The Happiest Day
Whoever said it was the happiest day of their life lied to you.
The day one births new life into the world isn't happy. To call it such is to downplay it into near nonexistence. A singular emotion cannot sum up such a day as that, and I'd argue that it is not the day of birth which is happiest, but the day after (in the case of a healthy child and mother, of course). Yes, the day after is happiest... but the day of?
To understand the day of birth, one must rewind several months (several years in the heart of one longing for a child, but we'll just go back the months for the sake of keeping things concise).
It all begins with a day of reckoning, for better or worse, when two little pink lines appear on a pregnancy test. No matter where the test is taken, Walmart bathroom or villa in the hills of France, the world stops spinning for those few seconds, as you stare into an unpredictable, terrifying, splendid future. The moment stretches, and you are surprised when you don't just fall into eternity right then and there. But then, inexplicably, life goes on.
And you feel, for all the while you carry that life inside of you, like a spectator-- removed from who you were before. You're changed somewhere in the deepest part of yourself.
Now, I've always said God made pregnancy miserable, else we'd never get over the fear of birth itself. Such palpable terror that courses inside oneself at the thought of delivering a babe is unlike any other I've yet to encounter.
But, if you're anything like me, you'll be sick before those two little lines even appear. You'll hate food you used to love. You'll be angry. You'll weep without any reason at all. You'll feel suddenly, terribly out of control of yourself. And as the months stretch, as your everything stretches, weaving webs of womanhood down the lengths of your stomach, your thighs, your hips... you'll begin to feel better. You'll begin to enjoy some secret power, some fragrant flaunting of fertility, some delight at the brows that raise, at the quiet knowledge of just how you made that little life now growing inside. But of course, just when you begin to enjoy it-- the pains will begin.
They'll start small.
First, a twinge in your leg when you've sat too long.
And then, if you keep sitting, a hemorrhoid might appear.
You'll be bothered, but hey-- that's the cost of motherhood, you'll tell yourself.
They'll go away after the babe is born, you'll tell yourself.
Then comes a different pain, a toll wrought by the weight of carrying another being inside oneself: back pain. It starts with a minor twinge now and again, then settles into a permanent ache, only alleviated if your partner is so gracious as to come behind you and settle arms under the weight, to lift it off of you, if only for a moment. When you're nearing your time, but still too early to feel it safe, you'll begin to have the birth pangs: a tightness in the center of you, a pressure and pulling, the sensation on sharp claws running down the inner walls of your abdomen. You'll think, surely, this is it? Surely, that was real. So, you'll begin to panic. You aren't ready for this.
And God knows.
Yes. That pain wasn't enough. You haven't suffered enough to wish for the earth-rending, tearing pain of birth.
So, you'll continue, pains mounting, ever-growing like the child inside of you, for another two months.
On the last week, you'll be bitter.
What a fool I was, you'll think. What liars they were to have espoused the 'beauty of pregnancy', you'll think. Glowing? MY ASS, you'll think. If you are like me, your feet will swell, your breasts will ache, full to the point of bursting, the skin on your belly will be taunt and tight and those motherhood lines will scream and scream as you work lotion into them in vain. And yet, somewhere inside of you, you'll begin to feel it: a strange pleasure in the pain. There will be a rightness to it, and so the true ache will begin, when you stop fighting against it, when you fully lean into the power of the pain when you admit to yourself and to God almighty that you're ready for real work to begin-- whatever the cost. You're ready.
