This post has nothing to do with writing, but everything to do with being a mother.
Something happens as soon as a woman has a baby. It doesn’t matter if you’re 14 or 41, as soon as the kid pops out of your engorged belly, every woman immediately becomes an expert on all things related to child birth. You may not call yourself an expert. In fact you’re probably laughing to yourself right now, thinking you know exactly what I’m talking about. But you know in your deepest heart of hearts, if you’ve had a child, you’ve been guilty of stepping on a pedestal and giving another pregnant woman advice based on your own terrible, uplifting, wonderful, exhilarating, heartbreaking, scary, experience of pregnancy and subsequent delivery.
A good friend of mine is about to have a baby. It’s number one for her, so of course every day her facebook page is filled with all things pregnancy related. Because that’s what we do as first time pregnant women, we focus all of our attention and energy on the growing miracle in our body. Every facebook post is commented on by at least a dozen women with well meaning advice. Occasionally I’ll comment as well with a “congrats!,” or an “almost there,” or “pack some depends in your overnight bag!” As her due date rapidly approaches, her posts and the subsequent comments, have become even more entertaining. It may be printed right on the front of every pregnancy girl's guide to “Expect the Unexpected,” but somehow, as a woman, we think this will not happen to us. We will follow the birth plan! We are completely prepared! Or as my friend recently posted, “After a long and careful consideration, weighing all our options, we’ve decided that the right thing for us and our unborn child, will be to have this baby naturally, without any drug intervention.”
Last week she expressed nervousness for the approaching labor. She lives far away from most of her friends and family. Not knowing many women around her who have recently had babies, she asked her facebook friends to send in some encouraging words. It flashed me back to a time when I did the very same thing. The birth of my very first child. At the time I realized they called it labor for a reason. I mean, the Hollywood version of screaming women and painful deliveries, had to have some basis in reality. But as the time grew closer to have my own baby, I heard too many women say things like, “Oh sweetheart, it didn’t hurt at all,” and “it was over before I knew it, just focus on the baby and you’ll be fine.” One of my sister’s (I have four) didn’t even have labor pains, she went to the hospital because her water broke, had an epidural before she felt a single contraction, and then popped that baby out before she even realized what hit her.
I naively entered my contractions expecting the same results.
Was I ever wrong.
So when I saw this post from my friend, and I saw thirteen subsequent women post about how the labor wasn’t that bad, and all she needed was the support of a loving husband, even a “I had all seven of my children naturally and it was the best experience of my life,” I about had it. I knew I had to intervene.
With my first baby I arrived in the worst pain of my life at 2 in the morning. I was only dilated to a four. I wanted to die. I didn’t think it could get much worse. This went on for what felt like days, but turned out to be only hours. I was determined though, because “after a long and careful consideration, weighing all our options, we’ve decided that the right thing for us and our unborn child, will be to have this baby naturally, without any drug intervention.” Then the real pain hit. You know exactly what I'm talking about. I didn’t just ask for the drugs. No. I begged for the drugs. But there is something wrong with this body of mine. Because the epidural didn’t take on my left side, and when the next contraction hit, I began to hyperventilate. When I shredded the paper bag they gave me (paper bag? REALLY?) I was put on oxygen. A doctor came and told me to start pushing. The first push is when I started throwing up the medications they had given me to calm down. In the middle of the second push, they realized my baby was blue and not breathing. The doctor hooked a finger around the cord and then subsequently yanked her out with forceps. She started to cry. That is when I really started to lose it.
I decided to make a comment on my friend's post that labor, for me, was downright awful and all three of my labors would be considered by any doctor as good and normal. A good and normal hell maybe. I said she should feel nervous and scared, because it’s not an easy thing to do. And every woman is different, and every labor is different. So just because it was easy for one person, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for another. And don’t go in expecting it to be easy, or even enjoyable. But do expect, no matter how your labor goes, to feel more empowered, and more love, then you ever expected.
The second time around I was determined to do it naturally. I knew my body didn’t like the drugs, and the epidural wouldn’t take. So I went all out. Doula, midwife, breathing techniques, big yoga ball. Ten hours start to finish, no drugs, no hyperventilating. Lots of hot showers, and lots of really intense pain. The first thing my baby heard entering the world was lots of screaming. From me. It may have been a perfect delivery, but it was still something I was determined, in that moment, never to do again.
Another woman commented below me, “don’t scare her! You’re a wimp Laura- Labor is NOT THAT BAD. I had four naturally and it was the most WONDERFUL experience.”
The third time around I remember the exact moment I decided I REALLY didn’t want to have a third baby. It was immediately after the first big contraction. Because it all came rushing back in one tidal wave of emotion. I remembered that I had vowed not to do this again. I began begging my husband not to leave for the hospital. After all, if we didn’t go to the hospital, I couldn’t have a baby, right?!?! I told him I was done. I didn’t want a third child. It was about that time he realized I was being serious and we probably should get to the hospital sooner, rather than later. I think he was expecting another anxiety attack. Instead what we got was my worse labor yet. Everyone told me the third was going to be the easiest. My body would know what to do since it had done it all before. That’s a crock of crap. I was so tired 20 hours in. So very, very tired by that second day of labor pains. I broke down multiple times. Got an epidural twice to try and sleep. It didn’t take on the left side. Either time. The pitocin started pumping. There was no sleep for me, just the same numbers over and over again as I counted down to the next contraction. When it finally came time to push a full thirty some odd hours after I had begun, her head was so big she fractured my pelvis on the way out.
You want to talk pain.
It’s called Delivery Amnesia. I’m pretty sure it’s a medical term. The ability to forget all the pain of labor and delivery once that baby is in your arms. All those hormones kick in and you float blissfully along, forgetting how difficult all those hours really were. I can embrace the title of wimp. If wimpy is telling someone the truth of what they really can expect. If wimpy is deciding I needed drugs to get through. If wimpy means I won’t point fingers at the way other’s decide to birth their children. Every labor is different, every woman is different. I would never call another woman a wimp for the choices she makes. If a woman feels that doing labor naturally makes her tougher, or somehow more badass than a woman who chooses the epidural- well I’m here to tell you honey. It doesn’t. I don’t think any woman should have to apologize to others, or herself, for decisions made under duress. The woman that told you how easy it was, the woman who called me a wimp, she’s forgotten. She has the amnesia. And when the time comes, and things inevitably don’t go the way you planned them, try and remember a child just came out of your body. A living, breathing human being. You are incredible, and powerful, and you make miracles happen. You don’t need to apologize for anything.
Mothers are made strong. We have to be, because delivery is only the beginning. Mother’s can handle knowing the truth of what labor will be. Please stop with the sugar coating.
Mizthang247 you can call me a wimp, but you better step off your pedestal.
And my pregger friend, know it’s going to be hard. Go into labor knowing that things will most likely not go according to any birth plan you may have spent hours working on. Go in with an open mind, and God bless, everything will be just fine.