Birth Story from Kristen Frantz

May 14, 2010

image via Robot-Heart and Mary Ruffle

It was just like on TV. Between each swell in pressure, each overwhelming urge to bring my daughter into this world that very moment, I contemplated my situation with the detached fascination of a spectator. Laboring mother barricades herself in the bathroom until harried father drags her into the front seat of a blue Buick. We have time, he insists. She shrieks in protest. The grandmother pops up in the backseat and the three begin a sensible debate about speed limit laws, punctuated by an occasional wail from the mother. Cue the laugh track.

I had just made a wisecrack about police officers when another contraction jolted me back to reality, back to the baby who was determined to make her entrance. I can’t fight it anymore. She’s coming. She’s coming. The world faded away as I reached down to cradle her head emerging from my body. Beside me, my husband was careening through the streets. I could hear my mother talking to him, perhaps asking me a question — I wasn’t sure. Come to me, my child. Her body slipped into my hands, and I brought her into my embrace. Why hello, my daughter. My beautiful, perfect daughter. This moment is for us.

We were five minutes away from the hospital.

When I tell others that my second child was born in the car, they never know quite how to respond. Oops, they joke, or else they pat my arm pityingly. I am not sure what to say either. Should I tell them it was one of the proudest moments of my life? That I would not have had her any other way? Am I allowed to admit this?

My first labor was the complete opposite experience. My husband and I had planned a tranquil, intimate homebirth and had hugged each other in excitement when my water broke with a gush in the middle of the night. But the contractions fizzled out too quickly; and after days of prayer, anguish, and fervent discussion with our midwives, we transferred to the hospital. By the time I entered my laboring room, I felt defeated: my body had given up on this birth story, and so had I. I lay there, numb both physically and emotionally, and waited for my firstborn to make her appearance.

My hemorrhage shortly after her birth was a woefully apt finale to the 72-hour labor. I was grateful to be in the capable hands of doctors; and yet even as they reached inside me, scrubbing me out, working frantically to save my life, I could not help but think: My body is no longer my own. I have no dignity left. I have nothing. I felt foolish for ever thinking I was capable.

In time, however, I realized that this birth story was every bit a worthy initiation into motherhood as the one I had envisioned. Whatever patience, whatever sacrifice, whatever loss of body and dignity I endured during labor were merely my first badges among many, and I proudly added more: sleepless nights, endless hours spent simply staring into my child’s eyes, countless kisses and hugs and tears. Becoming a mother, I discovered, demanded more love, pain, joy, and tenacity than I’d even fathomed possible. And so when I learned I was pregnant again, I resolved to treasure every moment of this child’s birth no matter what the circumstances.

True, I hadn’t expected those circumstances to be quite so unusual — and yet somehow, they were exactly right. As the car pulled into the hospital parking lot, I brought my new daughter to my breast, marveling that I had been given yet another tale to pass down to my children. My first child was borne out of my weakness, my second out of my strength, and both experiences are equally precious in my eyes. I can no longer tell one story without also telling the other, for together they answer my deepest questions about motherhood. What can I expect from becoming a mother? Disappointment. Frustration. Surprise. Joy. Love. Love. Love. Do I have what it takes? Sometimes yes, so much so that you will astound yourself. And sometimes no, this job will ask for more than you can give. What does it cost? All of you. And you will never regret it.

From Kristen Frantz.

PS — I love this writeup from Jennifer Torres Siders. And this pregnancy survival guide by Go Go Abigail (submitted by Jill Skousen).

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Note from Design Mom: throughout my pregnancy, I’ve been posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. I just had my baby and am taking a blogging break for a week or so. I’ve received so many wonderful stories and thought it would be great to post as many as I can during this little “maternity leave.” You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kate Reymann May 14, 2010 at 10:12 am

I have been reading these stories all week, all lovely and moving and wonderful, but none of them brought me to tears the way yours did. The last part about becoming a mother is so amazingly well written and so precise and exact and heart wrenchingly true. If anyone ever captured motherhood in a few sentences, you have. Thank you.

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2 carrie May 14, 2010 at 10:44 am

I am in love with this story… passionate with a bit of humor and eloquently written.

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3 Lindsey May 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I’m in love with this story too. My favorite quote–”Why hello, my daughter. My beautiful, perfect daughter. This moment is for us.”

How wonderful. I think this is my favorite birth story yet!

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4 Michelle May 14, 2010 at 1:19 pm

I love it! What beautiful thoughts on what is required from a mother. I am with you on this!

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5 Erin May 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm

So beautifully written! I think this drips with honesty, and I love it for that.

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6 elle May 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm

So beautifully written. I had a missed miscarriage last year…continuing to carry a baby that stop growing for 4 weeks before my next ob/gyn appointment where they couldn’t find a heart beat. I felt so betrayed that my body didn’t seem to know this baby was lost and it has shaken me to the core of the belief about whether or not I can trust my own body. Thank you for your inspired words.

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7 Corrie May 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Beautifully written. I love the way you intertwine their birth stories. What wonderful memories. What a wonderful mother.

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8 Lynda May 14, 2010 at 7:09 pm

I have just loved these birth stories! Thank you for posting them! Even as a mother of two who are now 15 and 11 years old, it brings me right back to the days they were born. All the best with your newest addition. :D

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9 Ali R May 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

Kristen, I happened upon your story today and had to leave a comment – my second child was also born in the car on the way to the hospital! Just me and my husband – we at least had time to pull over and he caught her in his hands as he talked nervously to the 911 operator. I was so calm and strong and deep inside myself as she was born, also so different than my first birth experience. Of course, I would never advocate for a car birth ;), but it was definitely one of the most profound, healing experiences of my life. Even now as I hold my now-22- month-old daughter in my arms, I remember those first few moments that I held her in the quiet morning and called her into this world – magic is the only word I can think to describe it. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and heartbreakingly accurate insights on motherhood, and for reminding us that all mothers are strong, often in the most unexpected ways.

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10 Sarah May 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

I love your two stories! They so perfectly describe birth! It’s something so powerful that we try our hardest to influence and control (and oh! do we try hard)–even though that’s not always possible.

The lesson to remember is that no matter how we come to be parents, no matter the road we take (or our bodies take) to get there–it’s all so worth it.

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11 Cissy May 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm

What I’ve learned from having four babies: Every birth is so different, even when the mother is the same. And , I’ve liked different things about each of those experiences.

Loved the story; still hope I don’t deliver #5 in the car.

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12 naomi May 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm

Still making my way through all the birth stories. This is so touching. There is nothing more empowering than a good birth, and nothing more disheartening than feeling your body has let you down. There is a great deal of surrender involved in both bearing and raising children.

Thank you for sharing this one.

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13 Olive May 19, 2010 at 12:51 am

Your story is so neat…but please don’t say that your first birth was because of your ‘weakness’! It wasn’t your fault at all!!! Both stories took strength…in fact, I think the first one took more. Strength to give up your perfect, dream birth…to put your life and the baby’s life in the hands of doctors…to know when to give in. You suffered much and survived.

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