Let’s start with your baby not wanting to make an appearance. Like mine. He was late and big. Once the doctor made it clear that there was no benefit to Baby D remaining in utero any longer, we opted to induced labor.
Turns out, if you’re having contractions already, the doctor isn’t allowed to speed things up with a little Pitocin. “How could you not notice you were having contractions?” one nurse asked me. “I dunno,” I answered with a shrug. “Maybe because I’m itching so badly that I want to rip off my own arms?”
Unpleasant Exams. You’ve probably heard terms like “effacement” and “dilation” being thrown around in delivery rooms. These basically mean that your cervix, which holds the baby up and in the uterus, is getting thinner and wider. When your OB examines you and discovers that your cervix is 10 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced, you’re ready to give birth. But you know what all those helpful little links above don’t tell you? Exactly HOW the OB examines you. She shoves a couple fingers up your vaginal canal and checks your cervix by feel. THIS IS NOT PLEASANT. This exam is actually on par with your annual pap smear—no curling iron-like speculum, but way more digging around. (Hey, you men bemoaning the horrors of your first prostate exam at age 50? Woman the fuck up.)
You might hurt someone. It might not be your husband, either. If you think those checks on dilation and effacement are bad, try coping with the doctor breaking your water. (Breaking the amniotic sac is another way to help move labor along after you’ve been in the hospital for a day.) Your OB will now be up your vaginal canal with two hands, one holding a sterile wooden swabby thing to poke a hole. If you’re a control freak with “no touchy!” issues and freakishly strong leg muscles, your semi-involuntary thrashing may send your OB to the hospital floor. (On the upside, it may also motivate your nurse to get the anesthesiologist in ASAP for an epidural, though, since she doesn’t want to risk catheterizing you until your lower half is numb.)
You’re not the only one having a baby. In fact, your hospital might be having a “baby blizzard” the day your son finally shows up. This means that your OB and your nurse are running from room to room. With 58 babies born on the same day as your son, they may not notice when you’re a) fully effaced and dilated, or b) start running a fever.
You’re feverish and puking when the nurse and OB insist it’s time to push.
Your baby might decide to present himself on his back (face up, also known as posterior) with a lifted chin. This means that each time you push, the baby tilts his head back, instead of forward, blocking his own exit. And if your baby has a big head? He can get stuck.
If your fever hits 102 and your baby’s heartrate goes up, you’re gonna need an emergency Cesarean section. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been pushing for hours and your friend KL can see a hint of baby’s head. Baby needs out, fast.
No matter how quick your emergency C-section needs to be, someone will find time to shave your pubic hair.
You’ll have a second OB in for your C-section. One will say, “In a minute, you may feel a little pressure.” Translation: one doctor will throw their entire weight across the top of your midsection while the other hauls the baby out of your uterus.
Your husband may hallucinate. Sure, you’re the one with the fever and the puking and the abdomen open to the elements, but he’s had a long day stroking your hair and lying about how great you are doing. Ignore him when he tells you he keeps counting eleven fingers and toes on your newly delivered baby.
You might not get the much vaunted “skin on skin” contact after a tricky delivery. Baby D was all cleaned up and swaddled up when the nurse handed him to me. I was okay with that, since he wasn’t in distress. (Instead, he looked up at us with big grey eyes and a puzzled expression that clearly said, “You guys are it? Seriously?”)
As much as you want to hold your newborn, you might not be able to do it for very long. You might be feverish, exhausted, and shaking so much you can barely hang on to him.
It’s really, really hard to watch your husband leave the room, carrying your baby off to the nursery. But you know your baby has to be weighed, measured, and examined thoroughly, especially after a traumatic delivery. (Also, someone in better shape than your husband needs to check on those fingers and toes.)
Being stitched and stapled back together takes a lot longer than being scalpled apart. At least an hour. You will have plenty of time to wonder if your husband passed out or dropped the baby. But then you’ll remind yourself that you carried Baby D for ten months. It’s someone else’s turn. Ultimately, you’ll realize that it this is just the first of many times you’ll have to hand your baby over to someone else. And yet…
17. Even after a miserable pregnancy and a grueling delivery, the most difficult part of motherhood will always be letting go.
The first is impatience. We’re high-functioning, super efficient people and we expect the same of everyone else (who isn’t a guest in our home). If we think someone’s moving slowly—or stupidly—we are either loudly critical or chewing our tongues bloody. We’re excellent employees and potentially nightmarish employers. If you’re foolish enough to road trip with us, make sure we drive.
I loved dressing up when I was young. There was no high-heeled shoe, no tutu too blinged out for me. I convinced my second grade teacher to let me put on plays solely for the costumes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty performed in tutus–but minus the music or ballet.
I got tall early. My mother tried to steer me toward tailored, conservative clothes. Her results were mixed. Whenever possible, I insisted on shiny boots or four inch clogs, no matter how many times I tripped or how many inches I towered over my fifth grade square dancing partner.
Traditionally, these all-women events involved opening boxes of baby clothes and cooing over them. Many showers had guessing games. I’ve played everything from “What chocolate bar has been melted in this diaper?” to “Is this white powder baking soda, cornstarch, or flour?”
Since I’m a chocoholic, an amateur baker, and competitive as fuck, I won all the traditional baby showers (even when the hostess tried to trick me by throwing in cream of tartar). Continue reading Showers (#250)
I used to play volleyball with a big group of women. About half these women were Japanese Nationals, living in the Los Angeles area while they or their husbands were working for Toyota, Honda, or other Japanese corporations.
These Japanese women never played volleyball professionally. Many hadn’t played since their school days. And yet they were amazing. They could run down and set a ball like pros. They never gave up on a play, wearing down and demoralizing the strongest, biggest, hardest hitting white women (like me).
I’ve never been fragile. Born into a large family of semi-feral children, I learned to guard my food and my stuffed animals early. I mowed lawns, lifted weights, and fought dirty with siblings when necessary (also when unnecessary).
Sympathy and coddling were in short supply. Like most young women, I powered through feeling like crap when I had cramps, headaches, and nausea.
The “I can endure misery” mindset was helpful when I was pregnant. I continued working out and playing volleyball, since the endorphins helped me not puke all the time. I still walked my rescue dogs for miles. My only concession to pregnancy was lighter weights and no squats.
A good hostess never yells at a guest, no matter how trying. A smart wife sucks it up and stays on speaking terms with her in-laws, no matter how insane they are. And a decent mom-to-be will put the needs of her future child ahead of her desire to throttle her maddening father-in-law until he drops the screwdriver of doom forever.
My ex-debutante mother trained my siblings and me to be good hosts. She also trained us to be good guests. We brought bread and butter gifts. We found something to compliment in every home. We ate whatever food was placed in front of us without complaint and insisted on helping with the dishes.
We were groomed to make social occasions run smoothly, with nary a scene. White Anglo Saxon Protestants (i.e., WASPs) with social pretensions avoid conflict and HATE scenes. They are a symbol of ugliness and failure.
I’m white woman raised by a former debutante. My racist Southern grandma ran a charm school. As liberated as my mother tried to be, she was still stuck on Rules of Acceptable Female Behavior.
One such rule was “Be an Exemplary Hostess.” When friends came over, they got first pick of snacks, toys, and sleeping bags. They chose the games we played.
When my parents entertained, we children took coats. We handed around hors d’ oeuvres. We got adults drinks. If there was a shortage of chairs, we offered our seats to adults and took the floor. We cleared the table and did the dishes, too. My mother took immense pride in the praise guests heaped upon her for her adorable little helpers.
She shared their praise with us. And since we were many, and desperate for attention, we got a little warped.