My oldest son Oliver was born a week late. And I was pissed.
Because I’m a planner.
I like knowing exactly what is going to happen – because I scheduled it. I may not be the most organized planner in the world, but for the most part I very much like being master of my own destiny.
So pregnancy was super fun.
My husband, Chris and I decided to have a baby! It took a year. We thought we’d have two kids, two to three years apart. We had three…in 18 months. Don’t bother with math – there were twins.
The first time I got the thumbs up on a pregnancy test, I vowed to be more serious about healthy eating. I even bought a holistic pregnancy book complete with vegan recipes. From week eight to month seven my morning sickness was so bad that I existed on steady diet of cookies.
Even the thing I DIDN’T try to plan was a big joke on me. You see – I was terrified of the large needle involved in epidurals. So I decided that we’d just see how things went. Maybe I wouldn’t need it.
After giving birth, I decided there are two kinds of women who don’t get epidurals. The first are those who are deeply committed to a having a natural birth. With breathing techniques, special props and focal points. A partner who is ready to be there for all of it – the good, the bad and the ugly. Possibly with a doula.
And the second are women who give birth in the back of taxicabs.
I fit into neither of these scenarios. I arrived at the hospital with armed with a book and a husband so squeamish, he had to leave the room when I was getting an IV. We had no plan. And after about an hour of hard labor pains, I said, “fuck this. I will take that giant needle, thank you very much.”
So, no natural taxicab birth for me. Oliver was overdue, and I had had to be induced. Honestly, I was no rush. Pretty much nothing about birth sounded appealing to me.
The reason I was so pissed was that my mother, who was flying in from Florida, would have to leave the day he was born. She booked her arrival for the day after my due date, and a few days before my scheduled induction. But then my induction date got moved back. So instead of staying for a week to help me with my new baby, she spent all of her time walking up and down hills with me trying to kick start labor. Well – it wasn’t all walking… I eventually pulled a muscle and had to sit on the couch for a couple of days with a heating pad.
But I really tried to defy that new induction date. I even drank a castor oil and orange juice cocktail that several online sources claimed to be highly effective. No contractions…but I did lose about five pounds in one brief trip to the bathroom. On the upside, this made the weigh in at my final OB visit feel like a really successful Weight Watchers meeting.
So with Mom’s looming departure and the fact that I was absolutely terrified of giving birth, I started to feel rushed. I wasn’t excited – I just wanted to get it over with.
My mother’s sister, my Aunt Jan, drove down for the occasion. So the morning of the big day, all four of us headed out to the car together. Them, buzzing with anticipation while carrying my bags. And me with my pillow…the one week overdue version of dead man walking.
I vaguely remember a weepy moment where I announced to everyone, “I just wish it was tomorrow.”
I had no plan for this.
But I had my Mom. She had done this twice before and it was comforting to know she was there. I didn’t mention this previously, but my mom has always been my safe person. I could tell her anything – go to her with any problem – and she would always support me. On some level, I never stopped being that little girl who thought she could fix anything. And I have no doubt that if she could have given birth to that baby for me? She would.
Unfortunately that was not an option.
I had to do a lot of things that day that I wouldn’t classify as “pleasant.” But nothing was all that bad. The IV…the monitors…the epidural…the restless boredom of waiting. It was almost a shock when twelve hours later, my nurse announced that it was time. Chris and I hadn’t planned to have other family members with us for the delivery, but after spending the whole day in that room together? Why not?
My mom and my aunt each held a leg so Chris could watch. He would regret this decision later. But I was always very clear about my own disinterest. The nurses kept asking me if I wanted them to grab a mirror so I could see what was happening. I declined. “You know…I’ve got a lot on my plate right now…I don’t think I need a visual…”
The nurses also informed me at one point that I wasn’t really pushing and suggested that I use the same muscles that I would for a bowel movement. I understood this logic, but was a little concerned. “What if something else comes out?” They said, “then we’ll know you’re doing it right.”
And with that, I said goodbye to my last shred of dignity.
The pushing was hard, but within an hour I was holding a healthy baby boy.
After he was weighed and swaddled and pictures were taken, my Mom sat next to me and with a gaze that held every hour in that room, waiting, worrying, laughing, complaining…pushing…she asked, “so Kate, what did you think?”
I looked down at my son – this entirely new person who belonged to me and said, “well….It wasn’t my favorite day…”
Pushing a nine pound baby out of your body makes you very honest.
But that’s okay. If there was anyone in the world with whom I could be so unapologetically honest and know that I wouldn’t be judged…it was my Mom. She knew what I meant. As much as that day really did kind of suck…it ended with me holding a miracle.
And while I didn’t quite get it at the time, it’s obvious to me now. I was ready. For everything that came next. That was my introduction to motherhood. It’s complicated and scary, and kind of gross. But if you can just relax and not worry about plans, it’ll be okay. Because it’s also full of miracles.
I have been a mother for over twelve years. And I’ve decided that there is no such thing as a favorite day. They all are. Because they’re mine.