I feel as though my mother-child relationships are rapidly changing. My hopes for a recurring role as new-again-mother are temporarily dashed. And my 20-month nursing relationship with my here-and-now daughter has just now ended. I feel as though I'm challenged to let go or set aside (however you want to look at it) that which I held onto for so long - the idea of more children in rapid succession (or even at all as my recent experiences taunt my tired will), and the comfort and soothing calm of a nursing relationship that has sustained and nurtured both me and my daughter.
This roller coaster ride I call Motherhood is changing tracks, but sadly, is not picking up any new passengers today. The prospect of it being a little emptier than I had hoped does pain me (though I try to pretend it doesn't bother me) and enters my mind in the brief moments in which I stop, listen, and breathe. Perpetual motion masks my sorrow.
In honor of the recent closing of the relationship that started early one July morning, almost 2 years ago, AND to perhaps remind myself of what I went through to get there (maybe secretly so I might see that it's okay NOT to have to do it again), I'm sharing my humble birth story.
Q's Arrival: Part One
(Alternate title: Why The Hell Would Any Sane Woman Ever Do This? Part One)
The memory of a woman’s birth experience is powerful. I’ve seen grown women who suffered 40 long weeks of morning sickness, heartburn, and constipation, joyfully exclaim that they want another one almost instantly after popping out the little munchkin. And then I’ve seen practically perfect preggos sware off any form of purposeful reproduction based solely on their labor and delivery.
I distinctly recall the first two thoughts after birthing my daughter - I will never do that again, and epidurals and elective c-sections are highly underrated. The joy of meeting my new daughter was overshadowed by the deep sense of wonder and disbelief I felt when imagining any human choosing to give birth AGAIN. Call me cynical, but pain and exhaustion do amazing things to the brain.
First time mothers are admittedly clueless – ripe with visions of sweet baby bottoms and designer diaper bags. Their questions are smattered across internet baby message boards, but most are limited to baby room décor choice and stroller brand. A few brave mommies-to-be mention the “labor” word, interrogating experienced mommies about contractions and other unmentionables. “Are they like period cramps, just worse?” they ask. “Do you have to get an enema and shave?” They cringe at the word epistiotomy, proclaiming to each other and their gynies that they will NOT have one, or a vacuum or forceps birth- ONLY if it’s entirely necessary. Their real worries about labor are limited to angst about having to wear the hospital gown and pooping on the table.
Then you have a baby. You get the contractions, the pain, and then a baby, and you realize that NONE of the stuff you were thinking about before you popped that little thing out really mattered. Fancy baby sheets, couture infant carriers, and convertible car seats are far from your mind. Enemas, shaves, and poops, who cares? The janitor could have been assisting in your birthing experience and you would never have known. Cutting and stitching are of little concern because you just pushed a small human out of a seemingly tiny hole, and that should have been what you were worried about.
As a classic overachiever in every other aspect in my life, I kept true form by preparing months in advance for my labor experience. I delved full force, dragging my reluctant but supportive husband to hypno-birthing and Bradley classes. We suffered through 12 2-hour classes almost every weekend, watching century old videos chock full of natural childbirth propaganda. We slaved over our birth plan and watched it get carefully placed in a random office junk drawer by our trusty nurse. We recruited two doulas-in-training to provide us with labor support and assistance as we strived to achieve the PERFECT BIRTH. We laughed, in private, at our pregnant friends who didn’t even know the risks of an epidural or complications associated with pitocin. We were birth elitists – training like Oprah for our marathon of a lifetime.
When my due-date rolled around, and then got left in the dust with no baby in sight, we didn’t worry. Even one week later, we proudly fended off our intervention-happy doctors who offered a variety of induction options. Topping 200 lbs with only one outfit that didn’t cause me constant annoyance, I politely refused, asking instead for an ultrasound non-stress test. I secretly begged my baby to make his/her entrance (or exit, really), and began a regimen of self-inflicted enemas, blue cohosh, and nipple stimulation. If one more person asked me if I had done the funky dance with my husband, I would have probably lost it; no self-loving 10-month pregnant woman has any desire to have any type of sexual relations, no matter how much people say it works.
My labor finally started just shy of two weeks past my due date. My mother was the only person who was excited that I had gone so long because she was able to make the birth. The polite phone calls and emails asking of any news turned into belligerent demands for information. But, after a long walk on a hot July morning, and several drops of blue cohosh, I finally felt belly-tightenings that came at a consistent rate. My excitement quickly turned to confusion as my labor seemed to progress fairly rapidly. I went from splashing like a seal in my warm tub, to groaning in pain like, well a laboring woman. I lost my sense of humor, I demanded a heat pad on my back at all times, and I felt the need to push.
Unfortunately, the need to push indicated nothing but more labor for me. Later we realized that my daughter was off-center on my cervix, and therefore allowed me to progress at a medically-acceptable pace, but afforded me visits to “transition” every hour for the last four hours of my labor. The medical staff heeded my every wish, our birth plan emblazoned on their chests, unconcerned with my confusing labor pattern. It wasn’t until my doulas realized that perhaps something might be slowing me down and called their midwife for assistance. A few contractions in a contortionist-like position did the trick and I was ready to push within minutes. I had made it without asking for pain medication or an epidural. I had proved all the naysayers wrong.
Stay tuned for Part 2 (also titled: THE GOOD STUFF)