And so begin the contractions. The shifting. The sensation of fullness to bursting. The unwavering knowledge that you will do what must be done. Your mind and your body will join and the world will, once again, cease to spin. There is only you, only the raw, wretched, wonderful pain, only the child in that moment. God help your partner then, if they make a nuisance of themselves. For they'll not realize it isn't you they're talking to. You'll have become some other. Some creature fed only on sensation, on desire, on pain. You'll speak in a new voice, then. You'll utter words and shrieks you didn't know lived inside the very center of you, dormant all this time until this singular awakening... or... if you're like me.. You'll hold that all inside: a tempest in the heart of your soul. You will be silent. The room will be silent but for the quiet exhalation of breath. You will know the truth. You will do what must be done. And so, as your body stretches and tears, you'll cling with vise fingers to the bed-sheets, your eyes will scream with silent determination as you cleave that little life from you, as you force your most precious possession outside of yourself and so give it to the cruel world to hold. Then comes the shattering of the silence, the moment when the world clicks back into place and begins to turn once more: A cry, defiant, powerful. The warriors cry that screams from tiny rosebud lips, shouting triumph, echoing down the corridors of time: I. am. here. And when the child is placed upon your chest, they'll be warmer than you imagined. They'll be the missing piece of you--the piece you just tore out. And you'll know, then, that you'll never be the same again, because now the biggest piece of your soul lives on the outside. So, you will not be happy, no. You will feel everything all at once: fear. Pain. Longing. Love beyond reckoning. Worry. Anger at the world your soul must now live in. Sadness, because you have come to an ending along with the new beginning. And yes, happiness. You will feel happiness.
But whoever told you it would be the happiest day of your life is a liar.
Those come after.
Those come when you realize that cutting a piece of your soul out and letting it run about the world isn't such a bad thing, after all.
The happiest day is the day they place a tiny hand on your cheek and coo the love you let out right back into your heart.
And then, you'll know.
It was worth it.
Joy and sorrow
Except for my mother who doubles over in remembered pain if childbirth is mentioned, most women I've met say they do not remember the pain, only the joy (baby is finally here), the relief (I will see my feet again soon), the nervousness (ohmygodIamresponsibleforalittlehumanohmygodhessolittle!)
As for me, childbirth started months before his actual arrival.
I started having contractions in my 22nd week. I thought they were the Braxton Hicks contractions I'd read about but I mentioned them to my doctor anyway. Keep a record of them and let me know...
Week 23, sitting in class (I was finishing the coursework for my doctorate), I timed them every two minutes. I called the doctor when I got home (I was not concerned, deluded as I was). She invited me to the hospital so she could have a looksee. The hospital, not her office. It still did not click in my head. I walked the mile to the hospital whereupon they immediately hooked me up to machines.
Not Braxton Hicks.
Week 24, dilated two centimeters- into the bed I went.
Week 39 she let me out of bed.
I went to the library and finished a paper (my classmates had been delivering notes and assignments to me weekly. My Latin instructor was kind enough to teach me in my home.) A former student yelled at me in the middle of the library that I should not be there because I was going to have the baby any minute.
Later, I wondered if it was a premonition, but in the moment, I laughed and stayed until I finished, just around midnight.
At 5:30 am my water broke. I just thought I had to pee a lot. My husband figured it out (apparently it had a distinct odor.) He called the doctor and my mom. Once the doctor called us back (it took a while - wrong number on file!), he called a cab.
They put us in a big, chilly room with a bed and a bathroom and hooked me up to a baby heart monitoring machine that my husband watched while holding my hand and looking sickly in a chair by the bed.
By the time I thought I might change my mind about a natural birth and go for an epidural, I had already dilated past the point that it would have been allowed. So, instead, I continued singing operatic high notes (rather than screaming - I suspect it was kind of funny and not as melodious as I imagined.)
After checking on me briefly, the doctor left to go across the street to her office. A nurse told me I had better get hold of myself because I was going to be there for a while (I guess she did not like my singing). But then the midwife intern had a look...and said oh. After which she calmly called the doctor's office and said, as soon as she gets there, please tell her to come back to the hospital. I can see the head.
At 10:53 am, my son surprised everyone by showing up rather quickly (it did not feel quick to me, but I have friends who had days-long labor so I know I can't complain). They immediately laid him upon my chest. He was rather blue and a little quiet at first such that I worried, but then he began to whimper. (Six months later, the midwife called and asked if I had any questions about the birth. I asked if the cord had been around his neck. She was quiet, then asked how did I know or what made me ask. I said she and the doctor had looked at each other in the moments he was making his way into the world. A look of concern, but then he was there and the moment slipped by. Well, yes it was, she said.)
