There’s a great disconnect between what you expect of pregnancy and childbirth and the reality of it. I’m not sure to what we should attribute the discrepancy—perhaps it’s the movies that depict pregnant women as nothing but glowing, energetic and charmingly hormonal; tv childbirth scenes that show a doctor with his head beneath a sheet and a mother-to-be giving a few pushes before a perfect cherub of a baby pops out of her nether-regions. All I know is that pregnancy and childbirth were nothing like that for me.
My pregnancy was anxiety-ridden—months of “why do I feel like this and what does it mean?”, multiple trips to the emergency room, week after week of false labor contractions and lots of crying myself to sleep from all the pain and worry. And then the false labor yields to real labor. One day you’re sitting in a dark movie theater watching “Hangover 2” and suddenly something feels different. You expect tremendous pain. You don’t expect hours and hours of anguish, chills, fever, lots of blood and myriad other body fluids. You don’t expect to throw up on your husband multiple times. But then you remember all the movies that herald the blessed epidural as the antidote to the agony of childbirth. You get the epidural and feel sweet relief for a total of 20 minutes. Because what people don’t tell you is that epidurals don’t always work. It didn’t work for me.
You try not to focus on the pain. You focus on the beautiful child you’re about to meet and you know you’ll go through any amount of pain for her. “This is all worth it,” you tell yourself. And then you hear the words, “fetal distress,” and “emergency c-section” and you’re rushed to the operating room and your mind, foggy from hours of labor, starts playing tricks on you. You start to see things in snapshots, glimpses of the people around you, dreamlike and unreal. You hear the doctor say your baby isn’t breathing, you see a look of horror on your husband’s face, you see dozens of doctors rushing around the operating room and speaking in hushed voices. It can’t be real. But it is. This is my childbirth experience.
When I wake up in the recovery room, my doctor is there to tell me my sweet baby Hailey and I are going to be fine, although we both will spend some time in the hospital. And I instantly forget that this experience was nothing like I expected. For the time being, I push away the memories of the pain and fear, I try not to think about how terrified my family in the waiting room must be. Because at this moment, knowing that my daughter will recover from her traumatic entry into this world, it is all worth it.
Josh insists on visiting me in the recovery room, and even though he’s not allowed in there, the nurses, sympathetic to all we’ve been through, bring him in. He looks tired, scared, worried. And the first words he says to me are, “I love you so much.” I’ll never forget that for as long as I live. Despite the fact that we had just been through nine stressful months and a fairly intense trauma, our only thought was how much we love each other and how much we love our baby. And sitting here two months later, the memory of my childbirth experience fading day by day, I can genuinely say I’d do it all over again, because Josh, Hailey—our beautiful, loving family—are worth any amount of the unexpected.