Friday, January 6

Old Pro

"Do you feel like an old pro yet? I'm curious what it is like to have some of the mystery taken out of the experience."

My friend, Rose, commented on my last post and this statement really caught my attention.  Am I an old pro?  This will be my third baby and my third completely natural birth.  I still remember how nervous I was before Jonah was born, and how everyone was pretty encouraging, except for one woman from church.  I mentioned in a social situation (to someone else) that I was planning on a natural birth and she laughed at me.  She told me it would hurt too bad and I would never be able to do it.  WHile listening to her talk, I realized that she was offended that I would even think that I would be able to do it.  It was a very strange experience.  On the one hand she fed into all of my deepest fears: that I wouldn't be able to handle the pain or that I simply wasn't strong enough.  On the other hand, I felt strangely detached listening to her.  I felt sorry for her.  I don't know what her experience was with that one child she'd had 6 or 8 years before, but it obviously wasn't particularly good.  I didn't really respond much to her.  Instead I went on to have Jonah, drug free and very quickly.  I don't know what her thoughts were after that, but I wasn't going to ask either.

All of my appointments with my midwife have been fairly brief.  She's super-nice and open to whatever questions I might have, but the truth is that there aren't a lot of questions about this pregnancy.  So I come in and they weigh me and take my blood pressure, and we listen to the heartbeat and they measure my belly to make sure she's growing roughly on schedule.  She has and my blood pressure and weight haven't been an issue, so we visit for a few minutes and then I go.  I usually get home from the appointment about an hour after I leave the house.  This pregnancy has been fairly boring.  

So, am I an old pro?  I know what to expect and I don't really need to ask a million questions.  I'm very well read on pregnancy and birth, though there are still things I'm learning every day.  

The rest of Rose's comment was about the spiritual side of birth.  In theory I know that I need to have patience and faith that my body was made to do this: that Sadie will come at the right time, even if it isn't my timing.  I have a lot of faith in my body.  I know that I can give birth and that my body doesn't need lots of medical intervention to do what it's supposed to do.  I suppose that's not really faith, since it's been proven on two pervious occasions, but pregnancy and birth are unpredictable things, like hurricanes.  They are strong, wild acts of nature that you can't control. You can predict a lot of what will happen, but sometimes they fly off in a direction you didn't expect. You might suddenly find yourself with shoulder dystocia or unexpected tearing, or other things that I won't talk about.  That's what makes it all so frightening

And it is frightening, even if you have had several children.  You still don't know if the storm will take off in some unknown direction and leave you physically and spiritually ravaged. It's not just a question of medical issues, though it certainly does involve your physical integrity.  It also involves your spiritual integrity.  It's true, the quote by Elizabeth Stone, having a child is a momentous decision, because a piece of your heart is forever outside of your control after you make it.  Whatever happens to your child, happens to a part of you. There is almost no way to be fully prepared for that release. 

So, why the impatience? Jonah was born eight days after his scheduled due date, so there was more than a little impatient anticipation (not helped at all by the boss who called repeatedly to ask if I had gone into labor yet, or the fact that my substitute teacher quit a few days after I started my maternity leave, or the abrasive midwife who brought up induction the minute I was "overdue").  I carried Caroline so low toward the end of my pregnancy that I was incredibly uncomfortable. But discomfort and social pressure and being overdue are only a small part of it, i think. I think it's a simple matter of wanting to have the outcome decided.  To have the next stage of things begin and some closure to the uncertainty. 

Am I an old pro?  Am I an old pro at being impatient.  I'm an old pro at researching my options and knowing as much about the process as possible.  I'm an old pro at going into labor and keeping calm.  I'm an old pro at finding myself about to push and being suddenly terrified.  

So maybe I'm an old pro, but not necessarily in the way I'd like to be. I'd like to be a pro at relinquishing control without reservation.  I'd like to be a pro at recognizing my own power in moments when fear usually grips me. I'm not sure you ever become completely competent at these things, perhaps just more practiced at it. 


Anonymous said...

I loved reading your article. As a Mom 5 times I understand what you have written. When I had Ben (I was in the hospital 3 days)a lady at the hospital who gave talks to the birth mothers, asked me to come & be a part of her talk. She said as a Mom of this many children you have a lot to tell us I'm sure. I declined. I am of the feeling each is so very different, what works for me, may not work for you. I wished them well. I at that time as an old pro was quiet.
Nana Carol

Chara said...

It's funny that you say that. I was so much more opinionated after Jonah than I am now. I think that what you learn as you go is that what works for you won't always work for everyone else, and offering your experience isn't always helpful. I chose to have a natural childbirth but it wouldn't work well for everyone else, or maybe even with every one of my pregnancies. To insist that it would, or to expect that every pregnancy and birth would go exactly the same way seems foolish to me- it seems like you're just setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.

Laura Wilson said...

I was thinking the same thing - the mystery never really goes away, and shouldn't because its part of the beauty of birth. I felt like a pro after 2 natural births, but realized after one very medical miscarriage that I was far from it.

Chara said...

The funny thing is that after both births I've had that awed feeling- that feeling like, "That just happened!" just afterward. In someways I feel like I was never really prepared for the actual person who would arrive, because you can't be prepared for them.

I try to remember that no matter how much work I do to prepare myself, I need to remember that only God knows what's going to happen, and only He can guide me through it. I can educate myself all I want but you can't foresee everything in life. I know that you and John know all of this from your experience with Nicholas.

Laura Wilson said...

I had that same sort of surreal feeling right after, too!

I think you're right about preparation. You can, in a way, become a pro at the mechanics of birth -he relaxation and timing and pushing (and that is much more comforting than approaching labor with terror like I did the first time). But the spiritual aspect, all the variables and risk, the person you are meeting, you can only approach with wonder.

Rose Arrowsmith DeCoux said...

Thanks for this, Chara. I really appreciate knowing where you're at. I don't feel very articulate about it, but this is very good for me to hear. Best of luck to you both.