[Ramblings of a recently postpartum mind trying to make sense of the experience. Skip unless you’re into L&D details.]
Typing up my latest birth story, I noticed something really odd: if read by an objective third party, it might not sound like such a bad deal. I mean, from an outsider’s view, the main post-water-breaking action could be boiled down to three ginormous contractions that made me wish desperately for instant death (but that were spaced far enough for me to fall asleep (!) in between), fifteen or twenty more minutes of unrelenting, excruciating back pain, 2.5 pushes, and---Baby!
Wow, what a lot of women wouldn’t give for that, huh? Although the doctor, in a post-action review, described this L&D as somewhat “surreal” even from her end of the proceedings, she still seemed inclined to classify it as not such a bad deal, considering. In my mind, however, this L&D looms large and terrifying. Go through that again, ever? I can’t even begin to mentally broach the edges of that thought without reaching for a paper bag to breathe into.
In fact, I think I was more nervous heading into this L&D than any of the preceding ones (possibly excepting the first). What gives? Am I the only one who’s actually losing confidence as she goes along? Shouldn’t the fact that babies and I have come out all right on the other side five times now make me ever more assured?
The pain is not fun. I dread the pain, but I can deal with pain, especially pain that I know is finite and productive. And there are drugs to deal with the pain (though unfortunately it seems I’m becoming less and less likely a candidate for such interventions, should I be inclined to request them).
The uncertainty is unsettling, to say the least. Does anyone really have “textbook” labors, going to the hospital when regular contractions are 5 minutes apart, proceeding smoothly through transition, etc.? I kind of doubt it, but I’d settle for my own stories resembling each other, at least. Deliveries #2 and #3 were somewhat semblant, but that’s about it. Well, at least I can count on the fact that the doctor will have to break my water every time, either as an overdue induction, or to get things progressing in a labor that’s already underway. Oh, except for the time that my water spontaneously broke first, and then nothing else happened until they started the pit drip. Oh yeah, and the time that it actually broke on its own mid-labor.
Well, at least I know that my babies are always late, or else reasonably close to due date. Oh, except for the one that was two weeks early.
Well, at least I know that my babies come pretty fast once it’s pushing time. Oh, except for the time I spent 45 (drug-free) excruciating minutes pushing to turn a large-headed misrotated baby.
Well, at least I’ll always know for sure when it’s time to head to the hospital. Oh, except for the time I showed up for a scheduled checkup kind of thinking things were getting going, and amused and alarmed the doctor by being at 8 cm already.
See what I mean? There’s just not even a hint of a pattern to go by here.
Well, at least I know that the babies always come out OK, with no hint of delivery-related complications. Oh, except for the time a baby swallowed a bunch of amniotic fluid that I think he’s still working out years later ;P. Oh yeah, and that time a few weeks ago when I delivered a purple baby with an almost-triple nuchal cord.
And there, I think, is where the real terror comes in. Those babies were safely delivered. And statistically speaking, and as my own personal statistics have borne out, I am much more likely to lose a baby in the first trimester than in the delivery room. But—what if there hadn’t been enough slack in the cord? What if his head had still been rotated the wrong way like it was when then doctor first checked? What if I had run out of strength to push him out fast enough so that the little bit of “fetal distress” became an unbearable amount of distress? (The fastest our little hospital can pull off an emergency C-section is probably an hour.) What if? What if?
My delivery room stories have all had happy endings. But I know that not every story does, and I ache for those who have endured a harsher turn of plot. In the delivery room, as a mother pants and struggles through what should be the most natural and fulfilling of roles for her, the bearing of new life, the words of the curse echo loud.
In the delivery room, these present sufferings, this eager longing, bear down sharply. The cursed crisis of the delivery room under which we groan is at once both intensely personal and weighted with the collective universal pain of our foremothers, indeed of all creation.We labor under the weight of the weary world: small wonder that we should groan!
In the delivery room, as the world condenses to another miraculous crisis, Eden is mere memory too distant to be anything but mockery, and the New Earth gleams just beyond the far horizon, promised rather than perceived. Between paradises, we labor by faith and not by sight. We must fight back the vivid uncertainty of What Ifs with the unseen but Realer than real, sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.
The curse is visible. The pain is tangible. The What Ifs, not just of pregnancy and delivery, but of the entirety of the child’s future life, are overwhelming. But hope that is seen is not hope. And lest we forget, Eve was called, in sure and certain hope, mother of all the living--after the Fall.
The What Ifs can be terrifying—but they cannot have the last word. As my overanxious brain would do well to remember, the last word has already been spoken. The plot of every life is watered by tears—for some a trickle; others a torrent. But take heart, o my timid soul: the Ending is happy beyond measure, its luster all the more brilliant for the gloss of each precious tear shed.