The most beautiful moment was when my husband began to say all the sweet words he used to say to my belly and our son quieted and tried to focus on the place from whence the sound came. He already knew his baba.
The joyful moment was speared by heartache when the doctor decided it was the opportune moment to tell me that my dad had died two days before but my mom and husband didn't want to perhaps induce labor by telling me.
So, the memory of my child's birth is colored by the joy of his arrival, a healthy boy, and the sorrow of the loss of my dad, both of which outweigh any of the physical pain of actually giving birth. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....
Bringing to Term, Love
The Bringing began with a dream. I do not mean a personal one. As in one from childhood. No, I always saw myself as Cécile in Bonjour Tristesse. Wiry, hardened by trial and too scrawny to carry my own ghost to term, never mind a child. Had you inquired casually, to make small talk like among foolish girlfriends whether I planned to get married and have kids, the answer would be a determined Absolutely Not on both counts.
I'd looked myself through and through, and there was no doubt. I would belong to no one. There're certain things that knowing oneself well does not allow-- Honesty-- if you permit the error of youth, on my part. Half-truths. The truth being that we bury parts of ourselves, from ourselves-- our inadequacies, secret hopes, second thoughts. We build a cover. Pretending we don't need anyone, or anything.
My mental scissors work very well. For a while.
And so, the mortal enemy, Time, passed. I was older. My energies highly dispersed among odd jobs, and obscure partial realities.
I seldom dream. When I do it is a vivid alternate reality that I take perhaps all too seriously.
I dreamt, that my now husband was at a breaking point, and needed a child. That I, in my audacity, would fulfill this need for him and turn his sinking spirit around. I took all the necessary steps, and Life co-signed.
The day I conceived I immediately sensed something was different. And I was elated. I just knew. Everything in my body said Working on it. It took weeks for the little plastic stick to show a sign of pregnancy. Being already hormonal, I cried at every negative. Until that double line marker finally showed. August 15th. Then it was only happy tears.
I felt, with all humility, that I had succeeded in something that I had been convinced would never be granted me. That I would have let pass me by. My husband felt the same way. Ecstatic. Blessed. And afraid. This was after all a whole new level of responsibility.
Many have said that they loved being pregnant, something to do with the freedom it allows, physically. True the relief of already being prego makes for great sex. Up to that point, you withhold something of yourself from yourself, from your partner. A negation in spite of all the action that does not allow for a full Yes.
Eating for two, is not what it seems. I did not double my intake. I increased mindfulness.
I was ultra careful in what we fed the embryo. Mostly words. The baby was spoken to personally, by name, internally and aloud, and read to, to ensure that he would know the voice of his Mama and Papa, and feel that he was already a welcome part of this world. He rejected sweet things, communicating by waves of nausea, and anyway I stuck to a clean healthy diet of mostly raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and water. Morning sickness was worst during the end of the first trimester. I didn't actually have any cravings till I started breastfeeding (and then it was alternately peanuts and watermelon) and this was consistent through two years. I learned to live mostly on water. That made the milk. To this date, Remy loves peanuts and is indifferent to watermelon.
I gained 33 pounds, maxing at 137. Seven pounds being baby. After delivery, 126lbs and within a few months was back to pre-pregnancy weight. Remy was invisible till about 7 months. He had been cradled sideways so that I hardly showed at all. Until suddenly he rotated facing forward. Now we could see a hand or foot pressing out as he shifted in his quarters. It was like, overnight, to the public eye, boom I was finally expecting.
He apparently had it good inside and didn't want to come out. The doctors were pushing for induced labor and declared April 20 as the prescribed day. Remy was "due" on my mother's birthday, April 19. I was adamant about him not sharing Hitler's b-day. And I'd rather not Mom's either, but that was a lesser evil. After tax-day, I was very anxious. I did not want a chemical induction.
My husband took action. He said, "You have to do those things they said not to..."
We jumped on the bed. Chased each other up and down the stairs. Nothing.
