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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.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtO3TV5G9Jc

Photo: “Orange Baby” by rbakkers via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.
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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellie @ The Mommyist February 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

Beautiful, our bodies are so powerful. I’m glad you got the natural birth you wanted.

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Jana February 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Not quite the birth I wanted. I wanted a four-hour labor with twenty-minutes of pushing. Was that too much to ask?

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Ellie @ The Mommyist February 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Ha. I think that’s what we all wanted. I may have pushed my daughter out in just over 20 minutes but only because after 26 hours of labor I was ready to be done!

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Kate February 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I have adored and despised my body for it’s abilities, and my highest and lowest are all about pregnancy and childbirth. Strength and power and vulnerability.

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Becca February 10, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Beautiful post, Jana. I love idea of finding strength in the midst of surrender. Something I’m only beginning to learn how to do.

And yes, I’m still here…had to miss the book club this time around– I had a stack of books I’ve been wanting to read all on my own and I am too slow of a reader to get them read and also read for the book club. But I missed it–it’s one of those ways to connect around deep and meaningful ideas. I’ll be back for more next time. :)

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Cathy February 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I had three natural births but I did not feel the beauty of my power with the first birth. I was scared and in pain. Your post has made me realize that I was likely fighting against myself and the natural course and progression. Having the first behind me and knowing what to expect made two and three much easier. Confidence is a funny thing.

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Stacia February 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I’m kind of jealous. I don’t think I had any down time in my labors, and I learned with my first that soothing music wasn’t going to work for me. I needed the birthing equivalent of the Rocky soundtrack. On repeat, repeat, repeat! =>

Happy 15 Months to your sweet girl!

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Jana February 10, 2011 at 3:44 pm

That’s so interesting how we all need different things in times of stress or difficulty. Yeah, I’m all about calmness when I’m facing a challenge.

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Kerryonliving February 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm

So glad you found strength through your labour. It is a wonderful thing to look back on with such pride (but I can say that because I am NEVER doing it again)

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Jana February 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I am NEVER doing it again, either!

Cheers to that!

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Kerryonliving February 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Oops – pressed ‘submit’ a bit too soon as I also wanted to say what a beautiful name you gave your daughter – it was the name we had chosen if my son had been a girl. Another little spooky transatlantic thing we have in common!

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Leslie February 11, 2011 at 8:49 am

What a great birth story, Jana. With Jack, I had slow start and big fears about induction – but, eventually, a gloriously straightforward natural delivery. It was the most connected to my body I’d ever felt; I knew what was happening in places I couldn’t see and had never before been able to imagine. And for me, the “working” was the most important part. It felt like good, hard work, the kind with progress that makes you want to go until the end.
My husband and mother were with me, and aside from our occasional conversation, there was no noise. I was learning to breathe well for the first time, and that was rhythm enough. Next time, I expect it’ll be just the two of us, with plenty of music and memory.

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Justine February 11, 2011 at 10:59 am

I’m thrilled for you that the labor went the way you wanted, and I continue to be amazed by just what our bodies can do. Pregnant with my second now, I am curious what my little one has in store for me, but after having gone through the first, I can honestly say I’m not afraid. The labor, the pain, the uncertainty all melted away the moment my firstborn lay in my arms. And I know it will feel the same way with the second.

And this song? Wow. I looked into Deb Talan and I must say, now I have a new favorite to listen to. Thank you for sharing this Jana.

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Mrs.Mayhem February 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Simply lovely. And the title is perfect. You have such a wonderful writing style.

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Jill March 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I just found this post on your blog- was intrigued by the title because it’s a song that is so meaningful to me. It was moving to read about your own connection to this song because of the way it sits alongside my own. My husband and I had a hard (over 2 years) time conceiving our second child. During the emotionally arduous time, I was listening to this song that had been background music in my ears so often in the past. And suddenly, I actually HEARD the words. I was moved to tears: “don’t push so hard against the world….the best made plans…lay it down…are your open hands.” Some thing moved inside me and I was able to exist on my journey towards a second child still with intention, but with openness, hopefulness, and slightly less pain.
Now my joyful boy is almost two. And I call on that song as an anthem whenever I need a reality check. It opens me up every time. Thanks for the reminder!

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