Sunday, June 19, 2011

Labor, Delivery and More Stuff We're Never Really Prepared For

Talking to my oldest son for almost three hours made me want to furiously pound out what you are about to read. Having long conversations like this is not something we do ordinarily, as he is a young man doing his own thing for the most part now a days. Him sharing himself with me is welcomed and sad at the same time or more like bittersweet because I know that this willingness to connect comes from a place of contempt just a few short years ago. As parents, we all go through our teenagers struggles to get to the end of the rainbow we know exists but what seems too good to be true in the midst of those battles with them, but it is something we all anticipate eagerly. We all think "it's got to end sometime... right?" And it does, eventually and that's when these kinds of conversations that happened tonight, signal the end of what we thought we'd never make it through. The teenage years is probably the most excruciating mental experience loving, caring parents will ever have with their children. But the most excruciating physical experience women will ever face is labor and delivery.

That emotional pain I went through to deliver my boy is probably what made me think of the physical pain and torture I went through almost 19 years ago. In reflection, life always seems to bring you the best moments after all the worst times. It's not because you appreciate them more because of the hardship, it's just that you get a breather and are glad to feel some happiness and good times again.You do appreciate it, for sure, but more than anything, I think it's a sense of relief too. You've got smooth sailing for a bit.

Motherhood is filled with so many experiences and emotions, good and bad. From beginning to end, it is a never-ending responsibility of love and commitment. And a responsibility that also brings great joy when the seed demonstrates it has absorbed some of what its mother has tried to impart to her brood over the years. But experiencing the thing that actually brings them into this life is something that is rarely is talked about other than 'oh... you're going to have a baby... how wonderful!' They don't tell you about all the things that would want to make you turn right around and say 'NO WAY!'

Finding out about having a baby fills you with incredible joy at the possibility of a new life (or maybe incredible despair?), but in my case it was filled with joy and anticipation for the emergence of a life that would change our lives for the better. After that, the rest of the pregnancy becomes moments of absolute joy mixed with moments of 'what the fuck have I gotten myself into?' and then back again for feelings of total joy. Back aches, waddling, incontinence, heart burn... oh yeah, so much joy!

When the 'Labor Day' arrived with its intense prodding for about 14 hours, I was convinced I had made a huge mistake. During those hours, I vacillated between excruciating pain and joy at the prospect of finally meeting the little one who had brought so many different emotions into my life. Before I really could dwell on those reflective moments, I was too involved in the serious pain I was experiencing. What the hell was I thinking? There was no way I could go through with what the nurse and midwife said was going to happen next! But I did and the experiences after that, made me realize that I could do absolutely anything I put my mind to. Seriously, ladies, pay attention! The pain is EXCRUCIATING! It's a watermelon coming through a golf ball sized hole. Think about that.

Once my first son was born, though, I  never looked back at those moments of doubt of being able to successfully deliver a child and seriously, never gave the moments of pain, struggle, cussing or agony another moment of diligent concern except that first night. I kept reliving the unbearable pain and just couldn't shut my brain down long enough to get any sleep. I certainly thought about it from time to time and admittedly, it was terribly hard to endure at the time but I really never was concerned about it again. After my first son's birth, all I could think of when it was over was 'I'm a mom now.' My son's health and welfare were the absolute most important thing in my life. He was the most important thing in the world and nothing would change that.

After about 4 weeks of continual screaming, no calming down and a complete rejection of his mother in the sense that it wasn't all peaches and cream like everyone said it would be, I realized that it was hard to be a mom. But I also knew that I loved my son more than ever. He taught me what it meant to be committed to another human being, in spite of all the hardships you would need to endure in order to ensure their health and well-being. He also taught me what it meant to be a parent and to give a shit even when it was hard to endure. That is something for which I will be eternally grateful to my first son for.

Within a year of having my son, I also found out that I didn't want his apathetic father to be a part of the picture that I called 'my family.' We divorced and then it was just me and my little man. After that, we had two years of intense struggles, two years of incredible joy and two years of finding out that it takes more than just wanting things to be good for them to actually be good.

I was perfectly content to never be pregnant again OR be involved in a committed relationship with another of the male species besides my son. The experience of marriage had truly tainted me to want to remain solo, forever and the experience of giving birth was also something that I never desired to have again, ever. I was actually contemplating getting my tubes tied when the next phase of my life began.

After almost two years and a few months, a man emerged on the scene, that quite frankly, neither of us expected. He took our breath away and showed us the possibility of a normal life. I know I jumped at the chance, but equally happy, was my son. He seemed to truly enjoy the presence of this man over what he had encountered from my other attempts at a stabilizing force in our family.

My new man and I decided to forge an enduring relationship and within months I became pregnant for the second time. It was only a mere 6 months after meeting Mr. Wonderful that I got the news of the second round of being an expectant mother. I can honestly say that I was very happy until I got acid indigestion, really wobbly and achy hips, as well as, the high-blood pressure, which forced an induced labor prior to my due date. But it was shortly before the birth of my second child that I also realized I would have to experience the agony of childbirth and well, happiness faded quickly. Not just faded, I had panic attacks remembering the pain that went along with the delivery of my first son. I can't believe how quickly I considered having drugs at my disposal, when that was the furthest thing from my mind the first time around.

The labor went relatively quickly. Much quicker than my first labor, but also much more intense, as the second son was about two pounds, two ounces heavier. Meaning his head and body were way frickin' bigger than the first, which translated into way more pain! And when I mean pain, I mean the transition period was almost unbearable. The last contraction was the one from hell and that one I endured for 45 minutes! It sounds unbelievable, but it really lasted that incredible amount of time. During the last push, I was so eager to have him out of me that I literally stopped breathing and only pushed. The doctor and the man of my dreams, who put me in this position, had to scream at me to start breathing. I was depriving my baby of oxygen and as noted on the chart, it ended up being a 'violent birth' because that poor boy was literally slammed through my birth canal in order to attempt a more expeditious birth. Labor sucks, don't let anybody tell you any different.

Once he was out there, though, I was one of the most serene moms. I was so proud of myself, but also, my mate; his DNA contributed to another part of who I could love. We were a complete nuclear family now, not married, but complete. And for sure, I was never going to go through that again.The experiences of childbirth (in both cases) I felt, were pretty traumatic, but in talking to so many woman since then who have gone through the experience, mine were apparently a piece of cake. I guess I should consider myself lucky. Regardless, I'm glad that I never had to find out if a third time would have been the charm.

It's been 15 years now since the birth of my second son. I think I'm reflecting on child birth at this very moment, not only because it seems something I needed to share with the women out there who don't really get told what childbirth entailed but because my second son is entering that dreaded phase of teenagedom; meaning another round of pain and struggles to endure that will eventually pass and he'll end up a loving young man. Luckily, one child has passed out of it a bit; maybe enough to make this ride a little more tolerable. It's all about cycles, the never ending of them; like our periods. Well, they'll end too, I'm a witness to that and something I've already spoken to.

So yes, ladies, these cycles of life are a bitch to get through, at times, but do it anyway because what you get in the end of not only what you endured during labor, but also, what you endure in the process of raising them, is a connection that will last forever. It is so deep that you think you cannot ever get your breath, but then you realize they give you a whole new type of oxygen to rely on. It propels you into being something you never thought you could. It's hard work, but it's also magic at times and incredibly wonderful and fulfilling in a way that you'd never even imagined.

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