"Hm. Let's go for a hike."
We walked from our place on Upland to E. Main, down Arthur St. all the way to the end of Charles and made a left into a wooded trail that now had begun to weather into a ravine. It was precarious, sloping down and around, with rocks and exposed roots. It led down to a gravel farm like road. We took a right, then cut a left through the marsh, over a narrow trail with a small rail-less dirt covered overpass spanning a tiny but bubbling creek with frogs and fish. The path led to a deep dark woods.
I shook my head. Nothing yet. We turned around and hiked back. Took about an hour.
Around 5am I sat up in bed. I had a cramp. I went to pee. I was spotting blood. My heart raced. I waited on the edge of the bed. I prayed everything was ok. We had our mattress on the floor, not having a bed frame. My mother-in-law was with us, sleeping in the room next door. My husband was asleep. I watched him. I sat and I waited. There was threat of heavy snow. The clouds were pregnant, but nothing was falling yet.
It was April 17.
By 7am I was starting to have distant contractions. My husband stirred, and I said I think this is it, we did it. He smiled in sleepy disbelief and relief and concern. Reality sunk in. He readied himself and Mom. I paced the house like the shadow of a cat. I called into work to call out "sick." They wished me luck!
By 10am I was very concerned. I wanted to be taken to the hospital. The contractions were close enough, not horrible, about every 5 minutes. It was snowing. That was my biggest worry. It had been snowing for about an hour and was sticking. My mother-in-law called the hospital. There was no urgency, except my fear of getting stuck on the road. The hospital is ten minutes away.
We arrived. I was admitted. My husband stayed at my bedside. The woman next to me was unbearable, cussing non-stop into her cell phone, telling someone that she is being sent home because she is not sufficiently dilated. Demanding that since she is here, she wants and induction now. It was terrifying. I breathed through all my contractions, squeezing Bunny's hand. The attendant arrived. I was stripped and check-- sufficiently dilated-- 5cm. Relief. Pain. And, the wait.
I had already determined I was taking no pain killers. If this was real I was going to feel it all. Around 1pm they wheeled me into the delivery room. Finally. I was feeling great and thought I had everything under control. So wrong. I remember coldly rationalizing and previsualizing and telling my husband, months ago, that I thought it would be best if he was not in the room. Not that I wanted to rob him of the experience or myself of emotional support. I had tried to visualize. I was mostly right.
The realism of childbirth is above all an exercise of humility.
Somewhere between 1:15 and 2pm my water broke. I was allowed to wander around a bed like platform with a gymnastics bar across horizontally. For grasping on to during contractions and help with pushing no doubt. Somebody mopped the water. It had a sweet smell. There were traces of blood. The wandering must look from the side like a ranting mad woman, who is panting, and then loses control of bowels. Horror. Tears streaming while the medical staff says it is perfectly normal.
I alternated between Zen meditation and Transcendental. Zen during contractions. TM during the gaps. Contractions about a minute apart. Lasting about a minute to a minute and a half. (The difference is in Zen you aim for total awareness. In TM for single focus.)
They want to know if I want an epidermal?
If not now, then it will become too late--- No. No. NO. DON'T TOUCH ME. MAYBE I WAS SWEARING I DON'T F*CKING REMEMBER.
The doctor comes. FINALLY. "Are you ready to push?"
READY. I'M READY. LET'S GET THIS THING OUT ALREADY!! READY? OF COURSE I'M READY.
In reality, I have no idea what that means. I'll know soon enough. Now they are very concerned. The baby heart monitor shows the baby's heartrate dropping. Terror. The face of my husband. Defeat.
"We think we need to move to Cesarean section." They're talking about saving the baby. The ideal of natural childbirth is shot. I feel like a failure. But of course, it's not about me.
SAVE THE BABY!
They give me some idiotic forms to sign. Seriously. Release. Acknowledge that in the process of this treatment you are about to receive you may die or sustain injury for which we will not be held liable.
I sign. Tears are streaming. Contractions are consistent, but that's not why I'm crying.
