Like many expectant mothers, I looked forward to the delivery as much as I dreaded it. Oh, to be able to walk home from the subway without wanting to pee. To board a plane, to enter a hot tub, to ski! Life after pregnancy is where all your wildest dreams come true.
The larger I became, the more conflicted I began to feel. As pregnancy made life increasingly complicated, I wanted that baby out more and more. Of course, the closer the big day came, the more I was forced to think about how this baby was coming out. How do you go about preparing yourself for childbirth?
“It’s just one hard day.” I told myself, as I huffed and chuffed up the subway steps, “one hard day within the long story of my life.”
Better to think of all the things I’d do, once the baby was out. Scuba and cycling, mojito, oh my!
Pregnancy helped me to view the world in a whole new way. As I shuffled about my increasingly cumbersome way, I noticed ordinary things anew. Did you ever notice that there are a lot of people? I mean, a really, really lot of people. People are everywhere! And every single one of them came through some poor woman’s body to get here.
It seems so obvious now, yet shocking.
This led me to wonder how the human race has survived this far. Based on my experience with pregnancy, it seems to me that there shouldn’t have been a single live birth since the invention of The Pill.
And yet, here I am. A mother. How could this have happened?
I believe it’s a conspiracy of mothers. Mothers everywhere are lying to their daughters. That’s right. Your mother lied to you.
Have you heard the one about how you’ll forget about the pain of labor after the baby is born? Don’t you believe it.
I didn’t forget a thing. Not one single thing. I clearly remember screaming. Specifically, I remember screaming,
“I have an epidural! Why can I feel that?”
I remember, also, that the doctor was unmoved, “That’s the ring of fire.“ she said without looking up, "Everybody feels the ring of fire.”
Well. That’s a lie, too isn’t it? My husband will never feel The Ring of Fire.
But my mother certainly did, and she never said a word. According to her, all three of us practically flew out of her body. It was over in half an hour and she barely noticed a thing. She didn’t forget about it. Like that horrible first BM after the delivery, or the time you sliced your hand off with a dull cheese grater, a meeting with The Ring of Fire is not something you are going to forget. Ever.
Here’s another thing that nobody warned me about: When you finish with the pregnancy, you have a baby!
After Scarlett’s birth, we stayed in the hospital for 4 days. The nurses at the NICU taught us how to wrestle a diaper onto a live baby, and they coached me on breast feeding. They taught us how to give the baby a sponge bath, and they checked that we had properly secured her in her car seat before they allowed us to leave. When Kris and I realized that he had forgotten to bring the baby clothes I had packed for the trip home, they even gave her some hospital-issue jammies.
Walking out the door into the loud Manhattan evening, I was suddenly stricken by the reality of what we had done.
This is a baby! We should go back in there immediately!
What were they thinking, letting us leave with this? Kris drove slowly North along the FDR, toward the Manhattan bridge, gripping the steering wheel like death.
“Maybe we should have stayed until morning.” he commented, watching the rear view mirror.
Maybe we should have stayed another 16 years. Everything seemed dangerous, with this tiny, precious cargo on board. Walking from the car the the front steps of our apartment building, my eyes darted around, scanning for danger.
I can’t say that things have gotten easier since that night. What I can say is that I’m adapting to this new way of being. This new and heightened sense of peril in everyday life.
I’d tell you what you have to look forward to AFTER the birth, but I’ve said too much already. After all, I want to have grandkids too.
Early in my Toastmasters career, I developed this story into a speech, which I entered into the Humorous Speaking contest. You can watch that speech right here.