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Big Strong Girl

February 10, 2011

15 months ago, I was in a dim hospital room on a rainy day, pacing, breathing heavily, and eventually, finally, pushing.

My daughter will be 15 months old tomorrow, and while the actual day of her birth gets further away, I remember my labor so clearly. It was the first time I welcomed my body, the first time I felt deeply, truly proud of it.

The day didn’t start that way, though. I arrived at the hospital disheartened and discouraged. My pregnancy was deemed high-risk because I had had a C-section with my son, which meant that if I didn’t go into labor ¬†by a week after my due date, I’d have to be induced. As each day in early November passed, I grew more weary. All I wanted was to go into labor naturally, but my body wouldn’t oblige. We felt like opponents in an ongoing battle.

I reluctantly sat on the hospital bed, and the nurse hooked up an IV, something which I had hoped to avoid. She asked me several rote questions which I answered despondently. As soon as she left, I broke into tears. I felt like I was in the same position as two years before, just waiting to be wheeled down the hall on a stretcher, a scalpel ready to cut me open while I laid with arms outstretched, powerless. I was doubtful that I’d even have a baby.

When my contractions started, they were weak. The midwife had done all she could do to start my labor, and now it was up to me to continue. After a couple of hours of fretting and worrying, I finally surrendered. Amazingly, my body started to perform its task. As I breathed, I was overjoyed and relieved to be in the midst of a slow, rock-hard wave coming and going in the small of my back. It meant my body was working. Maybe we were on the same side after all.

My body, as I learned on that day, is miraculously resilient. It is beautiful. Capable. Powerful.

And I was my mother’s girl, ready to give birth to my own.

Like most women, I brought music to soothe me through the quiet moments of labor. I picked songs from women whom I admired; lyrics about strength, beauty, and patience; ballads with calm pianos and warm cellos.

And then there was the song that gave me strength and connection during the hardest part of my labor, the song that for weeks after, was stuck in my head in and out of sleep-deprived dreams in the middle of the night; the song that ran through me as I nursed my newborn. It seemed like it had been written for me and for her, my Madeleine.

It offered the most beautiful message that true strength comes with time and help. Instead of resisting the overwhelming nature of the world, this woman’s soft voice was telling me to give in, to open and accept, to connect.

Now, I hold my growing daughter and dance. I hope that she and I, as women, will always remember that lesson.

“Big Strong Girl”

by Deb Talan

It’s not now or never
It’s not black, and it’s not white
Anything worth anything
takes more than a few days
and a long, long night

Don’t push so hard against the world
you can’t do it all alone
and if you could, would you really want to?
Even though you’re a big strong girl,
come on, come on, lay it down
the best made plans
come on, come on, lay it down
are your open hands….

Rest your head
You’ve got two pillows to choose from
and a queen size bed
Hold out for the moon
Don’t expect connection anytime soon
Feel the light caress your fingertips
You have just begun
The word has only left your lips
Maybe in time, you will find
your arms are wrapped around the sun

Don’t push so hard against the world, no, no
You can’t do it all alone
and if you could, would you really want to?
Even though you’re a big strong girl,
come on, come on, lay it down
The best made plans
come on, come on, lay it down
are your open hands
are your open hands….

*I couldn’t find a video of Deb Talan singing this song, but I did find this great cover. (If you like it, I encourage you to get some music from Deb Talan, an amazing folk singer with wonderfully poetic lyrics, or her band,¬†The Weepies.)

Photo: “Orange Baby” by rbakkers via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.
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