Giving Birth to a Better Me…

Before I had children, I resolved to do it naturally. I wanted no part in medical sciences; my children would come into this world in my home in a relaxing lukewarm whirlpool bath. I would cuddle with them, give them their first bath, breast feed right after they were born, et cetera. However, life and circumstance, poverty, and my poor health, forced me to give up on some of those idealisms. Instead, I had to see an OBGYN once a month from my fourth month of pregnancy on, and then once a week in the latter half of my third trimester. Still, I told all of my friends and family that I would never take the pain medication. Most people thought I would fail. They told me childbirth hurt, that I was too weak; they told me lots of things—I listened to none.

Three weeks prior to my due date, I measured two centimeters dilated and fifty percent effaced. Any woman who has been pregnant will tell you this does not necessarily mean labor is imminent but is a possibility. For the next two weeks, every random abdominal ache was, in my mind, cause for concern. After all, I had no transportation and both my job and home were too far from the hospital to walk. Being impoverished, I could not afford the astronomical bill had an ambulance ride been necessary. Until a week before my daughter’s due date, my mornings were consumed with classes. Nights, I worked as a door greeter at a local Wal-Mart, on my feet for nine hour shifts, with erratic breaks due to the Front End (cashiers, greeters, and cart-pushers) being short staffed. My coworkers and classmates were shocked that I continued to work and attend school each day. I complained far less than others felt I should have, but I knew the pain of chronically swollen ankles and excess weight on my pre-damaged spine was nothing compared to what was to come.

Because I had been in so-called “latent phase” of labor for three weeks, I checked into the hospital on May 14, 2007, three days after my daughter’s original due date, for a scheduled induction. Prior to going to the hospital, my daughter’s father had burned a CD of Celtic music for me to listen to during labor. I probably would have gone into labor on my own—the nurses speculated it might have been later that week—but my medical issues made us decide to induce. I could not wait to meet my daughter!

Once the Potocin they had given me kicked in, labor went rather quickly. The contractions were painful, and I kept grabbing his hand or the metal bedrails. Nevertheless, he stood by my side, feeding me ice chips, rubbing my back, talking me through the pain. At some point, my friend Jasmine also showed up to be a labor coach. Between the two, I was able to remain mentally calm, though I could not sit still. I turned onto my hands and knees, then returned to my back; I wanted to sit up, lay down, and roll over—all of these activities requiring the assistance of at least one or two other people. Jasmine and Robert were patient with me, as was my nursing staff, although the nurses and doctor were betting on when I would beg for pain medication. They lost those bets however. It was my first time giving birth, yet I only let out the occasional whimper, and begged for no drugs. I kept my resolve.

When the time came to push, it was of course far too late for medication. Trying my best, I pushed when I was told. As my daughter’s head began to crown, I half-jokingly asked the doctor if he could get the “baby vacuum” and pull her out of me. Afterwards, I learned the increased pain at the last minute was attributable to her tearing me slightly, causing me to get exactly one stitch. I did not mind though. As much as labor hurt, I was able to get through it, giving birth to my first child with zero pain medication. As the nurse laid her upon my chest, I could only whisper oh god: tears of joy streamed down my face. In that moment, I loved another human being far more than myself. I could not believe what I had accomplished. For ten lunar months, my body fed and nurtured this tiny being. And for twelve painful but worthwhile hours, my body labored to release this little angel into the world. I did this. I was strong enough.

If I can go through my pregnancy—chronically numb wrists and hands due to carpal tunnel, mourning sickness throughout, severe water retention, excessive high blood pressure, gaining 72lbs for a total weight of 270lbs, a pre-damaged spine that hurt more with each month, a pre-damaged bladder that made pregnancy harder on me than other women, et cetera—and through twelve hours of unmedicated labor, then I can do anything! Now, when I have a headache, or my back hurts again (often a daily occurrence) or my urinary incontinence disturbs me, or any other daily non-pregnancy related malady occurs, I know that I can handle it. I know that my body is strong enough, that I will get through it.

Momento–I know she heard you crying as he put a blister in your womb. Did it hurt more letting him in or giving birth to a sin?

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