The nurse is telling me that they now have to give the epidermal. It hits me. My body is now in full PUSH mode. I can't describe the feeling except to say that I have no control over that force out and down. The baby wants OUT.
"Don't push! don't push!"
I CAN'T NOT YOU HAVE TO GET THAT SHOT TO ME NOW MY BODY WILL NOT COOPERATE.
They give me the shot. I am paralyzed, waist down. I feel nothing but Fear.
I'm on a platform being carted to the operating room. They stick me behind some blue curtains. I ask if my husband can stay? He asks if I want him to? I burst into a new bout of tears. Of course I do! DON'T LEAVE ME HERE. I'm not rationale anymore.
I can feel the slicing of the knives regardless of the epidermal and local anesthesia.
Something goes wrong. I can tell by the shift in tone and sudden slight urgency in request for tools. FUCK. They punctured my bladder. And I can't hear the baby. WHERE IS HE?
"They've got him out. I see him..."
"Why isn't he making any noise?" I am sinking in spirits. I see him. The baby is blue as Krishna. They are carrying him to a sink, umbilical cord trailing.
And then, "Whaaa!"
One short cry. He's ALIVE. Thanks be to God the Almighty the Merciful.
They patch me up. They put the baby to my bare chest for a few minutes. He feels and smells amazing. Flesh and blood. Mine. His Papa is beside himself. He sees nothing but this amazing miracle. I remain paralyzed. He tells me I look beautiful and kisses me. They wheel me to some narrow compartment on a different floor. The baby remains for observation near the delivery area.
I know my husband needs to go eat something. I ask him to press my toes a moment before he leaves. I have this fear that I'll never walk. When he leaves, I start to feel something in my feet again and I fight through to keep wiggling and gaining movement. A lot of time passes alone in this corridor. Sounds of beeps and peripheral hospital noises. Someone comes to tell me that I will be three days in the hospital. That they've fixed me up with a catheter, that I'll have to wear it for a couple weeks. She shows me the baggie, where I can watch urine dripping in. She says I'll need to empty it when it gets full to this line. I follow the tube with my hand and trace its insertion into my right side. I don't feel the stitches of the C-Section but I can put my hand over the bandages. The anesthesia is still working.
The pain hits me later. I refuse the Ibuprofen and something stronger that they are pushing on me.
I want to see my baby. My husband is with me. I urge him to go home to sleep. He has to work the next day. I remain awake through the night. The baby sleeps, nurses, sleeps. The nurse helps with diapers and swaddling. Fortunately, the baby latches and eats. But his weight drops. Not enough to stop released from the hospital, god bless but enough for the staff to send in a person to lecture on lactation and another to strongly recommend donor's milk or formula. NO.
My milk hasn't come in. The baby is drinking colostrum, which is excellent in my opinion. The benefits of which are so vital that I want him to have as much as he possibly can. Milk can wait. I am confident it will come. I refuse to be rushed this time. I'm beginning to think I was rushed into the C-Section, but I'm in a lot of pain and don't trust my temper. I know I need to give the best impression that I'm ok to be able to go home. Fortunately, the idiotic perquisite for bowel movement is lifted, and that will not be an obstacle. I refuse to eat so my body can focus on healing.
They released me from the hospital Sunday. Remy was born on a Friday. I returned to work Monday. Covid has been a blessing. I am teaching virtually and at that time of high alert they were letting us work from home. I didn't qualify for Maternity Leave, so work was a given. The catheter came out May 10th. The catheter was the worst struggle. The incision and rearranging of organs was painful too and continued to make walking difficult.
My husband had no idea how much pain I was in. He wanted to give me a warm embrace, a bear hug, I howl, neither of us expecting such a reaction; a day after delivery, a week after return "...I will come to you," I whisper. And I did, always position myself in the most careful position to avoid grimace and misunderstanding.
He said, "I really thought you'd be good in a day or two."
