We’re really getting down to the end here, and I’m still rather nervous about a number of things but I feel like we’re slowly getting the necessities done. Thank you, nesting instinct. I don’t know where I’d be without you. Lying on the couch, probably.
The two things I’m most nervous about right now are:
1) Recognizing I’m in labour when I go into labour
2) Changing our family dynamics
Unfortunately I can’t do much either of those things until the time comes. How do you learn to recognize you’re in labour without actually being in labor, or practice bringing a brand-new baby home to be a part of your family forever? We read about it, we talk about it, we pray about it…and I’m sure everything will work out fine, but there isn’t really anything concrete I can do to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
I’m kind of happy with our family dynamics right now. Rachel and Miriam get along so well. Miriam never cries, Rachel can’t do anything to her when I’m not looking, they don’t poke each other’s eyes or call each other names. They get along royally.
How long will that last after the baby is born?
How will we handle the transition of adding a child to our home while helping Rachel grow into her role of big sister?
How will we deal with the sibling rivalries in the years to come?
How will I divide my time between two little people without completely letting go of the housework?
Will I remember how to hold an infant? How to nurse an infant? How to calm an infant? Will I have to relearn all of that?
Will I ever have a moment to myself ever again? Ever?
It’s a good thing Karen will be here for the first few months. Thank heaven for Grandmas! (I’m already nervous about what we’ll do after she leaves and how we’ll adjust then. Chronic worrying runs in my family; it’s nothing to worry about—I’m fine).
And then there’s the question of if/when I’ll recognize I’m actually in labour. With Rachel it wasn’t until she was basically crowning, but I didn’t know it and I didn’t want to leave for the hospital because I had to go to the bathroom sooooo bad. Finally we just went in (it was a good thing we did because I was already dilated to a 9) and I remember asking the nurse if I could get up and use the washroom because I felt like I was going to have a bowel movement. She said,
“Honey, that’s not a bowel movement. That’s the baby’s head. You need to be ready to push in just a few minutes.”
Whenever I tell people that they mention how nice it would be to have such a pain-free labour that you didn’t even know you were in labour. And then I laugh at them because labour wasn’t pain-free at all; in fact it was quite painful, but nothing that I wasn’t able to handle, apparently.
I’ve had a theory about why this is and I just read about my theory in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth that my friend lent to me (thanks, Jill). I’ll use her words instead of mine:
“One of my sisters taught me that some women come to their first birth with life experience that has prepared them well for putting labour pain into perspective. I had just helped her and her husband with the birth of their first child at home and happened to mention that she had seemed to have an especially easy time for a first birth.
‘I kept waiting for the rushes to get as painful as my period cramps,’ she told me. ‘I used to get cramps so bad that I had to go to bed with them on the first two days.’ A woman who has had a miscarriage or who is used to severe menstrual cramps already has some life training that should help her to give birth without becoming terribly frightened of pain itself.”
--Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, p. 154-155
When I read that I told Andrew that that was exactly the reason I hadn’t realized I was even in labour yet. I had read that one of the first signs of labour was period-like cramps and I kept waiting and waiting for the contractions to be as bad as my cramps. Eventually they did—and it isn’t that it didn’t hurt, it’s just that I already knew how to handle that kind of pain. And I didn’t even realize I was in labour before the period-like pain started; by then I had been in labour for several hours, I’m sure, since I was almost ready to push when we got to the hospital.
Contractions are actually one of the first ways I know I’m pregnant. I start feeling Braxton Hicks contractions very early on, and although I wouldn’t describe them as painful, they certainly aren’t comfortable. I told Andrew it’s kind of like a charley horse, only there isn’t anything you can do to make it go away. All of a sudden your stomach turns rock-hard and then all of a sudden it stops.
I have several contractions every hour, and I did with Rachel, too. Since I’ve been feeling them for the past, oh, 31 weeks they’re pretty easy to ignore. And since I ignore them it’s going to be hard to notice when they turn into rhythmic, real contractions. I don’t remember having any rhythmic contractions with Rachel because by the time they were painful enough for me to pay attention to them they were coming right on top of each other. We didn’t time them ever because we couldn’t.
