Birthing a revolution
January is figuratively a time of rebirth for many of us — or at least we resolve for it to be for about 48 hours. But for me it’s literally a month about birth and rebirth.
First, my entire identity changed as I became a mother for the first time during the Polar Vortex of January 2013. (My daughter will forever hear how we brought her tiny self home on a 40-below day, a true Minnesotan.) I gave birth to my second son, Eero, on Inauguration Day January 2017, as women in pink hats marched and yelled outside my hospital windows.
I spent two Januaries on bedrest, tip-tapping on my laptop and watching the snow drift down, creating a fresh canvas for the year ahead.
The first time I gave birth, it took longer than expected, in part because every time it hurt too badly, I backed off in some misguided sense of self-preservation.
Finally, my midwife said something like: You have to open that door and walk through it. You have to help her come out the other side.
The part where I thought I could not stand it — the moment when I thought, That is too much pain — changed when I had the courage to open the door by putting my shoulder into it and forcing my way through, with no idea what really lay on the other side.
It was a drug-free birth, and everyone on the east side of the Mississippi River knew it. I screamed my baby girl into the world. So much for peaceful.
I was on bedrest with my first boy, Remy, too, but in February and March. He kept me waiting until very nearly the end of my term (even though 8 weeks into my pregnancy, my doctors were already afraid he might try to escape early). I barely made it through the hospital doors, and even had a brief moment in the parking lot where I thought, Well, I might just have to stop right here and have a baby.
But I did make it and he ushered in spring — and I brought him home full of the optimism of warm weather, adorable new baby-ness, a calm world and a downright Obaman atmosphere.
Eero was so eager to get here that my midwife actually walked me through a home-birth scenario in case I didn’t make it to the hospital.
But I made it, and after about 15 extraordinarily intense minutes, it was over. I closed my eyes and willed him here, my goal being to birth all three babies while Obama was president, even in the administration’s waning minutes.
My midwife yelled for me to open my eyes because he came in a great rush, all 9 pounds (thanks a lot, kid) of squeezable, delicious him. I watched her guide him up to the surface of the water — and into my arms he went (see below).
For me, there is nothing like that high. Nothing like seeing your baby’s face for the first time, the intense pain abating and this bloom of staggering love. I know not everyone feels that right away. But I trust those people have done other insurmountable-feeling things — running marathons, climbing mountains and other things I have on my bucket list of never doing ever. Having kids is the most daring I’ll probably ever get.
I used to think I was a huge wimp.
But motherhood has made a real woman out of me. I’m not afraid to stand up to bullies anymore. I’m still a baby about getting my finger poked, even after three drug-free childbirths, but nothing can stop me from protecting my kids, from unleashing that mama-bear magic that had been hidden away somewhere until January 2013, a power and fury that only strengthened come March 2015, and then was magnified again in January 2017.
A great push
Eero’s birthday was a day where my heart was torn between the joy and love of welcoming my third baby into the world and the frustration and sorrow of the world I was welcoming him into. We went to the hospital with a list of names, but we settled on Eero Everhart for the meaning behind it — the steel will of a warrior, stoked by an inner fire of love.
I think about where we are now, culturally, socially and politically, and this January, I hope we’re right on the other side of that high of relief: Many of us are feeling great pain, wishing we were anywhere other than here, knocking on the door, but a bit afraid to shove through. I hope we have a great push, we open our eyes and we birth the revolution.
Katie Dohman is currently living in the midst of a total full-house renovation with her one husband, three kids, two dogs and one kitten. She is tired.