Friday, April 6, 2012

Labour of Love

July is sneaking up on me. I kept telling myself I had plenty of time before the big day but we're into April now. I'm almost into my third trimester. And I'm scared to death.

A creature of habit (and admittedly, a bit of a control freak) I've always had a hard time dealing with change. This is by far the biggest change in my life, EVER. This is a new life, a new me, a future that I never expected. Physically, emotionally and in so many ways, I have already changed so much. My lifestyle bears no resemblance to what it was. I can't do the things I used to. My priorities and dreams have changed so things that used to seem important don't matter so much now. The flat tummy I worked so hard to achieve last year is now turning into a beach ball. No matter what, even when I feel emotional, exhausted, stressed, out of breath, with swollen feet, numb legs and a belly that feels like it may burst, I know that it's all worth it. The baby is worth it.

My 25 week belly

My pre-pregnancy belly

The biggest metamorphosis of all is coming. Sometimes it's overwhelming. This isn't something I ever imagined for myself. Now it's happening and the closer I get to the day, the more the reality of it starts to sink in. Any milestone in life -- embarking on a new relationship, moving to a new home, starting a new job -- brings with it a mixture of excitement and fear of the unknown. Having a baby is so far beyond any of that. Life as I've known it is going to change completely. I am going to be a Mom. I am bringing another person into this world and it is up to me to make sure that she has the best life possible, that she has everything she needs, that she grows up healthy, happy and lives to her full potential. Talk about pressure! An enormous responsibility. And if that isn't scary enough, then of course there is the fear of actually bringing the baby into the world -- the pain of labour and delivery. A terrifying prospect for someone like me!

I'm not a fan of pain and I have a phobia of blood, needles, hospitals -- anything that might involve pain. I'm a huge wimp. I faint when I get a needle. Every. single. time. It's embarassing. It runs in the family. My father is squeamish and turns green at the sight of blood or a needle. My sister and nephew inherited it too. I can even "hear" about something (if I read something or if someone goes into a little too much detail about a medical problem, blood, pain, surgery, etc) and start to feel lightheaded. I have a vivid imagination and am so sensitive, so sympathetic to the pain of someone else that it's like it's happening to me. I turn my head away at the gross parts in movies. I can't bear to watch, even when I know it's not real. Of course it's that much worse to see or hear about someone in pain when it is real. I fainted in church every Good Friday hearing about Jesus being nailed to the cross. Obviously there are people who aren't grossed out by anything. Doctors, paramedics, morticians. I have a cousin who not only loves gory movies but enjoys watching real life surgeries, etc. She even watched a videotape of a friend's surgery without flinching. I can't imagine it.

I've read enough about it and seen it depicted in enough movies to know that labour is a world of pain. I picture the scenes of shrieking women, moaning, screaming and writhing as they struggle to get the baby out. It's like an exorcism. Whether it was a drama or a comedy, those scenes have always frightened me. I didn't plan to have kids (subconsciously maybe half the reason was to avoid the pain!) so I never thought it would be me on that table screaming. Now here I am counting down to July 23rd when it will be my turn. How on Earth will I get through this?!

The last time I had a needle was at my first doctor's appointment in November to confirm I was pregnant and to check that I was healthy. I warned the nurse (as I always have to warn them) that I was a fainter. She just shook her head. "Afraid of a little needle? Honey once you go through labour, you'll find needles are a piece of cake. It'll toughen you up. You lose your dignity. More people see your cooch than you ever thought possible. And you don't even care anymore."

Somehow her down-to-earth perspective was comforting. I'd never heard anyone use the word "cooch" before. I cracked a smile. It almost distracted me from what was coming. My worst fear. The dreaded needle. She was very encouraging and tried to coach me through it. "You won't faint," she assured me, "Relax. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth." Following her instructions seemed to help a little. The needle was in and it hurt but I just kept breathing through it and tried not to think about it. "Mind over matter," I thought, "You've got this. Piece of cake. Breathe in. Breathe out." Maybe I was getting stronger. Maybe this would be the first time I wouldn't faint like a dork. Or maybe not...
"There you go! You did great. We're done," she said.

I was done, all right. Despite her encouragement, all the familiar feelings came flooding back. There was a ringing in my ears. My vision was fading. Everything went sparkly and yellow. I felt light-headed. I was sweating. The room was spinning. My legs were buckling. "Oh dear. Sorry. I need to lie down." I took off my sweater and lay down waiting for the feeling to pass. I felt as though I'd disappointed her. It was so embarrassing. I couldn't even deal with a little needle and I was going to give birth in 9 months? I drank some water. She gave me a cold damp cloth for my forehead. I kept breathing like she had told me. After a couple of minutes, I started to feel OK. This time wasn't actually as bad as usual. The time before this, when I went for a needle a year previous, had been the worst. I fainted of course, as always but it took a long time for me to come out of it. Maybe because I wasn't allowed to eat before that blood test. I'm borderline anemic with low blood pressure, so going without food and then losing blood, on top of my fear and phobia, is a recipe for disaster. When I finally thought I was OK, (I couldn't lay there all day) I got up, left the building and started to drive home. Then suddenly, in the middle of heavy traffic, I started to black out behind the wheel. Not good. It was terrifying. I could barely see. Luckily I didn't have far to go. Just one more traffic light. Two more right turns...I made it home alive. I collapsed on the couch in tears and swore I would NEVER subject myself to another needle as long as I lived. Little did I know I'd be pregnant a year later and have no choice.

