength. I may not look like her or be anywhere near wanting to deliver my own baby alone outdoors, but I relate to her.

I do feel courageous and strong, just being pregnant – for consciously making this choice to give new life, to give up my body and my own life desires and goals for the life of this precious little one, to go through pain and sickness, for pushing through to the end of this.

And though I’ve had an amazing support team, when it comes down to it, I’m doing it alone, similar again to that woman by the stream. Every woman does it by herself. No one else can carry that baby, no matter how much support someone else might offer. It’s an intense time of introspection for any woman, and can be a time for incredible self-respect and empowerment. We do it, and it’s hard. Really hard.

I guess I’m glad after all that I saw that picture of the woman by the stream, and for all the ideas it put into my head. I am that woman, about to bring new life into this world. I’ll do it with the same kind of courage and energy I see sparking in her eyes. I’ll do it with empowerment and anticipation for Little Mr. Baby joining our family.

My eyes have bags under them and I’m so exhausted, I probably won’t fully remember the experience of my pregnancy and this birth. I also probably won’t be posting any more pictures of me in a field looking down at my (now very big!) bump. And that’s to be expected. What counts most is that I’m doing this with courage and grace.

I think that’s what I love most in that woman by the stream, and in every woman who so courageously goes through pregnancy. We revere and respect life enough to do it. We are silent pictures of courage and power everywhere we go, just by doing what we’re doing. We are strong, we endure, we see the experience through to the very last, and we come through resilient, focusing with tremendous love on the end result. That’s the raw, real beauty of it. The experience of giving life is a supreme gift, and that is where the real beauty lies.

 

What’s your pregnancy and birth experience? I’d love to hear about it!