I once read a birth story by a woman who had seven home births. The first six were by the book, but then there were complications during the seventh. Even though everything — mom and baby — was ultimately fine, she was so shaken by the experience that she elected to have her eighth child in a hospital by scheduled c-section.
The psyche of a woman surrounding childbirth is an interesting thing, isn’t it?
No matter what a woman imagines as the perfect labor and delivery scenario, there is always a strong, instinctual desire to be comfortable and in control. And yet, labor is, by nature, uncomfortable and unpredictable.
I’ll be honest. As my due date approaches, I’ve thought a lot more about giving birth than I have about the actual baby.
More than postpartum recovery, the sleepless nights, transitioning my older kids to a new sibling, or even one day explaining to my daughter that she was born during the Trump presidency — even more than all of that — I’m thinking about the delivery. I have a lot of fear surrounding what will likely be a precipitous labor, and the unknowns of WHEN and WHERE and WHAT will happen, and how long.
(A precipitous labor is defined as rapid labor that lasts three hours or less…according to my Google search.)
“Call the Midwife” is one of my very favorite shows. A lot of my friends in the same life stage as me can’t watch it — it hits too close to home. There are too many heart-wrenching storylines. But I’m able to disassociate with the hard things in that show (and I am talking about HARD things, like Thalidomide, typhoid, or spousal abuse) because they just aren’t part of my reality. I relate to the good parts of the show — the fortitude and love of the mothers, the relationships that bloom around the birth of a baby.
But I was watching a recent episode and a laboring mother was scared. As soon as that look of fear flashed across her face, I burst out in tears.
Fear and uncertainty in labor? I get that.
I’ve been very blessed, all of my deliveries have been fairly routine, without serious complication. But even though I’ve done this three times, I still have no idea what the fourth will be like, and the unknown is forefront in my mind.
I wrote about how I was dreading labor when I was pregnant with Mary Virginia, but I didn’t feel the same dread when I was pregnant with Thomas, maybe because Mary Virginia’s birth was actually kind of preferable. It took long enough (11 hours) that I was physically and emotionally prepared to have a baby, but not so long that I had to get my mail forwarded to the hospital.
Thomas’s birth was different. There was just 97 minutes from the very first indication to babe in arms. Even though missing out on 10 hours of contractions seems like the better option, after Thomas was born I was in a sort of shock. I guess I just need a little more adjustment time. It’s kind of like the difference between going to an Adele concert versus running into her at Starbucks. You don’t really know how to digest that sort of thing, ya know? You’re just here for a latte. It was kind of like that. Except with a lot more bodily fluid.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant with this baby I started thinking about labor; worrying about labor. Since my last labor was precipitous, there’s reason to believe my next labor will be similar or shorter. That worries me because what if I don’t make it to the hospital on time? I keep thinking through Thomas’s birth and remembering how quickly it went from “labor” to “delivery” and how close I came to giving birth in the parking lot. I keep thinking about how I had no control at all over how quickly it was happening.
When Thomas was born, Tom was so stunned that the doctor and nurses turned their attention to him and I specifically remember the doctor shouting, “IS HE OK!? SOMEONE GET DAD A CHAIR! DAD IS GOING TO PASS OUT!”
Dad wasn’t going to pass out, he was just imagining what would have happened if, say, we’d hit an extra stoplight. He asked a nurse, “What would have happened if we hadn’t made it in time?” She responded, “You would have been fine. The quick ones are easy to deliver.”
However, Tom is not interested in adding “fast baby delivery” to his resume. And me? A lot of women have a lot of different preferences for childbirth, including home births, but I feel most in control and safest in the hospital. Specifically, I do not want to be the lady who delivers a baby in her front yard, on the side of the road, in the hospital parking lot, in Target.
A funny thing I’ve noticed about the stories I linked to above — the mom always describes it as an incredible experience, not scary or harrowing. Maybe there’s something to that? Maybe instinct takes over? And even if you read my birth story with Thomas, I don’t even mention feeling fear.
I’ve talked to my doctor a lot about my worries, and she’s been awesome at explaining precipitous labor, helping me know what to expect, come up with a plan for my kids, and reminding me that when Thomas was born, if I’d left for the hospital at the first sign of labor, I would have had plenty of time to get to a hospital in a different city. Touché, doc.
I’m just weeks from meeting this baby, and we have plans in place that do not involve me ending up on the news. All that we have left to do is wait. And worry, of course.
When we unexpectedly found out we were pregnant, Tom and I sat together and as we digested the news, he said, “This wasn’t in my plan, but God is sovereign and he has a plan for this baby and for our family.”
It’s true, and it’s true for the arrival of the baby, too.
I’m coming to terms with the truth that there’s really nothing I can do to prepare. I can run through different scenarios and come up five tiers of child care, but that’s where it ends because I really have no idea what situation I’ll be in when labor begins. It could be in the middle of the night when my parents are here and Tom and I can rush to L&D together, or I could be walking home from the bus stop, alone with all three kids. And so as delivery draws nigh, I imagine every scenario.
I don’t know if this is true, but I think that when God said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…” He didn’t just mean the literal pain of actual labor. He meant the whole of motherhood, starting from the moment you decide to get pregnant or adopt — loss, worry, waiting. I think he meant the fear and worry that accompanies welcoming a baby, the lack of control; having no choice but to cast your cares upon Him and entrust your babies to the Lord of the Universe from the very, very beginning.
I still haven’t washed and sorted baby clothes, or set up a bassinet. I haven’t finished knitting her blanket or packed a hospital bag. But I’ve had no choice but to prepare for this baby with prayer and thanksgiving, that God is in control. It’s true, it’s true. Ahem. Even if I give birth in my driveway. Even then.
Friends, how did you emotionally prepare for labor? What helped you feel confident and ready?