The birth of my first daughter involved an emergency c-section that, I’m not ashamed to report, I actually preferred over a vaginal delivery. That’s right, I willingly kissed my Jillian Michaels abs goodbye and “chose” major abdominal surgery over natural childbirth. My daughter was slow to arrive on the scene and the situation presented to me was this: I had a 50/50 chance that she could emerge the “natural” way or, you know, the other way (via c-section). The choice for me was a no-brainer.
It’s only when I share my birth story with other moms that I get the feeling I had somehow “cheated” myself out of a True Motherhood Experience simply because I wasn’t very good at bearing down on a yoga ball, or squatting in a kiddie pool surrounded by moon cake and mulled wine.
I may be coming off as snarky but, truth be told, real live childbirth – aka labor – scares the good taste out of me; mocking others is the only way I know how to deal. (Okay, not really. In real life I’m a total and utter fan of women who do what I consider to be heroic things with their bodies. I’ve just never been inclined to do heroic things with mine.)
When it came to being pregnant, laboring and subsequently giving birth to my daughter, I was both blissfully unaware and unapologetically ignorant. I wasn’t quite like those women on TLC who give birth and claim that they didn’t know they were pregnant (!), but my ignorance was self-induced and very much a protective device. Because, in all honestly, giving birth was a terrifying concept to me.
The back story goes a little something like this: Growing up, I never really fantasized about motherhood or marriage. I played with dolls and I babysat and, like most little girls growing up, I was voted “Most Likely To Procreate” (just kidding). Where my 1950s Hollywood birth narrative departs from the rest is where I proudly declare that I greatly dislike the idea of pushing out a tiny human through my vagina – even though women have been doing this since time immemorial – and would rather lay splayed open on a operating table, where the aneasthesiologist gives me copious amounts of pain drugs and a masked surgeon extracts a beautiful baby from just above my nether region and below my pierced navel.
After my newborn’s bottom is soundly slapped, I am awakened by infant crying, after which time said beautiful crying bundle is laid upon my exposed ample bosoms to breastfeed. Precious bonding moments later, the doctor, still in glistening surgical scrubs, wheels me and baby into the waiting room and proudly announces to my perspiring, smiling husband, “It’s a [insert sex here].” Cigars are subsequently lit. Yes, in this version, smoking is allowed in hospitals. (Couldn’t you just die?)
The irony, of course, lays in the fact that the aforementioned birth narrative pretty much went down like this in real life. Except the part where I knowingly skip prenatal classes where they will be showing graphic birthing videos in which white women with extra-large, pendulum-like swinging breasts (replete with 1970s bush!) will be groaning and breathing heavily – “naturally” doing what seems so frighteningly surreal. And except for the part where I become the unwitting recipient of not one, not two, not three, but four induction gels after having my water broken by the doctor, and to subsequently expedite my “delayed” birth.
Minus the part where I flunk Dilations and Contractions 101 until I am given “the drip” shortly followed by the potentially spine-altering, life-threatening pain reliever known as “the epidural.” And also minus the part about being blissfully knocked out during (emergency c-section) surgery, in which I yell over the sheet covering my exposed lower bits for “somebody [to] please put additional pressure on my knees because I can’t bear to feel you tugging and pulling at my body parts!” After which time I subsequently tell the surgical team, “Y’all better do better than this next time, because no woman should ever feel this god-awful tugging sensation!”
There’s also the part where I tell the surgeons to please stop discussing the details of my c-section and switch to golf-talk instead. Ba-doom-boom.
And then there’s this post-baby issue with my non-existent abs (although it’s a crap-shoot as to whether a jiggly tummy is preferable to a saggy labia). That said, I should tell you that everything is fine now. And it was always fine. In some ways I can’t believe we did it! And I say we, because had it not been for my husband pressing his sweet lips to my ear and talking me through every anxious moment, I’m not so sure I could have managed. And, yet, when you’re about to give life, really anything can happen – and generally speaking, it’s usually all good.