With all the thanks I’ve received for writing an epidural birth story, I’m starting to feel like I’ve broken some heavy silence we’ve all been afraid to crack. Seriously, are there people out there who are afraid to admit they want drugs during childbirth? Afraid of being criticized or ridiculed? Afraid we might think badly of them for not having a natural birth? Huh. Because now that I’m an authority on the matter (laugh all you want), I’m here to tell you that giving birth needs to be all about you (after all, nothing will ever be about you again). There are those who would chastise me for making this statement, who would remind me that it should be about the baby and the baby’s safety*. To them I say that birth is traumatic for the baby no matter what, whether it’s being squeezed through a passage the size of a roof gutter or being pulled suddenly through a sizeable incision. Being born is risky business, and the kid’s biggest ally in the process is her mother. Mommy should be as physically and psychologically content as she can be in order to be the best ally she can be, and if that means drugs, or no drugs, or a pool of water, or a necessary C-section, then so be it.
And as for the phrase “natural childbirth,” what, I ask you, is more natural than bringing forth life? Yeah, I know it’s just terminology, but what is the flip side? Unnatural childbirth? Was what I did was “unnatural” because I couldn’t feel pain? Hell. No.
[*Edited to Add: I want to make sure everyone understands that I understand that sometimes it’s ALL about the baby’s safety, and our preferences don’t matter. I didn’t want my doctor to use the vacuum, but he felt he had to because Mia was in distress. There are other situations even more serious than that. I’m not talking about those situations here; I’m just addressing those times when things are normal and we as mothers can choose the birth we want.]
I mentioned my “labor shirt” in the birth story, and after someone asked what exactly a labor shirt is, I thought I should elaborate.
In every single video and photo essay of birth I’ve ever seen, the laboring woman is always half (or completely) naked with her breasts bared for all to see. I decided after my childbirth class that I could handle my hair being messy, my composure going to hell, and my ladyparts all wide open for everyone to see, but I drew the line at bare boobies. So I bought a maternity cami/tank top just for the event so I could at least salvage a sliver of decorum. It wasn’t to be, though–they made me strip down even before they admitted me. Thankfully, they gave me something else to wear, but there’s just something about your own stuff. I made up for the shirt deficit in pillows–three of my own from home. It was a reasonable trade.
Those of you who have been reading about my pregnancy attempts from the very beginning might recall that I assigned names to my eggs and the sperm donors I used, as many of us do. You might remember the early days of Joey and Geena, which ended badly. There was a second donor after Joey; I never named him, and maybe that was the problem–he just never felt welcome. And then I sent Geena packing, because Donor #3, who was super-extra-crazy fertile, resembled George Clooney (so said the sperm bank) and was dubbed Dr. Ross (think “ER”), and the most logical next step was to name the girls Rachel. It took Ross and Rachel one try, so all that talk of signs and good omens worked for me, but I feel the need to clarify one tiny detail, lest you think I’m a complete and total lunatic.
My daughter’s middle name is Ross. Had she been born a boy, her first name would have been Ross. This was decided long before I made up names for my reproductive matter and assigned real live faces to the sperm donors. That the real live face I assigned to the donor who would help me conceive Mia was actually Ross is a coincidence. You see, my grandfather’s middle name was Ross, and even before the attempts at conception began in earnest, I knew I wanted my child to have that name. I wanted him to be a part of my child, not just in spirit and in my mind, but in my child’s mind as well. Someday I will tell Mia about my Papa, her namesake, and she will know him through me, and this will make me happy. Only having him here in person, a real living presence in her life, would make me happier.
But then, a part of me believes this has already happened. That in some cosmic way, Mia was with him before she was with me. That the curl in her hair and the iron in her young will came from him. That now, when she cannot really communicate her experiences, she remembers him, and later, when she can communicate, she will have forgotten their meeting. And I will be there to fill in the gaps.