Ellis & Barnes: Serious Mothers!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Surrender, Listen & Learn"

(Above: Typhoon looks forward to meeting his human-sister by singing Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely?")

So, for those of you playing the home game of PPPA, you might know that my husband Ted and I are expecting our daughter any week/day now. We have never been in such a situation before and have never felt so lucky to be in this situation. I have also never been such an absolute parasite for learning.

When this first all came about, I was stubborn and steadfast in my beliefs about what I wanted to happen. I have never seen an actual birth before. All of my experiences with birth were in the forms of television and movies where a gurney races down a hall to thumpy, pulsing tragedy violins and a handsome doctor says curtly to a paramedic: "Okay chief, what do we have?"

PARAMEDIC: Female! 35 years old! She was just going into labor when a glass piano fell on her skull! We only have minutes!

GEORGE CLOONEY: Dammit! Get me 300 cc's of medicine stat! I haven't lost a baby before and goddamn if I'm about to start now!

Either it's this scenario or something similar, but it's never a birth that makes women want to experience actual birth. Even in shows like TLC's A Baby Story (not the TLC featuring Left-Eye), it's always covered head-to-toe in "DRAMA!". That show really should be called A Fucked Up Baby Story. Every single tale is a cautionary one, leaving the viewer to sigh "Well that settles it. I can't go to the kitchen for cheese and crackers until I know that the baby born with the heart outside its chest is okay after the operation". It's never Mr. & Mrs. First Time Parents in a smooth labor, followed by bringing home the child and showing the first bathing, feeding and changing. ALL stuff first time parents can benefit massively from. But it's not as sexy as a wolfbaby with a face covered in hair, I guess.

So when we found out that we were pregnant, I made sure to scare myself shitless and go online and scour for anything and everything that could possibly go wrong with the birth of our child. I made sure to cover c-section horror stories as well as facts about how c-sections are used as a method to get doctors out of the office on time to make that Hoedown themed cocktail fund raiser for their country club. (There is some actual truth to the c-section research; over 30% of deliveries in the States are performed by c-section and not all of them necessary. But they're still an efficient way to deliver a baby safely.)

I had a vision of what I wanted for our birth: I wanted candles, a tub, being surrounded by just a midwife and my husband and to do this naturally. I cried at the mere thought of a c-section. I believed that a lot of c-sections were a way to get out the mothers as fast as the hospitals could. On top of that, I believed that c-sections weren't a 'real' way to experience birth because they weren't vaginal (or as primal.) I feared the risk of not bonding as 'well' as a vaginal birth. I pictured a room full of relatives all passing around our baby while I slept off a mountain of drugs and then upon waking, our baby looks at me and says (in her first words...and sounding like Bruce Willis): "Who the fuck are you?"

Unfortunately, it has taken the first half of my pregnancy to wise up a bit and learn a few things, but I'm really appalled that I could think this way about ANY mother who has been through a c-section. I apologise sincerely to any moms reading this who have had a c-section and I bow down to you. Whether babies come out of a tummy sliced open, a birth canal or out of our noses or ears - it's an amazing feat of what bodies can do. Bonding happens no matter what, and any baby is a miracle. In April when Ted and I first started having a few complications, the possibility of a c-section came up and I really had to let a LOT of things go. Immediately gone were my Little House on the Prairie thoughts of a serene birth in a tub. When our Midwife trotted out the blunt "high risk" baby doctor (who laid out a few cold, hard facts), I decided that very night spent in the hospital (while being monitored for contractions I wasn't supposed to have) to "Surrender, Listen & Learn". Because I own a computer that gets the internet, it does NOT make me a doctor or a skilled Midwife. It has certainly helped as far as gaining information, but my birth plan right now is to not have one. I am open to anything that is going to get our daughter out of my body safely. I welcome a c-section as much as a vaginal birth and know that the bonding will be as strong with both. As far as going naturally, well...I honestly don't know how well I could cope. Before learning of my fibroid tumors (the things that have been causing me a lot of pain for the past few months), I was too scared to take any medication at all, but I have been taking moderate painkillers and these are the only things that have helped me to not stick a fork in my eye out of frustration. If I'm in a situation where I can give birth through the ol' Lady Garden, I will nobly try to suck it up, but if I'm in a position where I need help managing my pain, I will ask or yell for an epidural, and I won't feel like I "failed" because of doing this. I know that a lot of women highly recommend pushing through that wall of indescribable pain (some even boldly call out their sisters for being caving pussies), but I'm not sure I'm made of that kind of steely resolve. Also, I have nothing to "prove". I just want my daughter to exit my body and be okay.

Speaking of Listening and Learning, it is currently what I've been driving people crazy with. Every day I have a new question for my Mom and Mother-in-law. I just sent my aunt twenty questions about her own labor. You know how people get bored looking at other people's vacation slides? I'm the opposite. I'm that gal on a rockin' Saturday night at the optimum getting laid hour, pounding on the door of the elderly couple who just got their 30 rolls of film back from their trip to Ohio and I'm begging them to: "Please tell me all about your trip! Show me your pictures, and don't leave anything out!" I scare old people with my tenacity and enthusiasm and I think I'm starting to scare family members who are mothers. I am a sponge, hell bent on gathering tips and philosophies because my philosophy is also: if I don't care for the advice (or it doesn't work for me), then I don't have to use it. But I'll at least see what people have to say. A girlfriend today said that cabbage leaves soothe sore nipples. That's enough for me to go to the produce section on Day One of breastfeeding - and happily with a spring in my gait! This is also good information for those of you who don't breastfeed, don't you think? See? There is SO much to learn from everyone for everyone.

I have a hope to not only the best mother I can be to our daughter, but the best person I can be, the best friend to my friends, the best friend-wife-lover-partner to my husband and the best self to myself.

I dedicate this post to Evangeline Georgia Douglass, the most wanted and most loved baby there could ever be. I am Surrendering, Listening and Learning. I am trying.

We'll see you (most likely) in a few weeks, Little Monkey. Whichever way you want to come out, your Dad and I will be there welcoming you, waving our hearts at you.

As we stumble along making glorious mistakes and wonder-filled discoveries, will you still accept us as your parents and show us the way to the stars?



At 5:27 AM, Anonymous Husband said...

*le sigh* (little hearts floating around my head)

At 2:12 PM, Anonymous marni said...

why must you make me cry at work? stoppit. i have to be respectable looking and tell people about their benefits. jeez...

i love you so.


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