Birth, part 1
I got really, really big with my first pregnancy, and I wasn’t petite to start with. My mother told me I was built like my paternal grandmother, whom she described as resembling “the prow of a ship.” When I was young, I believed she was referring to a figurehead, that curvaceous, wooden symbol of good luck and fair seas that decorated ships of the past, cutting through the waters at the head of the might and mass of the bow she led, engendering warm solicitude in the crew she represented and striking fear into the hearts of those who sailed in her path.
It turns out Mom was talking about the actual front of the ship, the vast leading surface that’s basically a wall of wood that tapers to a point somewhere at the bottom.
In hindsight, I should have known she wasn’t talking about the figurehead since they tend to have one or both boobs visible, and, granted, I was more progressive than my conservative mother, but not, like, that progressive.
So, in her lovingly vague way, my mom was calling me flat and chubby without the benefit of euphemisms I’d learn over the years to describe my body type, like curvy, generous, and ample (not to mention my humanities-centered college years when I added Rubenesque to my vocabulary).
In addition to being, ahem, zaftig, I’m taller than the average woman in the US, and I have a large frame (think broad shoulders, a wide-set ribcage, and bulky musculature). You know in some books women are described as willowy? I’m more…oaky, I guess? Like a good Burgundy or a bad Chardonnay, only with size 9 feet and a sadly under-proportioned chest.
Anyway, my point is that I had a biggish body going into my first pregnancy, and like many women, growing a human in it did not improve it in any way. But it was my first pregnancy, so I didn’t really have a frame of reference for whether or not I was getting bigger in the right way; therefore, I naturally assumed I was doing it right (positivity!).
I wasn’t. Well, my body wasn’t, and my doctor made some increasingly unsubtle comments about it that I willfully disregarded until my glucose test results came back. To his credit, he didn’t say “well, now you’re fat AND diabetic,” but he did send me off for dietary training and a glucose meter.
The diabetes was easy to control with diet, and I stopped gaining weight with the pregnancy, which carried on perfectly until D-day neared. My doctor predicted a big baby and suggested I prepare for an induction, which was fine with me because sometimes you hear about women giving birth to twelve-pound babies on the news, and I didn’t want that many strangers to be thinking of the state of southerly affairs. So, I agreed to the induction.
Before going further with this story, I want to make an important point: having been a mom for most of my adult life, I’ve heard all the wonderful, loving things moms say to one another to support, comfort, commiserate, and console one another. But those things aren’t funny, so I’m not going to write about them.
You see, I’ve also heard all the crappy things moms say to (and about) one another to demean, discourage, and denigrate one another. The world is full of super-judgy characters who can’t wait to tell another mom that her birth story isn’t authentic because she did/didn’t do/say/request/demand a service/caregiver/support animal/birth song and this error/omission/addition will alter/ruin/destroy her ability to feed/bond with/nurture/raise her baby/designer dog.
(I don’t think I meant to put “designer dog” there; I just got confused by all those slash marks. Just read “baby” for that last one.)
To my way of thinking, the “natural” thing in every birth is for a baby (or babies) on the inside to end up on the outside. Everything else is literally just details, and those details differ from birth to birth for a whole host of reasons that are varied, complicated, and most importantly, no one else’s business. I’ve met lots of parents who start clutching their pearls at the suggestion that other parents made decisions they themselves wouldn’t have made, and I think that’s dumb and that they’re also quite sucky people.
So, if my birth choices are different from yours, then I think we’ll be okay because you probably wouldn’t still be reading this if you were one of those people I just called sucky. Go us!
Back to the story: I agreed to the induction for the sake of a not-dangerously-huge baby, but, as so often happens, things didn’t go as planned.
Remember how I just said it’s natural for inside babies to become outside babies? Turns out lots of other things are natural as well, like bacteria. That stuff is EVERYWHERE. Including, apparently, on hospital instruments used to break the water of crampy, unsuspecting, first-time moms who just want to meet their little bundle already (and sleep on their stomachs again, just saying).
I got very sick as the labor progressed and that pesky little bacteria wreaked havoc in the place where I was currently storing a baby. Men watch women give birth and marvel at the miracle of engineering that grows and then pushes out new life, but my husband’s view of the labor process was more like a catalogue of all the ways bodies are vulnerable, base, and prone to catastrophic failure. There was also a lot of beeping, but that wasn’t coming from my body; that’s just the reality of unspooling crises in hospital rooms.
I could add a passage here that gets really technical. If you’re a mom whose kid has had medical issues, then you know how fast you learn the technical terms, the medical jargon, the acronyms…but that’s a separate reality than the one your actual, physical baby inhabits. So, I’ll let this cover what could be dozens of pages of dry description: my baby, Capricorn, came out. And everything I thought I knew about the world around me, about myself, about my husband, about connection and fidelity, about fear and sorrow, about hope and resilience, about medicine, about determination, about fragility…all of it disappeared with the deafening sound of…nothing.
On television, babies cry. But my baby didn’t cry. And then I just sort of faded out for a while.
To be continued in Birth, part 2…