Work-life Lessons from a Birth Story:

by Chrysula on August 23, 2009 in asking,mothering,sharing,telling,work life balance

My eldest son is three years old today. He has brought nothing but joy and delight into my life. Even-tempered, curious and cute beyond words, he is a gift every single day. Naturally on his birthday, I am reflective about his actual birth. And birth always gets me thinking about women, medicine and power.

Recently, my good friend Debra Bingham DrPH, RN, wrote about this issue on one of my favorite sites, Dare to Dream. Debra will also be gracing my blog as a guest next month on a related topic. I think you’ll be interested in what she has to say.

Commenting on Debra’s post late last night brought many thoughts together. Having birthed once with unnecessary medical intervention and also completely naturally three times, I feel the gift of both perspectives. I’ve had great pre-natal care (love my OB) but he wasn’t there at pivotal points in the birthing process. With my first child, I did not realize my power and certainly lost my voice at the crucial moment. With the subsequent deliveries, I fought with the medical establishment every time. The crux – not being believed that I knew what was happening, that I understood my body’s patterns.

My son (my third child) was born in the corner of an emergency room whilst I was standing up, behind a curtain, squeezed against the wall, alone. This because the attending physicians would not listen to anything I had said from the moment I arrived in the hospital until five minutes after he was born. My husband on the other hand, knew exactly my rhythms and absolutely trusted my understanding of my body. He had run out to get help after we had been repeatedly ignored. So in a bittersweet moment, I was able to “catch” our son and for a few seconds, revel in all that we and God had been able to accomplish together.

Pregnancy and birth have been relatively easy for me for which I am deeply grateful. I am also appreciative of medical advances, good care-providers who enable mothers and babies to survive who might not otherwise. However in parallel with these developments, women have been taught to fear and misunderstand their bodies. There has never been a time when I have felt more powerful than that incredible moment of delivering a child. It’s time women took our bodies back.

What does this have to do with notions of work-life balance? Everything. Until we ask for what we want, share our rich insights, trust our selves, irrespective of gender or parental status, we will never receive what we need and want, and what is right for our lives and careers.

Think of a time when you felt powerful. And remember that feeling when you go into your next round of negotiations over what really matters to you.

P.S. Happy Birthday my lovely Mr. G. Cannot imagine the world without you.

Photo: Andi Pitcher


Whitney Johnson August 23, 2009 at 5:22 pm

What a lovely, lovely post = trusting ourselves. So hard to do — and yet when we do it, it's as if we become more our self.

I love how you said, birth, birthday, boy all came together!

michelle August 23, 2009 at 5:30 pm

I am fascinated by birth stories, Chrysula, and I had no idea about this one! How hugely frustrating to not be listened to, to not be trusted that you understand your own body.

I had one natural birth and two inductions due to high blood pressure. The natural birth was certainly the shortest of them all and the easiest to recover from. But I felt supremely powerful each time I gave birth.

Donna ~Blessed Nest August 27, 2009 at 3:12 am

Beautiful post. I had one emergency c-section but was in good hands and felt heard. It is wonderful to embrace the strenght of being a mom.

I'm a friend of Janet Haydens. I would love for you to guest write for our blog if you're interested!

e-mail me at Donna ( at)

Rachel August 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

For such a natural, instinctive and personal event, I am horrified at how intrusive the process of childbirth can be. It took me until my third birth to ensure that my voice was heard and listened to and that I didn't somehow just become a helpless onlooker. Trusting in my own instincts and the workings of my body made for an incredible experience third time round. I recognise that I am blessed that I am able to give birth naturally, a powerful experience in itself. But I felt all the more wonder at the miracle of birth and the beauty of womanhood, when those around me 'allowed' me to lead the process. I felt both courageous and powerful.

Robyn September 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Hi Crysula, it's a refreshing pleasure to stumble across your blog (from Dare to Dream) and to read about your birthing experiences. I have heard women say (way too many times) that they don't really feel comfortable with their OB, or they are in-n-out at pregnancy visits or too embarrassed to ask questions. WHAT?! I have tried to positively encourage my girlfriends to find a doctor, or preferably (as in my case) a Certified Nurse Midwife (if they want to feel like they have a connection to MDs and hospital, which they do with CNM) who listens to them from the first visit; who lets them draw up their own 'personal birthplan' and share their hopes for the birth, as well as fears. I had the most amazing CNM who spent more than 20 minutes with me each and every visit; she was laboring with me for the full 20 hours (eek!) and she respected my request to not have an episiotomy. I did have to read some books (Dr. Sears is my best recommendation as he & his wife have endured hospital/MD deliveries as well as natural and at-home deliveries; plus he is an MD) during my first pregnancy because I did not know what my body's choices/options were, nor did I know the terminology. We must know our bodies, how they work, what our limits & strengths are, and what makes us feel good/bad and why…I didn't know I was in the minority, as a woman who was listened to, respected, and valued as a patient, as well as a woman who led the way in the delivery room. I assumed every woman did that, but after I spoke with many friends about their pregnancy/delivery, I found out how wrong I was. *We are paying doctors to care for us–we are the BOSS, we are in charge, we can hire and fire…there are plenty to choose from. We aren't stuck with just one, no matter what our Insurance is, there are always options. All women can find a doctor or CNM or Doula who makes them feel like a queen!
I have much more to say on this, including topics of women's sexuality, which is the biggest things I've noticed in my conservative, Christian community of friends: Woman don't know what to call, how to find, how to stimulate their sex organs. As one friend said, "Male sex organs are on the outside and boys know from a young what and where they are; women can't see theirs, thus, they don't ask, don't wonder, don't know." And it can make for a challenging sexual life and marriage to be ignorant of that. I think women absolutely need to find their voice, know their bodies, respect their bodies by giving themselves time to discover, read, learn, ask, and then to love themselves by giving themselves TIME to physically play with their children, workout, cook and enjoy it, read, nap, walk, talk with friends, etc. I have learned just recently at age 41, and it's been a LONG lesson to learn, that sometimes you have to say "no" so that you can say "yes" to your health, your sanity, your kids, or your life.
Last comment, as hard as it is to stop, :) I have a friend, who thinks about these same things that you have written about, finding your authentic voice and using it to bless yourself, your family and others; her blog led me to Dare to Dream and then to yours. I think you would be interested in some of her postings, if/when you have a chance. Her name is Natasha and she blogs on She is a young mom of 30 who hasn't worked, which what might distinguish you and she, but she is still super aware of the delicate balance of Life, Work, Service, Family, Self and we have some uplifting and enlightening conversations. Anyway, thanks for the chance to write. I hope an infinite number of women see your post here and make the choice to pick the doctors they see, interview them, find out how available they are and ultimately, find someone who honors their voice, their body, and their instincts.

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