Few businesses I know of get away with effortlessly force-feeding otherwise intelligent women more predigested rubbish than the business of birth.
Women devour ovulation apps and at-home heart rate monitors: calorie counters and magic voodoo gender predictors: books on sleep training and programs for keeping in the best pregnancy shape. Maternity clothes are way overpriced and it’s widely known that big box stores prey on pregnant women more than almost any other demographic.
I was the epitome of a pregnancy perfectionist. I read every book. What to Expect. What Not To Expect. I tracked down some yellowed copies of childrearing books from the 1970’s that friends of mine, now grandmothers, recommended to me. I even wore hiking shoes to the grocery store lest I fall and smash my fetus to death by slipping on a ruptured can of Campbell’s in Aisle 6. And of course, I devoured the natural birth movement.
And boy, oh boy! Birth was the real treat for the Pretentiously Pregnant. I rejected all medical intervention right down to the heart rate monitors, flu shots, and even pain medicine. I nearly rejected potentially life-saving antibiotics for my baby when I discovered I tested positive for Group B Strep just before giving birth. (Science won that debate when I learned that rejecting the antibiotics gave my newborn a 1 in 200 chance of contracting meningitis.)
Some women have natural births and say it didn’t hurt as much as they expected. Others say it hurt during the “ring of fire” portion when the baby is crowning, but aside from that it was more or less bearable. I was not one of these moms. I was 10 centimeters dilated for five torturous hours. My doctor was napping and nobody called her when I began pushing because my birth plan said that we were going to try for a natural labor with a midwife. Well, said midwife slept through my birth, too.
My husband and I huddled together, trembling in our cave with no family, no pain medicine, no midwife, and no idea how to get this baby out. We pushed and pushed for hours. All that happened was that I shit myself about 48 times. My poor husband watched and held my hand, never walking away from me for the entire 12 hours I labored in the hospital. Towards the end of the labor, I begged to have a cesarean. I told a nurse I thought my heart was stopping. I told them I was dying. I told them I couldn’t go on. It was too late. The baby was almost there.
Once my doctor woke up she asked what the hell was happening, how long I’d been pushing, and why the room smelled like shit. (I made up that last part.) She coached me in pushing and finally asked if she could vacuum extract or perform an episiotomy.
We declined. Actually, my husband declined. We worked together marvelously in labor and he took over when I’d lost my energy. I was screaming, crying, trembling, and scared for me and the baby. Finally the doctor told me she wasn’t going to let this go on and if I declined intervention from medical procedures, she was going to have to pull the baby out. Suddenly she was stretching the walls of my birth canal and ripping my vagina open with her bare hands. She pulled the baby’s head and my husband then took over and delivered the shoulders. Our baby boy was out. I was deliriously relieved.
My pregnancy journey was one of information overload, legalism and perfectionism. Well, er… kind of like the rest of my life, I guess.
Then suddenly I’m driving home through the mountains to my remote 13-mile long valley with no more than a couple hundred residents. Oh yeah, and there’s a sub-six pound baby in the backseat who’s basically livid about said drive home. “Trust me kid, you’re not alone in this.”
Where’d All My Fans Go?
Then something utterly ironic happened. Postpartum.
You see, pregnancy was a breeze compared to postpartum. Even labor, for all it’s horror, was finite. During pregnancy I was healthy, fit, and pretty much had adoring fans at every gas station and grocery store I graced. The bigger my belly got, the more I felt like a rockstar… the more positive attention me and Ol’ Bumpy received.
But for all the parties and parades that pregnant women get, women in postpartum get the opposite. It’s like all that attention transfers directly to the child – not the person who’s ever-so-slowly recovering from staring death in the face to push out a screeching bowling ball out of her tiny yoni. She’s sleep-deprived, bruised, bleeding, and probably has some permanent damage in one or more parts of her body. How labor is part of God’s magnificent design, I may never know.
Pregnancy was one big frat party to the indefinite hangover that was postpartum. Unlike pregnancy, there weren’t any concise go-to books to help me get through postpartum. During pregnancy there’s one goal: to deliver a living baby. In postpartum there are more issues than you could ever write a single book about. Just a few are: sleep deprivation, post partum depression (PPD), postpartum fitness, breastfeeding, colic, mental or developmental issues, and the ominous issue of sex and intimacy; what was once a steamy reverie is now more like a steamy pile of… well, you know.
Then one day, I hit rock bottom.
Please see Part 2: How My PPD Almost Landed Me in Jail