As I stated in my first post, I’m pretty sure this universe where we are right now is actually a parallel universe to the one I once inhabited. I don’t know much about Quantum Physics, String Theory, or Hugh Everett’s “Many-Worlds” Theory, but I’ve read enough to know that this is a totally plausible explanation for where I find myself today. What’s more, the “old me”, my alter ego back in my original universe, is right now, I’m sure, enjoying all the benefits of my hard work and careful planning.
When did my reality shift to this new universe, you ask? Well, my adventure begins with a birth. Not MY birth…the birth of my son.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m going to write about how, after months of anticipation and many hours of intense, painful labor, my newborn boy was placed upon me (skin-to-skin, of course, for proper bonding), and we gazed in each other’s eyes, and the heavens opened with the sound of trumpets, and we heard a chorus of angels and the sighs of thousands of small, woodland creatures, and my husband and I locked tear-filled eyes, and that moment…that was when my universe changed forever.
You’re thinking of my alter ego’s blog. Perfectly understandable.
Because, you see, that is EXACTLY how I pictured it would be. I can’t really be blamed for this image because all you have to do is read a few pregnancy books and talk to a few people and this is the story you are told. Time and time again I heard, “Oh, it hurts like hell! But as soon as you see that baby, you feel no pain. You just fall in love and nothing else matters in the world.”
My hormone-addled, anxiety-ridden brain just ate this stuff up. But somehow the logic side of my brain got a message through the haze and told me to prepare. I attended birth classes, read several books on childbirth, took copious notes on color-coded index cards (in three colors – one for each stage of labor), and made a list of preferences about labor and birth to review with my doctor. #1 preference: Water-birth (Laboring in a big bathtub; relaxing right? I imagined my baby swimming around like the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album). #2 preference: Natural Childbirth (Like women through the ages, right back to cavewoman days). #3 preference: Epidural (Just in case, if I absolutely have to). Things I wanted to avoid: episiotomy (I’ll just let you Google this one) and c-section.
I read about c-sections and saw the movie about it in my childbirth class. No one in my family had ever needed one, and since my pregnancy had been normal so far, there was no reason to believe I would need one either. As I watched the c-section movie in class, I saw that they still put the newborn in the mom’s arms right after he was born. I was thinking it looked like the easy way out – no pushing or sweating or crying. They just hand you the baby.
OK, remember that the subtitle of my blog is “Life Lessons from a Cosmic Kick in the Pants”?
Cue Kick in the Pants.
So my day of delivery arrives (ten days late), and here is a brief synopsis: Water-birth – not possible. Natural labor – for a while until Pitocin is given. Then, holy crap, all bets are off – just give me the damn epidural. Complications. Emergency c-section.
The complications had to do with my son, and the nurses worked on him for several minutes before holding him up for us to see, saying, “Here’s your baby boy!” and rushing him out the door to the NICU.
No trumpets or choirs of angels. No sighs of small, woodland creatures. My husband and I did look into each other’s eyes, but any tears were not tears of joy but tears of “What the hell just happened?” Even if my son had not needed immediate care, holding him for “skin-to-skin bonding” would not have been possible like that movie had shown. Both my arms were completely numb, and I was having difficulty breathing.
This was not beautiful. This was traumatic. And it definitely was not an easy way out.
Some of you might be thinking – it turned out fine. You ended up with a wonderful little boy, so why does it matter how he was born? It could have been worse, after all. Indeed, it is shame that kept me from expressing my shock and sadness out loud. After all, some women can’t have children, or have miscarried, or have lost a child. I would not even suggest measuring my sadness with the same measuring stick used to measure their grief.
But this fact did not lessen the gnawing, hollow feeling I had for days after the birth. I couldn’t quite identify it until a friend said something that finally brought it into focus. “Hey! It’s almost like you never gave birth!” she said. I know she probably meant that all my “lady parts” were undamaged (and I had avoided the episiotomy after all). But now my feeling had a name.
Did I really not give birth? Can I not claim a connection to my foremothers through the ages who sweated and cried and pushed their babies into the world?
Of course time has healed this wound, and I can honestly say that no, it does not matter how my son came into this world. And yes, I did give birth to him, and it was not “easy”. Maybe the scariest thing, the thing that set my universe on a different course, was that no amount of preparation could have prevented or changed these events. They were completely out of my control.