intensely trivial



Ellie’s birth story: Pregnancy and preparation for birth

I tried not to spend a lot of time or energy on writing this story, because I don’t really have time right now. And I edited hardly any after I dashed it out. But here’s the story of Ellie’s birth. I could have written twice as much factual information about the pregnancy and labor, but I doubt most of you are as interested in that as I am. Also, I could have included a ton of analysis, which I tried to omit. If you read carefully, you will detect patterns and probably be able to draw conclusions. I needed to write Ellie’s birth story first before I write Jonathan’s as a way to celebrate his birthday next week, because her story is part of his story, and they’re all part of the story of how I became a mother. I’m dividing it up into parts so you don’t get overwhelmed.

Ellie’s birth story: Pregnancy and preparation for birth

When Ellie was conceived, I was teaching ninth-grade English at Manhattan High School. I had a fairly easy pregnancy: any hint of morning sickness was gone if I just ate a snack. I did have one strange episode of wildly fluctuating blood sugar, I think, and ended up sitting on the floor of my classroom until I was sure I wasn’t passing out anymore. In my typical style, I analyzed and thought about every single detail of how pregnancy felt. The emotional hormonal roller coaster was hard to deal with. I felt unattractive and couldn’t get out of my funk, and normally peaceful interactions with Dan became fraught with tension. I read the standard pregnancy books, notably What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Ann Douglas’s Mother of All Pregnancy Books. With every slightly strange or new sensation, I checked in those books or online to see if it was normal, always worrying that something was going wrong, even though my pregnancy could hardly have been more normal. During the first couple of months, I spotted very slightly, and that caused me to go into spasms of fear. I went through the usual initiation rites our middle-class Midwestern culture does when babies are coming soon: baby showers, obsessively studying the pictures from the sonogram, registering for a thousand pieces of baby gear at Target, researching which equipment was best, transforming the guest room into a nursery.
As far as the actual arrival of the baby, I read the sections in my pregnancy books about labor and delivery. While pregnant, I first met my friend Heather Berry, who was training to be a doula, and she offered to attend my birth as my doula if I wanted her to. Since the books I’d read portrayed doulas as helpful, and Heather was doing it for free, Dan and I invited her to attend. The key part of my birth plan was not using pain meds. I’d grown up in a family where my mom had five babies without pain meds. She said everybody did it, and she didn’t have a good opinion of the laboring mother next door to her who bellowed in childbirth. Apparently the best way to do it was without drugs and without making a big deal out of it. It made sense to me that since every mother has done it, and billions of women around the world have done it without pain meds, I ought to be able to do it. I’m pretty stubborn, and my pregnancy had been fine so far – why would I need any medical help at the birth? I also read a book called Supernatural Childbirth, which contended that if you just trusted God to help you labor in the way God intended, then you woudn’t feel any pain. Labor consists of contractions. If you contract the muscle in your bicep, it doesn’t hurt, right? Then your uterus’s contractions shouldn’t hurt either. Get it? So I planned to have a lot of faith in God, and if I had enough faith, it shouldn’t even hurt.
Dan and I knew we were supposed to take childbirth classes, but we thought the time commitment to them was a bit much, so we looked for a way to compact the classes. A childbirth-educator and nurse friend of ours agreed to teach us a class in three hours on a Saturday morning. We thought that sounded like a good deal, so that’s what we did. She taught us everything the hospital childbirth classes would have taught us, except in less time. Cool. We didn’t think we’d need the breathing techniques; besides, they made me feel self-conscious. So we went through those pretty quickly and planned on pulling them out if necessary once labor began.
I quit teaching a few weeks before my due date; I thought I’d be too tired to keep teaching – which was pretty tiring. Besides, I didn’t want my water to break in front of my students; how embarrassing that would be. I had a wonderful long-term sub to finish out the last six or eight weeks of the semester. So I finished making my lesson plans and then bid adieu to my sweet students and went home to prepare for baby.
And those were some of the longest weeks of my life. I finished getting the house ready. I obsessed the day I lost my mucus plug, thinking of course it meant that labor would start within hours. It was actually a couple of weeks till labor started. I know now that losing your mucus plug shouldn’t excite you too much. I overanalyzed every new bodily sensation. Then my due date came and went, and I started to feel more impatient. Being heavily pregnant isn’t very comfortable, this is true. Still, I was able to walk around town without problems, and I did, hoping every time that it would hasten the onset of labor. My doula, Heather, came over to hang out with me two days after my due date, and I drank pregnancy tea and pushed on the pressure points she showed me that might induce contractions, and generally obsessed aloud to her. That night we ate at Little Apple Brewing Company, and I had a bratwurst with sauerkraut and French fries – still my favorite meal there.
Go on to Ellie’s birth story, Part 2: The easy part.

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Ellie’s birth story: The easy part « intensely trivial pingbacked on 8 years, 7 months ago
  2. Between Ellie’s and Jonathan’s births « intensely trivial pingbacked on 8 years, 7 months ago

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