Thursday, July 28, 2011

Discovering childbirth

 Never, ever, ever have I been a morning person (I'm still not), but luckily for my son, he did not inherit those sentiments from me. Every morning he wakes up with a huge smile on his face, wriggling around in whatever is left of his swaddle that he hadn't already weaseled out of, and coos at me in anticipation. I sing him our Good Morning Song and free him from the confines of his Swaddle Me, and he stretches so intensely, I feel loosened up just watching him. It's only an hour before he is ready for a nap again, and his good mood will only slowly decline as that hour approaches, but in those first few glorious moments when he wakes up, life is perfect. I am awed by this amazing little creature. We are more connected to each other in those moments than we are at any other time of the day.

This morning, I woke before my son, who was curled against me like a sleepy kitten, and I ran my fingertips up and down his back for a while, thinking. My eyes landed on two big crayon drawings taped to the wall above my bed. While I was pregnant, a book I was reading suggested creating your own "Birth Art," depicting your idea of what birth will be like. My husband joined me in my little arts and crafts moment, and he drew a beautiful picture of him and I, holding our little baby, surrounded by love and light. I made a sequence of small drawings in a circle, representing the progression of labor. This morning, looking at that picture, I nearly laughed out loud at how vastly different my labor actually was to what I had imagined.

Technically, if Collin had it his way, he would still be inside my womb to this day. I started showing signs of labor at 38 weeks gestation, so I was braced for an early arrival. Instead, I got 3 and a half weeks of contractions and vomiting. I tried EVERYTHING to induce my labor: acupuncture, long walks, squats, a terrible herb called Black Cohosh that I renamed "Black Fire Death, " just to name a few. Eventually, I was convinced that birth was a myth, and in fact I was going to be pregnant forever. I knew the situation was desperate when my own mother suggested I have lots of sex (awkward). And as fun as that was, it wasn't working, anyway, and let me just say nothing puts you in the mood more than your husband maneuvering himself around your bloated, farting, extra fifty pounds of post-date sexy. Yeah, baby.

I ended up finally in labor the morning of my scheduled induction. To properly convey the pitiful irony my birth art turned out to be in comparison to the real thing, I will break it down for you:

Fantasy: I wake up with the sun, knowing I am in labor, happy about it and ready for the challenge.
Reality:  I labored in my sleep until the pain jarred me awake with a feeling of urgency and panic, where I then paced around my apartment, clutching whatever was closest and making a strange, tribal "Oooooooo" sound.

Fantasy: My husband and I stroll, hand in hand, through the lagoon by our apartment and admire the beauty of life as my labor slowly progresses.
Reality: The lagoon was closed because it was so early in the morning, so we tried to walk down town, but a big contraction made me holler like a crazy person and sent us shuffling back to the car at the pace of an urgent snail so nobody would call the cops. We ended up in the parking lot of Jack In The Box, and I labored through bites of a greasy breakfast sandwich, praying I wouldn't vomit or explode, because both felt imminent.

Fantasy: I take a long, luxurious bath in the comfort of my home to help relax me and ease the pain.
Reality: I park my groaning, cursing self in the tub of the Labor and Delivery unit, because I have already been in the hospital for hours and I'm getting desperate. The bath does feel good for a little while (I dilated two centimeters!), but soon the pain is even worse, and I refuse to get out until I am assured there is a nurse waiting for me in my room with a shot of pain killers.

Fantasy: I am riding through my labor, in the zone and focused, while my husband protects me from intervention-happy hospital staff who try to push drugs on me.
Reality: Five seconds after that shot of pain relief, I ask for an epidural.

Fantasy: I give birth with the power and strength of a goddess, and everyone around me is humbled and quiet.
Reality: I finally manage to push the baby out after almost three hours, delirious with fever and exhaustion, and everyone around me is panicked. Afterward, the anesthesiologist removes my epidural while a tired, frustrated nurse who is held 3 hours past the end of her shift tries to help me pee.

While I gave birth, all I thought about was how I was never, ever, ever going to do it again. However, now that the drama is behind me, I know for certain that I will.


  1. Yep, that about sums it up. Except the goddess part, because that's true in a much grittier, desperate and agony-laced way than our illusions suggest. Childbirth is real and powerful and way beyond romantic notions, and you did it.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I found your blog because it keeps popping up in my Google Alert !() I published an award winning book/memoir this spring called A Double Life, Discovering Motherhood. The most recent review is here: & my website is here: Your blog is lovely & I appreciate your sensibility. Best, Lisa

  3. (i still think you gave birth with the strength of a goddess...)

    and look at the stunning end result!!!