It was going to be so beautiful. It was going to be painful and special and something I would treasure and look on back with glory because I had been that strong. My daughter’s birth was supposed to the pinnacle of my womanly strength. I would stare fear and doubt in the eye and face them down because I was built to have babies.
I was built to give birth to my child naturally.
This decision wasn’t made rashly. I had read a good deal on the subject and felt as though I had weighed the arguments on both sides. I spoke with many women who had children and heard every horror story in the book.
I have to admit I was surprised when I realized that most of the mothers I talked with had had epidurals.
In fact, all of the women I spoke to used epidurals.
You know, when I look back on my pregnancy and my plans for labor, wondering how it all went down hill so fast, I often come back to this statement.
All the women I talked to had epidurals.
And they all liked them.
I didn’t speak to one woman who said, “Oh man, that epidural! What with the pain relief and whatnot, who needs it? Getting an epidural was the biggest mistake I ever made, and I went to Cancun on Spring Break!”
This should have been my first clue to as to what giving birth to a baby was really about.
But I digress …
In the beginning months of my pregnancy, I bought every book about babies my creaking shelves could handle. I’m not kidding, I had them all. And I read them all. With fervor and something close to obsession, I read each and every book about pregnancy and delivery because I am not a person who enjoys surprises. I ruin every birthday, every Christmas, every time my husband thinks he’s getting one over on me, he’s not. I’d tap the phones if I thought I’d get away with it! And while I did eventually move away from “What to Expect …” because it was giving me nightmares (seriously, every symptom I had, I’d check that book and it would tell me that I was probably having a miscarriage. I spent most of my first trimester with my feet up and my eyes to God, refusing to get up and get my own drink of water because I was afraid I’d shake the baby out) I kept up with educational madness. I don’t remember the exact day it occurred to me, but I somehow came to the conclusion that women who decided to use pain relief during childhood were quitters.
They were big ol’ quitters who were taking the easy way out because they didn’t want to experience the fullness and the breath of what nature was capable of. And once I latched on to this idea, I refused to let go. I pumped myself up with confidence and fed my inflating ego with couples yoga workshops where I was exalted and praised for my brave and noble decision to give birth without the aid of an epidural. My husband, who went along with me to these classes, participated whole-heartedly but still encouraged me to explore all my options.
“Just in case,” he’d say. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Well, he didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew what was going to happen. And while I begrudgingly read the chapters on alternatives to natural childbirth I knew in my heart of hearts that it was a waste of time.
I tried to look for confirmation from other mothers. I had hoped they would just repeat what I had heard in class (and what a great deal of my books had said), that the pain was intense, but with adequate techniques and focusing you could just ride it out, like riding a big wave onto the shore.
Not a single mother told me that the pain would be a like a wave.
Most of the mothers told me that the pain would be like a hammer.
Striking me repeatedly.
In my vagina.
Embarrassingly, I shrugged them off, chalking up their horror stories to their lack of endurance or ability to handle anything more serious than a hangnail.
This was wrong.
This was very, very, very, wrong.
Ladies, do not dismiss other’s stories of the pain of childbirth.
’Cause even though I prepared and planned and took all the classes and learned all the breathing/mediating/massaging stuff … I still ended up with a needle in my back.
And people, it was awesome.
’Cause guess what?
Having a baby hurts. It hurts a lot.
It hurts so bad I tried to run away from myself to get rid of the pain.
My labor started in a movie theater, progressed to regular interval while my husband and I were eating dinner, and by the time Battlestar Galatica was on, we were in full tilt, crisis mode. Excited that we were really going to have this baby, my husband busied himself around the house, making phone calls, and getting together last-minute items I had listed on a sticky note stuck to the door. I shuffled into the shower, because my birth class instructor promised things would be better in water.
And they were.
Only, I don’t know about anyone else, I don’t have an endless supply of hot water. In fact, our supply is rather limited. And also, the relief I felt from the water wasn’t as dramatic as I had been assured. It was the difference between say, being shot in one arm and being shot in both arms. Being shot in one arm probably hurts less, but you were still shot. We spoke with the mid-wife several times and even though my pain and panic were on the rise, she kept telling us to hold off. She told us that I was probably definitely in labor, but if I wanted to have a natural childbirth, the best thing I could do was wait to come in.
She then had the gall to suggest I try to get some sleep.
I felt like I had a bowling ball trying to bust out of my tailbone. Sleep wasn’t a likely scenario.