Why I chose to birth without my ex
I felt like I had fallen into a bad dream.
I was pregnant, and I was leaving my husband—two life occurrences that, theoretically, should never mix. Just as the morning sickness abated, just as the baby began to make movements that I could feel, my ex-husband committed an unforgivable act, and I made the choice to leave.
When I visited a divorce attorney, my belly was round, and my bladder was pressed by the weight of the baby. For the rest of my pregnancy, I waddled in and out of that office, a new Solo Mom in shock. The staff asked how I was feeling, how the baby was doing. My lawyer asked repeatedly whether I was ready to file for divorce yet.
“Not until after the baby comes,” I said. “I don’t want to do this now.”
Perhaps I wanted to give him time to show up—like, really show up. To apologize. To go to therapy. To make an effort to be a better man, a better husband, a better father. To save our marriage. (But, of course, he didn’t.)
A trusted confidante
My nurse midwife spent extra time with me during my prenatal appointments. Emotionally, I had become high risk. She was no doubt screening me for signs of depression related to my impending divorce. She also must have been concerned that I might return to my husband—a man who had proven through multiple incidents that he was not safe.
We spoke at length about the birth. My midwife understood my wishes for an unmedicated water birth if at all possible. She knew I wanted to labor at home for as long as I could. But when we began to discuss who would be there—in the room, during the birth—it felt like all the air got sucked out of the room. I did not know what I wanted.
My ex wanted to be there. He was insisting. It was his right, he said, to be present when our child was born. Legally, I knew he was not right. There was nothing in the law that prevented me from keeping him away. But I felt guilty anyway. Just a few months prior, we had been preparing for this baby together.
My midwife asked, “Do you want him there? Would you feel safe?”
I didn’t know.
If I’m being honest, in the back of my mind, I wondered, Would being present provide the epiphany he needed to finally get help? Would it be the reconnection that would save our marriage?
It’s not about him
During one of my prenatal appointments, my doula looked me in the eyes and said, “This isn’t about him. I want you to take all of the energy you’re focusing on him and refocus it on yourself and that baby.”
And she was right.
My pregnancy had been largely overshadowed by the stress of the divorce and by regular demands made and infractions perpetrated by my ex. Life felt like a carnival of hormones and conflicting emotions. I was angry and sad. My stress was through the roof. I felt betrayed and railroaded. I was relieved to be safe from him, but I also still loved him. I was terribly confused.
Most of all, I was emotionally detached and in denial of the gigantic life event—birth—that was about to happen to me. I could barely focus on the new life I was growing inside my body.
My birth manifesto
One sleepless night, the emotional dam broke. I flipped on the bedside light, grabbed a notebook, and wrote my “birth manifesto.” My feelings, needs, and desires came tumbling out onto paper. The words were fierce and honest and unapologetic, raw and angry and hurt.
Finally, I thought, Mama Bear is showing up in the ring.
In my journal, I claimed the right to feel safe, the right to labor and deliver on my own terms. I claimed the right to focus all my energy on myself and the baby, the right to control who was present. And I claimed my right to not feel guilty about it.
I did not want to be watched or judged by my ex. I did not want him to take the baby from my arms right away. I wanted space and calm and peace. During the birth, I wanted support from women I trusted.
“Women do not need men to do the tremendous work of birth,” I wrote, and then underlined. “We are warrioresses, and we can do it by our own damn selves.”
The birth was long and hard.
I moaned and screamed my way to the finish line, until finally the baby slipped into the arms of the midwife. His wet little body was placed on my chest, where he was rubbed until his purplish hue became pink and he began to cry. I was surrounded by women. Women I trusted. Women who honored me. Women who helped me to bed and brushed the hair from my eyes and told me how well I had done.
And when I looked at my son, I did not regret for one second my decision to birth on my own.
“This is what a mother is,” I remember whispering to him. “I will always protect you.”
Giving birth as a Solo Mom requires support. Who was or will be there for you? Any words of wisdom to share? Let us know in the Comments section below.
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