Tag Archives: childbirth

The women are crowded into the dressing room, peeling wet swimsuits from their rounded bellies. An unusual cross-section of women – a technology specialist for the school district, a yoga teacher recently moved back home from life in the tropics, a couple of my high school classmates. One woman, 36 weeks pregnant with her second child, is in the middle of a divorce from her addict husband. “It’s better this way,” we assure her. She is stoic, accepting the way things are.

A set of pregnant sisters has come to swim class tonight. “Are you excited that your sister is pregnant too?” one woman quietly asks the older of the two.

“No,” she shakes her head. “But I’m coming to accept it. I’ve been planning my pregnancy for years – hers wasn’t planned. She always gets all the attention, being the younger sister.”

While pulling on clothes over still damp skin, a woman says her husband’s afraid she’ll turn in Regan from The Exorcist during labor. “Hmm,” I say, from the vantage of my second pregnancy. “Are you planning for a natural birth?”

She says she is, though she’s decided on birthing in the hospital rather than the associated birth center. “I need a big room for all my friends,” she says. “They’re weird so I don’t want them hanging out in the waiting room. Some of them have been to one too many Rainbow Gatherings.” She laughs. “Plus, where would they smoke in the birth center?”

“Hmmm,” I say again. I want to say that her friends certainly won’t be smoking in the hospital’s maternity ward, but I just smile and nod.

My first night in class there was just a small group, 5 of us, and one of us expectant mamas cried as she talked about the C-section that was scheduled a few days away for her breech baby.

“I just don’t want to be cut open,” she said.

But aren’t we all about to be cut open, our hearts exposed, in the process of bringing a new life into the world?

We think we are preparing for the marathon of labor, when really, it’s the parenting that we should be saving all our strength for. It’s parenting, more than giving birth, that’s the test of a lifetime.

Me at 36 weeks pregnant.

Me at 36 weeks pregnant with my second child.

In our childbirth class, the teacher compared giving birth to running a marathon. If that’s a fair comparison, then I might compare the whole experience of birth followed by caring for a newborn to running a Sahara desert ultramarathon. You think at any moment you might die from exhaustion, but somehow you just keep going. Eventually you hit the wall, and your mind and body do start to shut down. And then you make it through to the other side.

The 20 + hour natural birth experience was just the beginning. My husband and I arrived at the hospital on a Friday evening, after we’d both worked a full day. I was only having mild contractions, but my water had broken, so they told us to come in to the hospital. My doula joined us shortly after we’d arrived.

The nurse suggested I try to sleep during the night. Despite being tired, I couldn’t sleep, because of the anxiety and excitement. And contractions.

I didn’t necessarily plan to have a natural birth. Actually, through most of my pregnancy, I thought the idea of natural birth was crazy. According to my ob/gyn, natural birth was akin to having dental surgery with no painkillers. And why would anyone want to do that?

But my mom kept mentioning how epidurals had dangerous side effects. And other people were bringing that up as well. And then I had a nightmare about it. So I started thinking about it more. I took a childbirth class and got a free doula-in-training. I annoyed my doctor by asking him lots of questions.

By the time of the birth, I’d decided I just wanted to wait until labor was progressing well before getting an epidural. I thought that maybe, if things were going really well, I wouldn’t need an epidural. But I would definitely get one if needed. There’s no reason to experience excruciating pain if you don’t have to.

The doctor didn’t want to check my cervix during the night, because my water had broken and he didn’t want to risk introducing an infection. So I went through the night unaware of how labor was progressing. As the contractions got more intense, I distracted myself with deep breaths, music, and meditation.

Around 8 a.m. they discovered that I was dilated between 5-6 cm. I still felt like I was coping quite well and able to continue without drugs. Awhile later, I got into the jacuzzi tub.

My childbirth teacher had claimed that the jacuzzi tub was as effective at pain management as an epidural. I think that claim is probably false. But it did work pretty well. I would only feel intense pain for maybe a few seconds at a time.

Finally, around 12:30 in the afternoon, I felt like it was time to get out of the tub and start pushing.

That was also about the time I started screaming and crying and asking the nurse to give me an epidural.

She said no. She cheerfully said, “You’re almost done! This is the way birth should be!”

Easy for her to say. I thought I might die.

The nurse kept yelling at me to push, while my husband and doula held my hands.”This is the hardest work you’ll ever do!” said the nurse.

And then, at 2:07 p.m., little Baby Bear was born. They handed her to me and I held her in my arms for her first hour of life. She was so tiny, with perfect little features and a full head of beautiful black hair.

My husband and I knew we had met the new love of our lives. There would be no looking back.