I push through. Breastfeeding every three to four hours. Then every six. Holding the baby hurts my insides. I don't tell my husband how much I hurt until it is over and behind me. Sex felt like a knife for about a year. A shock because after all it was a C-Section, and that healed on me like on a dog within three weeks. At least, on the skin. I have a minimal battle scar; and the puncture mark from the catheter.
But the baby is amazing. He makes everyone so happy and filled with love.
It makes it all worthwhile.
Giving Birth Is…
To die to your old life, old self, and be born again.
To go through all the stages of learning, while teaching them.
To find a part of yourself you didn’t know you could love, amongst all that self hate you‘ve been holding.
To not be able to fully regret, regardless of the pain, all the moments that brought you to this one.
The closest experience to the natural processes that were meant to be our natural way of being.
(If you embrace it) - pure bliss.
Perpetuating the Cycle of Life
It was unexpected, that overwhelming love that encompassed my soul for a squalling, red-faced infant covered in the aftermath of birth’s remnants. It was like no other feeling I’d felt or even fathomed possible. I don't wish to sound cliché, but it was truly nothing short of miraculous and something not privy to the transcription of mere words.
I’d never expected to want a baby – never had a burning desire to feel that strange sensation of another life inside of me for fear it would be something alien like. Giving birth to a tiny human being was never a part of a life to which I gravitated, but at the precipice of thirty years of age, I decided to do it, mostly because all of my close friends were having children and I didn’t want to be left out. I know it’s not exactly an ideal reason to have a child, but I was young and ignorant. In addition, the expectation of having a baby, especially after four years of marriage, was another catalyst to my first child’s conception.
The first trimester was filled with nausea and acid reflux. Not precisely the start of something greatly desired. Only the persistent inability to eat, a nagging backache, and the thump of a small, yet surprisingly strong, heartbeat, confirmed that I was with child. How could something the size of a grain of rice make me feel so bad? The one positive part of my first trimester was that I did not suffer from increased bouts of sleepiness like most do. If anything, I had trouble sleeping due to increased restlessness, which also continued for the duration of my pregnancy. Perhaps it was nature’s way of preparing me, a person who loved sleeping and napping, for a life in which such luxuries would to be fairly nonexistent.
Almost immediately into my fourth month or second trimester, I began to feel human again. The nausea and acid reflux subsided, and I would even go so far as to say I felt better than ever before. I began craving salty food. Much later, my grandmother would tell me she had craved the same while pregnant and even resorted to licking piles of salt from her hand to satisfy the craving. How strange that pregnancy related symptoms like specific cravings can travel through different generations. I was nearly five months along when I felt the slightest flutter: the tell-tale movement of a baby that was only about eight inches long and less than six ounces. Unlike my previous alien references to such an event, wonder filled me, and I immediately longed to feel the same sensation repeatedly. Little did I know that by the end of my pregnancy, the baby would be larger, moving and kicking to cause discomfort. Even though my appetite was normal, my weight gain was minimal. By the end of the mid-trimester my stomach was well-rounded and predominant. leaving little doubt as to my condition. This, along with a resonating heartbeat and an ultrasound, assured me that my little one would arrive as expected in about five months’ time.
My last trimester was filled with an increasing, twenty-pound weight gain and an ever growing midriff (a polite way of describing a protruding baby). How in the world did something that started off so tiny and unrecognizable become so large and ever present? Despite being uncomfortable, excitement began to fill my days. I eagerly chose my nursery pattern: Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and other drawings. What fun I had buying precious little Royal Dalton figurines and a wallpaper border that represented Peter Rabbit and his array of friends. It was as though I was recreating my own childhood as the Tale of Peter Rabbit had been one of my favorite books. I also completed the Lemans classes, while wondering if anything could actually prepare me for expelling the rotund baby from my 5 foot, 2 inches and 125 pound body. Regardless, it would eventually happen and I was sure I would never be the same. By my final month, my body began to retain fluid and my ankles became abnormally swollen. Still, I managed to trudge on and work each day, awaiting the final phase of my child’s delivery.
