This baby, as-of-this-moment unborn, is likely the best thing that’s ever happened for my personal evolution and for my family. (I can say that now: my family.) The timing, and the very fact of her, is a blessing I couldn’t or wouldn’t have planned. It’s been a painful and mind-boggling nine months. As I admitted in June, I’ve been majorly depressed.
But had she not come into being, I would’ve spent another year or more doing the same things I’ve always done: over-working, over-doing, stressing out, and trying to organize my way into happiness. Instead, she’s forced me to look back at what transpired since I became a mom to Alejandro three years ago. And that’s finally allowed me to start identifying misconceptions I’ve carried since then; to heal some old wounds; and to look forward to being a happy mom to two.
Today is my due date. I’ve officially avoided an early labor. I’ve decompressed from my job, where I was responsible for every last detail of projects both big and small. I handed things off. I let go. I was planning on going back for a lunch with co-workers a couple of weeks ago, but instead found myself kneeling in the street outside of our house with a badly scraped-up leg. I’d twisted my ankle on a curb on my way into SF. So I never got there, and it’s probably for the best. I had to go lie down instead.
Too much, too much, too much, is the message I keep receiving. Stop doing too much! Having partially ignored this message, I’ve now reached the end of my List of Things to Do Before She’s Born, and now find myself on the verge of going nuts. And trying to be calm while I wait.
Waiting to Explode
Yes, I’m waiting to go into labor. On the other side of it, I can imagine holding her. That new baby smell. I can imagine having a family of four, and it being a sweet sweet thing. I can also imagine the first few weeks and months being hard. The agony of sleep deprivation, the bitch I might become at times. The challenges of trying to satisfy an infant and a willful toddler. Oh, how I want to experience these things! How I want her to be okay!
In between those future events and today, there’s the reality that I’m going to have a crazy fucking physical experience in which I will open up and a tiny human being will emerge…from me! “Mother fucking fuck of God” is all I can think of to say. In those hours (days?) of labor, I will be completely animal. Vulnerable. I’ll sweat and huff and moan and cry. My body, and hers, will do what Nature, not I, says to do. I won’t be able to talk or make jokes or analyze. I’ll be having A Birth Experience. It may work out great–it may not. How does one prepare for that?
The fact is, my last birth experience was pretty horrific. Am I allowed to say that? I’m afraid it’s a “dis” on Alejandro, who turned out great, and who in the end did indeed emerge just as he should have. I’m afraid to scare new and expecting mothers. (“Everyone will compete to tell you their horror stories,” I was told in a birthing class. “Don’t listen!”) So I’ve tried to keep mum about it all of these years. I tried to just move on. But the idea of giving birth again–I’ve been so scared!
I’ve realized that one of the key factors in my thinking of the experience as horrific was that my expectations were really, really far off. I expected a natural, painless, birth to go down in, oh, let’s say about 12+ hours. My older sister, the closest personal reference I’d had to childbirth, had her first baby naturally, without pain, self-hypnotized, in something like 9 hours! She was so zen about everything. She was comfortable as a mom from the beginning. I expected her experience to translate into mine through our shared DNA. At the very least I hoped my knowledge that a first birth could be like that would make it more possible for me.
The Last Time
Here’s what really happened: I tried stubbornly to do it naturally for way too long. After a day of laboring, I was in intense pain. We went to the hospital, but they said I wasn’t dilating. I could either get an epidural or go home. I went home for the night, and it was the worst night of my life. The hypnobirthing training flew out the window sometime after midnight. (How could I convince myself that it didn’t hurt when it DID?) Intense contractions kept coming, one after another. I wandered around our condo trying to relax. I huddled in various places feeling like a mad dog, very alone. (Rafael was fully present, but could do little to help me.) When we returned to the hospital in the morning, I still hadn’t dilated! After all of that pain and hard work! After 8 more hours in the hospital, I ended up getting an epidural, and then things moved along.
Ali was born 46 or 47 hours after my labor had begun. And I began motherhood as an exhausted and confused wreck.
I just wish that I had been told the following:
- A first labor takes between 12 and 48 hours, maybe even 3 days!
- You can’t plan it. No, seriously, YOU CAN’T PLAN IT. Give up control now.
- It does hurt! But contractions come and go. It can be done naturally – if those contractions are making good progress moving the baby down and out.
- For God’s sake, give up and try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working! Do it earlier rather than later, and let your partner help decide when.
- Positive visualization may not work for everyone. You may be more of a physical or auditory person. You may have to moan. A lot. Or move, or squeeze the fuck out of something. Just give it up.
- Get some f’ing painkiller if you are in lots of pain. (Duh. I thought that was my plan, but my plan evolved into some sort of sick endurance game about 12+ hours into it.)
- Rest up, and be kind to yourself no matter what happens.
I’m not planning it. I may get an epidural, happily. I may not if things are actually moving along. I’ll try not to talk or analyze. I’m going to be a beautiful and ugly and strong and weak animal woman, like the millions and billions of women before me who’ve done this amazing feat. Who brought us all into the world. I will be one of them. I will be one of you. And I will emerge on the other side, please God with a healthy baby girl, and with a new experience.
Because you love us, I know you want to know what’s going on, and when it will happen. So do I. But this plan is an unspoken one between her body and mine. It has nothing to do with a date on a calendar.
So, meanwhile, I am just, um, waiting. Trying to be still, and to rest, and to be open to whatever may come, and whatever she may teach me next.