What They Don't Tell You About Birthin' Babies
There are way too many sappy childbirth stories on the Internet.
Women dreamily recount their water births (...and then my mer-cherub swam to the surface and gave me a dazzling smile), their caesarean sections (...as I held my little crumpet in my arms, I knew it was all worthwhile) and even their epidurals (...I felt only elation as dear impkins pushed his way through the birth canal), all the while ignoring the other side of childbirth: the indignity.
I had a great birth experience- wonderful doctors and nurses, a comfortable room, a supportive family and only about 12 total minutes of pushing before my baby was born. Yet I also had more embarrassing moments in a 24-hour period than I'll probably have again in my lifetime.
For starters, I had labor contractions for three days... Contractions that sent my parents rushng to our house from out of town and convinced us to pull the girls out of school in preparation for the big event. For the next two days, we all sat at home staring at one another, waiting for something to actually happen.
Now before I continue, you should know that for nine straight months, I had promised myself I wasn't going to be one of those moaners that I had seen in the childbirth class videos. For one thing, I was raised in the South, where moaning for any reason is believed to be in very bad taste. Beyond that, it seemed extravagant. I imagined all that moaning was a thinly-veiled metaphor for "Look at me, everyone! I'm about to have a baby! Pay attention to me!"
But after about 40 hours of intensifying contractions, my moaning philosophy went out the window. I was in pain, people. Yet I still had my wits about me enough to be deeply embarrassed by the gutteral sounds coming from my mouth as my entire family sat in the den, silently staring at moaning me on the sofa.
"Don't look at me!!" I hissed. "Don't just sit there looking at me!" I am ashamed to admit I actually glared at my 80-year-old grandma, owl-eyed and frowning on the Barcolounger.
After that, elaborate efforts were made at conversation each time a contraction hit.
"So, the Braves are doing pretty good this year," my Dad said shakily as yet another groan came from the couch.
"Did I tell anyone about the sale on beans at Piggly Wiggly?" my grandmother hesitantly asked.
"I made an A on my history quiz," 12 squeaked before running in fright to the playroom.
Once the moaning was judged loud enough for a trip to the hospital, Hubs and I left, only to be subjected to indignity number two. I was checked in, examined, and told I wasn't dilated enough for admittance. The nurse suggested that I walk around the maternity ward for an hour in hopes that my labor would progress.
"Okay, let me just put my clothes back on," I sighed, sitting up from the table clad only in a standard-issue hospital gown.
"Oh no, we can't let you do that," the nurse said.
"What?!" I gasped.
"You can put another gown on to cover your back, but you can't put your clothes back on once you're checked in."
"But there are people out there!" I said.
"Oh, you'll see other women out there in labor, too. It's really common to walk the halls like that," she assured me.
So out I went, into the halls packed with the family members and friends of every other laboring mom in the city. And of course, I was the only one wearing a fucking hospital gown. And of course, we ran into about 100,000 people who recognized Hubs.
"I know you! I'm the pastor of Christ Presbyterian downtown!"
"Oh, hi!" Hubs said brightly as I hugged the wall and tried to edge by him.
"And this is..." the dastardly pastor said, stopping me in my tracks.
"This is my wife," my husband replied. "This half-naked, hot air balloon-sized, tear-streaked, bed-headed woman is. My. Wife."
Well, the last part was unspoken, but I knew it was what everyone was thinking.
Good Lord. Would every last shred of my dignity be taken before the day was over? After a few forced conversations with strangers and acquaintances, my mother kindly loaned me a pair of oversized Chanel sunglasses for the remainder of my hour-long March of Shame. I'm sure the glasses only increased the staring, but at least my identity was now somewhat in question.
Of course, the March did no good whatsoever. It took three separate trips to the hospital before the labor gods finally decided I was ready to go. A nurse wheeled me to my room and set me up in a bed, where the indignities continued.
I am a very private person when it comes to my... privates. I mean, how many people actually needed to investigate what was going on down there, anyway? I felt like I was a carnival sideshow as doctors and nurses endlessly filed in to check my progress.
"Take a picture, it'll last longer," I snapped to the fifth doctor to enter the room. Wordless, he turned and scurried out the door.
The indignities of actually giving birth are well-documented and frankly disgusting to the uninitated, so I'll leave those to your collective imagination. I will say, though, that my entire family was somehow allowed back into the delivery room like one millisecond after the baby was born, while I still lay spread-eagled on the hospital bed.
"For God's sakes!" I shouted weakly, prompting one of the doctors to rush over and close a curtain around the bed.
How much more could one woman bear?
"You need to go to the bathroom now," a nurse snapped at me about an hour later.
"I'll go when I'm ready," I replied defiantly. I had just given birth, for crying out loud.
"I can't leave until you go," she said.
Loudly exhaling, I crawled from the bed and made my way to the bathroom. As I tried to close the door, she stopped it with her toe.
"I have to watch," she said.
"The hell you do!"
"Hospital regulations," she insisted. "I have to make sure you can go."
"Of all the ridiculous, razzafrackin garbage..." I muttered as I reluctantly sat down.
I was treated to perhaps the worst pain of my life. Worse than childbirth. Oh. My. Lord.
Fighting back shrieks of pain, I looked up gasping into the nurse's smirking face.
"That's satisfactory," she said before shutting the door on me.
Utterly defeated, I sat on the toilet, head in my hands. Oh........ The indignity.