While we were at our friends’ barbeque on Saturday, just hours before I went into labor, I confessed that my ongoing pre-labor was making me feel less, not more, ready for the real thing.
Those last two weeks of the pregnancy were really rough. I know now that Ezra was every bit as big as he felt to me, rolling back and forth with his head firmly planted on my bladder and his feet and knees and butt taking up every available inch of internal real estate. I know now that the contractions I felt really were my uterus and cervix getting everything ready, and that the rolling and pushing from Ezra really was him getting into a perfect position. But at the time, all I felt was really uncomfortable and exhausted, and I knew that what I was experiencing was nothing like the intensity of active labor. I started to worry that if I couldn’t handle a little pre-labor, there was no way I was going to have the chops to get through the delivery the way I wanted to — which is to say, drug-free.
When my water broke and labor started for real, I didn’t have time for a lot of self-analysis. Once the thing was happening, it never occurred to me to wonder whether I could do it or not because there was nothing else to do.
Penny Simkin says that one of the tricky things about a fast labor is that “if the mother thinks these are the ‘easy’ contractions of early labor, she may lose all confidence that she can cope with labor once it progresses.” To this I say, thank god for childbirth classes, a sensitive husband, and a knowledgeable midwife. When those post-water-break contractions started, I knew they were not early labor and nobody told me otherwise. Our awesome midwife Amy was totally in tune with what was happening, and her calmness was contagious.
My labor turned out to be like a roller coaster with a single dramatic drop. I had spent two weeks slowly getting pulled up to the top of that steep first climb, my stomach tightening with each ratcheting pull. And then I just went over the top. I love roller coasters, because I’m actually incredibly risk averse and unable to force myself to do scary fun things (jumping off cliffs into lakes, that kind of thing), but roller coasters take the choice away from me. You only make the choice to step into the seat and buckle up.
Of course the metaphor only stretches so far. This was a roller coaster ride of INTENSE PAIN that ended with half an hour of CRAZY SCREAMING and the terrifying sensation that my pelvis was about to be broken in half. Also, at the end, Sandy handed me a purple infant, which rarely happens at Six Flags.
After it was all over, Amy sat on the bed with us and said, “you know, you probably don’t want to move any farther from the hospital…or, maybe think about a home birth for next time.” Next time. That’s a ways off. Still, it’s exciting to imagine getting back on that roller coaster, especially now that I know what’s at the end of that terrifying drop.