It was nearing Christmas and I was due just prior to the end of the calendar year. I lived in a Southern city that did not usually get much snow, but that year (1989), the Holy City was blanketed with ten inches – our first white Christmas in decades. My anxious little one decided to make her grand entry two days following the holiday. The night before I went into labor, I watched old Christmas movies: “Christmas in Connecticut” and “The Bells of Saint Mary’s”. Those movies will forever be a vivid reminder of the momentous occasion that would soon follow. Interestingly enough, as my child has grown, these two films have become two of her favorite holiday movies.
Pregnancy and childbirth are amazing, and it’s true that both will give birth to a new, undying respect for motherhood. As you watch your little one grow, a newfound understanding for what your own parent endured takes root. You are countlessly reminded of those things you did to challenge your own mother's sanity and well-being, of times you saw an unexpected smile or look of pride grace your parent’s face, or those unfortunate choices you made that created tears, frustration, or fear in the person who brought you into this world. You pray you won’t make the same mistakes your own parents made, but in retrospect, you simply do the best you can – and always strive for even better when it comes to your children.
No one ever promised that giving birth or being a parent would be easy, and it certainly isn't. Despite the fact my children are now in their thirties, it remains difficult at times. Issues and battles simply change direction, taking on a different name or new life. Then again, nothing worth having ever came easy, and to use an old quote (and lyric), "no one ever promised us a rose garden" in this life. Still, through thick and thin, thorns and roses, tears and happiness, I’d do it all over again. There is absolutely, profoundly, and adamantly nothing that compares -at least, not in my lifetime.
Don’t Get Distracted
Don't get distracted: the birth of a baby is just an aside.
The true gravitas is the solemnity of what's really being born--the family. The family is the pinnacle of mammalian evolution, as well as the celebration of societal foundation.
The family supersedes the mother, the father or other partner, and the newborn. Like the Trinity, it is an entity all itself--special and divine. When a parenting partner is absent the creation of the family, the birth is merely mammalian. When present, they are the necessary element for kindling the humankind journey.
The happiest day of one's life is a cliché, but the birth of a family is a miracle. And it can even get better and better with subsequent births. The birth is the mechanical part; raising a child is the human part, and that is the commitment imbued within family. I can visit a children's playground and cannot tell which children were born naturally, which were C-sections, which have a mother and a father, which have two mothers--or two fathers, which were breastfed, or which were wanted.
But I can tell which ones are being raised. Is a he necessary?
A father is necessary for the birth, but he isn't necessarily needed to make a family. That may have been necessary in the days of hunting/gathering, but today's family encompasses many versions of parenting. The beauty of parenting, however, isn't limited by the constraints of any mandated structure, but all of its possibilities are underscored by the beauty of childhood. And humans are blessed with a particularly long one.
I wouldn’t say love at first sight. Because. Well. He looked like a blue gorilla. And my initial response aloud was “I gave birth to THAT”. And then my husband had to leave bc I was being seen up and he was going with our child. And then I landed. In a room. Alone. With this wrinkled looking old man child that was approximately 50 minutes old. Panicked out of my mind. Because I didn’t know what to do with it.
Terror sums up the end of a very long day spent laboring, amid a tornado watch, drug free. Right up until it wasn’t. And then it was allllll the drugs and an emergency c-section. Which concluded with me bringing forth. Methuselah.
And then the feeding. For upwards of a year. It was a second job. And it was hard. And I resented my hubs and and my child. Until I transitioned him to whole milk. And I felt like someone instead of merely a food source.
Currently. Nine years later. I love this kid. With my entire heart.
These stories are personal. And they are yours. It’s okay not to feel whole or yourself. It’s okay to cry over random things including split milk because it’s liquid gold. It’s okay to give birth however you needed to for the safety of you and your baby. It’s okay to feed your baby how you see fit. Nothing makes you any less.
What to Really Expect When She’s Expecting
The journey to parenthood commences with a moment of bliss as your carnal desires are fulfilled in a naked, sweaty, moaning, and sticky (if you're doing it right) romp. Maybe you forgot protection or maybe you're unsheathed for the sake of procreation. The consequences be damned because you think you know all about pregnant women because you're an uncle or you're someone's godfather. Well, unless you're an the baby delivery biz, you're wrong. You're about to learn that you know fuck all nothing.