So I still don’t really have any idea how to time a contraction or what early labour feels like. Everyone tells me that I’ll recognize it because I experienced it before. But I don’t think I will because although I experienced it before I didn’t recognize that I was experiencing it.
It’s like falling asleep in a movie. Sure, I “saw” the movie, but if you showed me the scene I missed while I was sleeping I probably wouldn’t recognize it. Not that I ever fall asleep during movies or anything (*yawn* Star Wars *yawn*).
That isn’t to say that I didn’t experience pain during labour. I did. But I agree with Ina May that it is a different kind of pain—it isn’t a pain that you hide from or try to run away from; it’s a pain that you work with.
With Rachel I got a spinal block because I got a little panicky when the nurse informed me that I was almost through labouring, not just beginning. It slowed down my labour and blocked all contractions, which was kind of nice because I was able to rest for a few minutes before I had to push (and since I had been working all day long I needed a rest). I didn’t really like it, though, because I couldn’t feel any urges to push, either. I couldn’t feel anything. I think that might be one reason I tore so badly—because I wasn’t really working in tandem with my body.
I’ve decided to have a natural birth this time around.
And it maybe only has a little to do with Nellie’s tale of how she was given a sedative in the hospital I’ll be delivering at and instead of just calming her down and easing her pain they completely knocked her out, then pushed her baby out, and wheeled her into the hallway to recover excepting her to be “out” for another hour or more while they did all the baby stuff. Her husband followed the baby because he didn’t want anything funny to happen to her, either. Besides, Nellie was completely sedated. She’d never miss him.
Wrong. Nellie woke up alone in some random hallway, unpregnant.
Yeah, no thanks…although it does make a pretty good story.
I’ve been worrying about how I’m going to handle having a natural birth, but I feel a lot more confident now that I have some books to read on the topic (thanks again, Jill!). Nothing like cramming before an exam…or giving birth.
I read a lot last night and I feel a lot better about things. One thing in particular that has been bothering me is wondering if I’m “showing off” by having a natural birth. Like, the time my friend Rachel Carter said, “What is with these recipes that call for fresh herbs?! Do they think they’re better than me?! Who grows their own spices?!” And I felt guilty because Andrew and I had recently harvested our first bunch of basil and made the most delicious spaghetti sauce.
It’s not like we habitually grow herb gardens. And it’s not like growing your own herbs is showing off. And it’s not like not growing your own herbs marks you as lazy. So why did I feel guilty?
No one has ever said, “Oh, you want a natural birth? Show off!” But plenty of people have said, “Why? When there is medicine available that can take away all the pain, why would you choose to not use it?”
The analogy my father-in-law likes to bring up is, “You wouldn’t have a root canal without anesthesia. Why would you push a baby out without it?”
Obviously I feel guilty about it for some reason otherwise I wouldn’t rationalize it here. But I feel like I need to. So I feel guilty.
It isn’t that I’m going for a badge of honour, or anything. I know there isn’t any special prize for delivering a baby naturally verses not. Either way you get the baby. And it isn’t that I enjoy pain, really, it’s just that I think labour pains are different. Labour is a natural body function. Having a root canal is not.
My body knows how to deal with labour pains; it knows how to push a baby out; it just knows. My teeth don’t know how to handle having holes drilled in them—that’s not natural. Having a baby is natural, and my body knows what to do about it.
I feel that I severed the connection between my body and my brain when I got the spinal block with Rachel. I couldn’t focus my mental thoughts on delivering a baby anymore because I couldn’t feel what my body was trying to tell me to do. I think that things will go a lot smoother this time if I’m both mentally and physically there. The disconnect between my body and brain ruined all the work I had done before when I was labouring on my own. I didn’t have to focus on breathing and riding the waves of the rushes as I had been doing before I got the medication it was kind of disappointing to not have to work hard when I had been working so hard for so long.
I don’t know if that makes sense, and I know I am under no obligation to explain my rationale to anyone else. Since I’m the only one doing this thing—having baby Miriam—it’s kind of up to me.
I only hope that I get to the hospital on time because Andrew can’t handle the sight of blood so an accidental home birth really wouldn’t work out so well…