The panic subsided two days after the test showed positive, and my first thought was “Frances Bean seems nice.” If Courtney could do this, then so could I. And then I hit the Googles and panicked anew.
I had acquired a fetus completely by accident one drunken snow day, and, not having really planned to be in the fetus-to-child business, I hadn’t done a lot of research ahead of time. I knew that labour and delivery would be uncomfortable at best, but the Internet, in its collective one-upmanship and infinite righteousness, well … it put the fear in me. I tried to schedule an elective c-section at 36 weeks based entirely on the existence of episiotomies, but my obstetrician talked me down. “Will there be drugs?” I asked. “Yes, there will be drugs.”
My OB was perfect (for me) in that he was a 70-year-old man and I am, in my heart, a 70-year-old man as well. “Should I do prenatal classes?” I asked. “They cost a lot of money and you’re going to have a baby either way, so you can if you want but I’d save the 80 dollars.” “80 dollars is a lot of money to you?” “No, but it’s a lot of money to learn to push a baby out of your vagina which you’re going to have to do regardless of whether you’ve taken a class or not.” We got along pretty well.
I had a relatively easy, sweaty pregnancy during which I routinely cried about milkshakes, iced tea and Eminem, and though I spent a great deal of time hate-reading the iVillage and BabyCenter message boards, I didn’t take too much of what the crazies said to heart. The problem was not the crazies, it turned out; a sanctimommy is a fundamentalist and therefore a terrible bore to engage with.
But it’s the other women, the honest, relatable women with their tales of trauma and indignity and injury that got into my head. I worried that the odds of an easy delivery were not in my favour – not in anyone’s favour. Birth can be a serious, potentially devastating thing and more than ever I wanted no part of it. My mother kept reminding me of the stubborn 48 hours it took me to be born (I am a human sloth) plus all the stitches; women on Facebook and Twitter told much darker, more tragic tales. I just sort of resigned myself to the horror of it all; my entire birth plan was basically “all the drugs” and “hopefully come out not still pregnant and in possession of a human baby, ideally my own.”
You know what’s super pointless? Worrying about all that. It’s going to go how it’s going to go regardless of your planning, and perhaps in spite of it. Modern medicine is fantastic and I support it; I threw myself at the wisdom and mercy of educated people who knew far more than I did about the realities I was about to endure and while that may not be ideal for everyone, it worked for me and I am glad for it.
Don’t get me wrong – the part before I got that sweet, sweet epidural was unpleasant and I don’t feel heroic for having endured it. I recall yelling at the anesthesiologist to hurry the fuck up and stab me with every needle, and then later professing my undying love to him. The epidural was magic, and once it took effect the nurses let me nap for an hour and a half. “You need your strength,” they told me, and I agreed. “Yes, I do need that.” All told, the whole experience lasted 12 hours, start to finish, and I didn’t feel any of the really bad parts. The baby – nine pounds of him – was born lively and enthusiastic, not lethargic or dopey.
I would have an epidural every day of my life if I could. That shit is magic. It meant I could deal with all of the unpleasant feelings around birthing a large baby without flinching; the nurses were lovely and we made fun of Spouse throughout the procedure. We chatted. I apologized profusely – “I’m not usually like this for company!” – and they laughed. My drug-addled hospital birth was a positive experience, one that I was alert and witty for which is all I really want any time my vagina is peering up at everyone from the centre of the room.
Whether you’re hoping that birthing a baby will be a transformative experience or you just view it as a medical procedure where you get to keep the growth you grew, it’s not always as bad as everyone will tell you. No one will tell you it was easy. Statistically, your labour has every likelihood of being straightforward – boring, even. Everyone wants to tell a good story; a birth story is one with potential for high-stakes drama and intrigue, but it could just as easily be a simple thing you forget about once you have that little ham-person swaddled in your arms. Think about the little ham person. That’s all it’s all for anyway.
Don’t overthink it. If Courtney could do it, then so can you.