I remember giving birth to Clara.
I remember all of the jolly, relaxed nurses bustling in and out of my hospital room, dutifully checking my blood pressure while informing me of what would happen before, during and after surgery. Then I signed my life away on sheet upon sheet of paper, fully informing me of allllll the risks I was about to undertake.
It’s funny that for as nonchalant as everyone seemed about the entire thing, it certainly does require a lot of paperwork and multiple medical professionals to tell someone how grave and serious having a c-section is and all of the risks that come with anesthesia and the possibilities for infection, bleeding and so on.
The nurses smiled while they handed the forms to me, their demeanor and smile casual while the thickness of the paper suggested something much more dire.
Once they would get through their litany of instructions and information, the nurse would smile at me and with a wave of a hand say, “it’s okay, you’ve done this before so you already know all of this.”
I was incredibly skeptical that I wouldn’t feel any pain during surgery. How is it possible to be awake with your gut hanging open and not feel…anything? I didn’t know how long it would take for her to be born or for the remainder of the surgery afterward. I missed all of this with the birth of my first child because I was put under. His birth a matter of haste and an emergency rather than preplanning.
All I knew is that once baby came out, my husband would be leaving my side to be with her. An idea that I was not tickled with. I was a ball of knots as they wheeled me into the frigid operating room. I arrived to “Watermelon Crawl” playing on the radio while the staff casually conversed amongst each other like it was a typical day at the office. I didn’t understand how they were so calm.
I thought I’d be met with furrowed brows and stern, serious looks that read,” oh, I see…” while the staff quietly murmured amongst themselves. I even thought that someone wearing glasses would remove them dramatically and clean them, just for an added effect during such a serious moment. This is a major surgery, after all.
On the outside, I was quiet and polite. On the inside? I quaked. All while these people were talking about grabbing coffee afterward and their dinner plans. Even after Clara’s birth, the hospital staff was rather hand’s off with me, partially based on the assumption that since I was a second-time-around mom, I surely knew all of the in’s and the out’s of having a baby. And there were other new moms to probably attend to.
One of the most defining moments that a woman can have, that any human being can have, is welcoming a new child into the world. Now it just comes down to having consent forms filled out, popping out a baby and then getting the maximum hospital stay that insurance will allow before heading home.I think that in general, we have come to expect that the bounce-back and adjusting part of welcoming a child will just hurry itself up. I think that this is especially true if you have had more than one child. Since the element of “surprise” or newness is no longer a factor, it should simply be a matter of firming up a routine. And then you’re on your way. Right?
Have we glossed over all of this so much?
With all of the medical technology at our disposal, the marvel of the modern birth experience, the sleek packaging of baby products, the heavy exposure of celebrity parenting – have we forgotten that pregnancy and birth are actually really big deals?
With the first baby, we may anticipate that mom will be nervous, that she will suffer the steep learning curve that comes with taking home a newborn. We may expect that maybe she won’t be able to hack it at first. We expect to have offer notable support in the coming weeks ahead. Perhaps, though, after the first baby, we just assume that she has this whole thing down.
Can I most assuredly set the record straight about things like that? Can I tell you about the frustration that is staying up all night with a newborn and entertaining a toddler all day long? Can I please tell you about the physical toll multiple surgeries or deliveries has on a woman’s body? Can I just tell you that motherhood is sometimes not an automatic reaction, like remembering how to ride a bike?
When we moms welcome another little one into our lives, while we certainly have experience, it is still a jarring, stressful, exhausting test of endurance. Whether it is our first baby or our fifth.
Sometimes, the transition and the journey for one is smoother than it is for others. Some moms have the blessing of smooth pregnancies, uncomplicated deliveries and peaceful newborns. Some mothers do not. So which is normal?
With my third pregnancy, I pursued a VBA2C. While that did not end up being the experience that we had, I’m glad that I pursued the process for as far as we felt comfortable. I was surprised though at my emotional shift through everything. I felt like a first time mom with the anticipation of delivery looming and the mystery that the child in my womb still was to me. It all felt so new.
While many folks were incredibly supportive in my wishes not to have another surgery, my decision puzzled others. To them, being able to schedule my delivery date, be given substantial pain medication and forego labor sounded like the most ideal situation. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to the process of labor and delivery?
For the sake of not venturing off into another issue altogether, one that I will write about when the time comes and I’m ready, I’ll stop there. But I point this out because I think that it’s something worth noting: the casual and slightly belittling attitude that we have toward bringing children into the world.
It’s how we view pregnancy, birth and recovery now. It’s viewed more like a packaged product than the natural, necessary, powerful and yet exhausting, time-consuming, noble undertaking that it actually is. If you’re a first time mom, not quite a mom yet, or growing your third or fifth baby – it’s a big, big deal.
And I want you to know something: I see you. And you’re not alone.
When you feel alone, in the middle of the night, when it’s just you and baby. Or when you you’re hiding in the bathroom, trying to block out the sound of little feet outside of the door. When you feel like a different animal, surviving off of minutes of sleep and food and hopes and dreams and that’s pretty much it. You are not alone. You don’t have to hurry up and “get back to normal.” You are allowed to feel exactly how you feel at this very moment.
This experience has taught me how much I really don’t know about this entire human-growing process. There has been a newness here that I have not before experienced. And the most profound thing it’s shown me is that growing a baby, delivering a baby and mothering a baby is incredibly noble, sacrificial and difficult work. That a mother’s feelings are valid. Her wishes are valid. Her desires are valid. Things that I probably should have already known, but didn’t really appreciate as deeply until this go around.
Whether she C-section’s. Whether she delivers naturally. Whether she uses an epidural. Whether she delivers at home or a hospital. And whether she has done this before or not: It’s a big deal. And every mother deserves support during every step of her pregnancy, delivery and recovery.
Three babies in, I used to think of all of it in a one size fits all approach. I thought of it like hurdles to get over and then things would stabilize and this would all be behind me – not entirely off base.
I now see birth so differently. I now see recovery so differently. I see these first few weeks so. differently. There is no one size fits all pregnancy, delivery or even recovery. And it’s something that no mom should have to be afraid of.
I don’t know much in the grand scheme of things. I’m not an expert on pregnancy or newborns. I’m only experienced in my journey and only versed in my feelings. I don’t have much to offer to the conversation except that I am just another mother who has been there.
But sometimes, that’s all that we need to be for one another.
I should probably go and put on pants now.