I never wrote David’s birth story, but here are the Cliffs Notes:
My first pregnancy was normal, healthy and relatively easy as far as pregnancies go. (Even though it did go on a little longer than I would have liked…) Labor and delivery was the same. Sure, there were moments of drama (and it went on a little longer than I would have liked…) but there were no major complications. Because everything went well, I had the delivery I’d planned on: a natural, drug-free delivery.
My second pregnancy is also going well. There aren’t any complications or red flags, and my doctors appointments are routine. This week I had my glucose screening test for gestational diabetes. If you’re not familiar with this test, here’s an overview: you have to fast, then drink cup of juice that’s thick with sugar, and you can’t even have a sip of water to wash it down. Then, you wait an hour, give all that sugar some time to give you a headache and make you want to puke, and then have blood drawn to see how your body is reacting to the sugar. Oh, and also, you’re pregnant, so you spend the entire hour wondering why they couldn’t let you eat 50 grams of sugar in the form of Marshmallow Peeps rather than orange syrup.
The nurse asked her normal questions: do I have any swelling, headaches, nausea? Then she asked me if we have much to do before the baby gets here. Um. I don’t know! Do we? DO YOU HAVE A PAMPHLET?
After the appointment, my doctor told me I could go ahead and schedule the rest of my appointments since we’re at the stage where we get a check up every two weeks. I gulped. Are you serious? This is happening fast.
The baby will be here before we know it. Which means I’ll be in labor before I know it.
I’ve been through the “giving birth” process before and, ok, I know I’m prone to exaggeration. I know I tend toward hyperbole. But hear this: childbirth is no joke.
Before I go on, I want to be clear about something, I decided to have a drug-free delivery with David, but it isn’t because I think epidurals are bad or unhealthy for the mother or infant. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pain control and, to be honest, I didn’t even really do much research about it.
I decided to go drug-free for several reasons, the main one was just because that’s what I wanted to do. It’s how I imagined childbirth. If I dig deeper, it’s because I wanted to be as present as possible, I wanted to be able to walk, and having a catheter and a needle in my back make me cringe. Also, my mom and my sister did it, and I tend to just sort of do what they do. (Except, my mom recently gave up most carbs and I have to draw the line somewhere.)
Plus, I knew I could do it.
When people asked me if I was nervous about labor, and I always said no, because I didn’t know what to expect. We took a class and I felt good. My water broke around 4:30 a.m. and David was born at 6:39 p.m. the next day. Labor was a breeze until noon, and then from noon to 6:39 p.m. I was screaming like an animal caught in a trap. For six and a half hours. My throat was sore for two days. The left side of my body ached, because every time I had a contraction I tried to rip my mattress off my bed.
It wasn’t blissful or peaceful; it was hard. It was exactly what God meant when he said, “I will multiply your pain in childbirth…”
When it was over, Tom didn’t say anything about being proud of me, he said he thought I was dying.
In the classes and books about natural childbirth they show you all of these different positions you can get in and the way they describe them, they make it sound like getting in a pool or “slow dancing” with your husband will give you relief. Relief. Turns out, writers of “natural childbirth books” also use hyperbole.
This time, I plan to go drug free again. But this time, I’m nervous.
I’m hoping, really really hoping, that this labor is faster, maybe even easier. (My mom and sister have a few speedy deliveries under their belt. That’s what I deserve, ok?)
But even speedy childbirth is still childbirth, which means sweat will be involved. Maybe even tears, definitely blood.
I DO want to have another natural, drug-free labor, but I’m not going to pretend labor was some sort of beautiful, peaceful, spiritual experience that I can’t wait to go through again.
Can I use the word dread?
Since I’ve been through it before, I know all the bad parts, but I know the good parts, too. I know that it’ll be over at some point, and I know that at the end of it I’ll get a baby out of the deal. So I keep reminding myself of those two things.
I also keep reminding myself that every labor is different, so the next labor won’t be just like the one I had with David. Probably, just like the last time around, I don’t really know what to expect.
But, still, I’m nervous.
I’d love to hear from other women. Am I the only one to feel this way? It seems like the “drug free” population feels like it has some sort of reputation to keep up, like we’re not allowed to say that labor was horrible and we’re nervous to go through it again. Most of the rhetoric about “natural childbirth” revolves around those words I already rejected: peaceful, spiritual, beautiful. Those words aren’t helpful. In fact, they make me laugh, roll my eyes, because are you kidding me?
Maybe it’s the power of positive thinking.
Maybe it’s delusion.