So, understandably, labour will be the scariest thing I have ever had to face. It's called labour for a reason. You just know it's going to be hard work! Delivery doesn't seem a very appropriate term to me though. I picture a guy at the door with a pizza. If only it were that easy! 30 minutes or it's free! The whole thing sounds like science fiction to me. It still boggles my mind that it's physically possible and that women have been doing it for thousands of years. It just sounds far-fetched. It's like someone telling you you're going to pass an apple through your left nostril in a few months. Sure. Could happen. For a control freak, it's tough not knowing what to expect. Yes I have read about everything that could go right and everything that might go wrong. I've talked to friends and acquaintances who have had children and every story is unique. Some endured a long difficult labour lasting more than 24 hours! (Dear God, I wouldn't want to do something that I ENJOYED for 24 hours let alone be in pain that long!) Others had a relatively quick and easy birth. One friend I talked to apparently had each of her three kids in less than an hour! Popping them out like a Pez dispenser! If only I could be so lucky. Some can't deliver safely and have to have their babies by Caesarian section. Some go into labour early and have premature babies. Some go longer than 10 months and have to be induced. Some have their water break, others don't. Every story is different. There is no certainty. You just don't know until the time comes how it's going to go. One close friend I knew rushed to the hospital to find she was only a centimetre or two dilated and was sent back home, a few times. Another nearly didn't make it to the hospital in time. She was 10 centimetres dilated already! They had to run and grab a doctor to catch the baby.

I hope I have a quick and easy labour but if my periods were any indication, I may be in for a rough time. Some lucky women never get menstrual cramps. Then there are poor schleps like me who suffered from excruciating cramps every three weeks. Sometimes it was so bad I'd be on the toilet for hours, gripped by waves of pain and a burning through my intestines like molten lava. One time I even started making out my will on the toilet. I read that Catholic girls tend to have worse cramps. Something about all that Catholic guilt. We try so hard to be nice girls, we're a little too uptight. Sounds about right. The doctor gave me muscle relaxants that helped ease the pain. I guess the key was to loosen up, literally. My concern is that if I went through that much pain every month just from a little blood flow, then how, in the name of all that is holy, am I supposed to pass a kid through there?! I still can't imagine it. It seems physically impossible. I've done the math. I know it stretches, but I still have a hard time seeing how anyone survives the ordeal. Still, they must, or none of us would be here, the human race would cease to exist!

One thing is for certain. I'm getting the epidural! No question. I told my doctor on my second visit to her after it was confirmed that I was pregnant. She laughed. As much as I hate needles (and as terrifying as a gigantic one injected into my spine might be) it's a necessary evil to numb the pain down there. I can't take any chances. I'm going to need all the help I can get. My sister had a natural childbirth for her first and it sounded like a horror movie. I'm not going there. I am not strong. I am not brave. The less it hurts, the better! Another certainty is that I want my sister and my Mom to be there with me when I deliver. They have been so supportive I don't know what I would do without them. Knowing that they survived this (my mother four times and my sister three times) is encouraging. They will help me through it. The original plan (when it seemed like my ex, the monster, was going to be sticking around) was to have the baby's father in the delivery room with me. He is not the squeamish type at all. In fact he can't get enough blood and gore. The horror movie scenes that made me cringe and turn away had him leaning in for a closer look. He probably would have delighted in my torment, watching the whole ordeal in macabre fascination. He'd probably want to pull up a chair, crunch on popcorn and enjoy the show. It's for the best that he's not around. I need someone with me who will be sensitive, sympathetic, supportive, caring. Someone who has been through it and survived.

I don't know what my labour experience will be like. Maybe I'll be one of the lucky ones and deliver my baby faster than a pizza! Miracles can happen. People try to tell me that you forget the pain anyway. I don't see how you could but women must on some level because a lot of them have more than one child which means they willingly subjected themselves to labour again and again, even knowing what it was like. So that's a good sign. Every painful experience you go through, every severe test, every time you stare fear in the face and survive it, you grow as a person. You become more powerful, more resilient. It stretches you. You become more than you thought you could be. You transform. From caterpillar to butterfly.

My sister used to be afraid of needles before she had kids. She's over it now. Maybe I'll get to that point too. Maybe after this experience, anything else in life will be a cakewalk.

The bottom line is that no matter how long it takes and no matter how hard it is, the end reward is well worth it -- to bring my baby into the world. It is a miracle. A gift. The most powerful experience a human being can have. It is a labour of love.

No comments:

Post a Comment