Margot Merrill on modern parenthood and the writing life

16Nov/102

Overdue

The sound of my brain over the last 12 days: a large sheet of metal being waved. Whappa, whappa, whappa. I’ve been up, I’ve been down. I’ve been optimistic, I’ve been sure, and I’ve been utterly defeated. She didn’t–she hasn’t­–come. My daughter’s still stewing / baking / dreaming / swimming in utero, while my mind whirs away trying to find meaning, a plan, an approach, a place of quiet where the whappa whappa sounds will cease.

It’s So Fucking Precise. Yeah. Right.

It’s one more example of the modern world being at odds with nature. A due date? An exact day? I can hear the ancients chuckling. People used to plan on the wide and natural range of a month or more in which a baby might decide he or she was ready. Even if they happened to know when a baby was conceived, they were smart enough to say: “you’ll probably have the baby sometime in late October to mid November.”

We, on the other hand, fixate on the due date. November 4th was ours. “We have to be ready by then! She could come early!” The infant carseat was installed–just barely on time, I thought. I washed all of the crib sheets and tiny clothes! Re-organized closets! Packed my hospital bag, and a little suitcase for Alejandro! I baked six dozen cookies for the nurses at the hospital! Bought “the best” infant sling from a woman on Craig’s List! We were ready.

For days around that magic and oh-so-precise due date, friends and family called and texted multiple times every day. 12 days later, they’ve pretty much stopped calling. I cannot stand the thought of organizing another thing, or doing one more load of laundry. And I’ve eaten ALL of the cookies.

I’ve been having contractions–oh yes. Pretty much every night from 8:00 p.m.- 3:00 a.m. The “Maybe? Maybe!! Oh. Maybe not…” physical sensations make for evenings where I don’t have much of an option to “sleep and relax” like everyone’s telling me I should be doing. Plus, she’s kicking the crap out of me all of the time. Could you sleep with someone’s foot pounding under your ribs? Or fall asleep to hup-hup-hiccups deep in your pelvis, which only you can feel? Around 3:00 a.m., when she stops moving, I really wake up just to make sure she’s still alive. Is she okay??? I poke her just to make sure, then lie there worrying.

The net-net is that as of today, I’ve come out on the other side of some seriously intense “trying” to go into labor, and have given up. I’ll be induced on Thursday night (2 weeks after the due date), and so…I’m not worrying about anything until then.

"Remedies"

That’s right folks – I’m not getting more acupuncture (3x didn’t do it.) Or waddling up another flight of stairs on my bum ankle. Or forcing my husband to have coordinated sex around a watermelon. Or eating weird spicy things that just add to the discomfort of heartburn. Nope – and don’t even suggest something else, because I don’t want to hear it and I don’t believe it!

I may change my mind, but I don’t even think I will take the castor oil our midwife recommended. “Only do it on the last day, as a last resort,” she said. “There are studies done in China proving that–if you don’t throw it up–it will start labor.” More detailed instructions: “On Thursday morning, make yourself a 4-egg omelet blended with 2 ounces of castor oil. You can put anything you want in to flavor the omelet…cheese and chorizo–whatever you like.” Mmmm, mmm good! This delicious recipe might start labor–but it will almost certainly give me serious indigestion and/or diarrhea.

Is that a way to begin this exciting process of meeting this little girl at long last? No. So right now I’m planning on going into the hospital this Thursday night, making myself as cozy as possible, and letting them do what they will to start the goddamn process. Clearly, this baby girl and I need some help–and screw me for wanting to avoid puking up or crapping out a castor oil omelet right before we go in.

So of course, as I joke about this stuff, my mind is still whappa whappa-ing, trying to decipher the Big Lesson I’m Obviously Supposed to be Learning. There’s two big themes.

Expectations

As in my last post, it’s about Expectations. I just didn’t expect to be “late.” Alejandro was only a day late (not including the labor), and the second baby “usually” comes earlier than the first. Plus, I was supposedly at risk for early labor due to stress. So the idea that the birthday could be something like five weeks around the due date–including significantly after it–wasn’t something I’d thought about. Only now do I know. Thank you, universe!

Control

Anyone, including myself, could have told me that you can’t control labor, or kids, or anything really. I probably even told you that recently! But there’s something about the modern world and medicine that tricks us into thinking we can.

The pendulum of birthing experiences has shifted so drastically in the last 150 years. From no painkillers until 1847, to the horrors of the first half of the last century, where women weren’t given any options and were treated like cattle, to the current-day whiplash where EVERY option is available. Yes, we’re now in the Age of Birth Choices: from more traditional plug-in-the-epidural-and-leave-it-to-the-Doc hospital births to home births complete with rented birthing tubs. Figuring it out is quite a lot to be tasked with. In addition to actually giving birth!

For our first baby, we always planned to deliver in a hospital, but we took many natural-ish classes to prepare. We learned we must avoid Interventions to thus avoid the dreaded C-section. We had a doula. Our first Birth Plan (the options are so many, you see, these days you need to write down what you want for the hospital staff) was so full of requests and medical jargon and supposedly self-protecting measures that when I cracked it open recently, it was clear I’d been talking out of my ass.

I thought from the classes I’d paid for, the experts I’d hired, and the books that I’d read that I was EMPOWERED. I thought I was EDUCATED. I was a modern birthing woman, goddamn it! What I didn’t know, even after all of that learning, was that little of my preparation or learning had to do with the physical experiences of giving birth. It was all mental, and it was kinda unrealistic mental preparation at that. I could've asked more women about their honest experiences, or watched a bunch of birth videos on You Tube. (Yes, they exist, and the full range–the good, the bad, and the ugly–might've made a more realistic impression on me about what to expect.)

So, we aren’t in control. Clearly. Again, thank you universe! I’m getting it! Just keep beating me over the head with this information! Ahh..now that’s better.

Giving Up is the New Me

It’s funny. I’m more relaxed at this moment than I have been in weeks. I know I’ll be induced in two nights. So there IS a loose plan, which probably soothes my modern controlling brain to no end. Yep–I’m handing myself over to the medical establishment.

I feel like I’m in very good hands, because I’ve chosen something in the middle of the pendulum. We have a midwife who’s delivered over 900 babies and who’s worked at our highly-regarded nearby hospital for more than 20 years. She’s ueber-experienced and she’s hands-on, unlike the doctor-I-never-saw during Alejandro’s birth. I trust that she will help me get this baby out!

There’s something nice about knowing it’s not all up to me. I’ve been feeling such pressure and responsibility to Go Into Labor! (And meanwhile, be relaxed! Stay loose and open up! Yeah right. YOU do it.)

I’m so happy to give up. At least it’s not all up to poor old over-thinking me.

I’ll see you on the other side of whatever may come.

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