Eventually, the happy (or oh shit moment depending on the circumstances) arrives and premommy pees on a stick. That two minute wait for the result is a stomach twisting roller coaster of emotions. If the test comes back positive, your significant other should get comfortable with nausea because she will soon be developing a serious relationship with the toilet. They say saltine crackers or mints help with morning sickness, but that's for her. There is nothing to help you if you are squeamish about vomit, but get used to it because you WILL at some point be holding her hair while she spews exorcistesque levels of vomit. By the way, don't expect a reprieve from the throwing up later in the day because
the term, "Morning Sickness" is complete bullshit. The nausea doesn't care what time it is, so premommy may find herself tossing cookies at all hours of the day and night.
Okay, it's official. Your wife, girlfriend, that one drunken hookup that you accidentally gave your real address to is carrying your cum fruit. Now, the chaos begins. Please note that the changes premommy is experiencing may just be annoying to you, but to her, they are seriously bat guano insane. You will find yourself suddenly holding her during a rerun of "The Office" while she sobs uncontrollably after seeing a Pampers or Hallmark card commercial. Keep in mind, she's just as confused as you are by these hormonal, chaotic emotional outbursts, so cut her some slack. Now they say that pregnant cravings are a myth. Yeah right. During my wife's first pregnancy I found myself regularly breaking multiple traffic laws as I raced to Kentucky Fried Chicken right before they closed because my wife told me she, "MUST HAVE KFC'S INSTANT MASHED POTATOES AND GRAVY!" Oh, I offered to make her real homemade mashed potatoes and gravy because being Irish, I can perform miracles with potatoes as easily as I reproduce. However, THE CRAVING wants what it wants and doesn't give a flippity fuck that The Colonel's closes in less than ten minutes. Eventually, The KFC staff got to know me, my orrder, and reason why I hit the drive thru at eighty miles per hour. I was lucky because the manager wa the grandmotherly type and actually saved me some taters and gravy for these mad dashes for carbs, grease, salt, and what passes for potatoes in some alternate universe.
You've made it to the second trimester and things have mellowed a bit. The morning, noon, and night sickness has eased because premommy's body has accepted its fate. The carrier of your child's hips will also lose a bit of their seductive sway around now, leaving what can only be described as a cute, drunken penguin waddle. Oh, bonus! If you're lucky, you will benefit from a common second trimester change where premommy's libido could goes off the rails wild and she will want sex A LOT. When she's done with you, she will leave you sore, walking funny, and with a huge fucking grin on your face until the beginning of the third trimester. Predaddy also goes through a change. You will become rabid rottweiler protective of premommy. This is especially true when complete strangers want to touch premommy's tummy or when you encounter those dudes who have a thing for pregnant women. You need to control yourself because you don't want premommy to go into labor while you're behind bars guilty of assault on a little old lady who touched your significant other's tummy without permission. If you don't want to be wearing prison blue with bullet proof glass keeping you from holding your newborn, remember, what granny lacked in the understanding of personal boundaries she likely made up for with good intentions.
Fast forward to the beginning of the third trimester and premommy gets the idea of taking childbirth classes. At the childbirth class you find yourself surrounded by couples who say stupid shit like, "It's their pregnancy" or "We won't breastfeed because we want our baby to be vegan." Of course, you really want to slap the stupid out of the dad, but premommy makes you play nice. The instructor will definitely be full of information and you will learn a lot about labor, delivery, and how premommy's fun bits will experience a lot of trauma during delivery. While sitting on the floor propped up by pillows you will also learn about breathing techniques, what to do in an emergency, and listen as the instructor waxes poetic about the wonders of childbirth. Unfortunately, you will also have to sit through a lot of stupid questions. For example, after a brief discussion about mucus plugs (Google it) the other couples will ask question after question about mucus plugs while you're thinking, "It's just a little crotch snot, get over it already!" FINALLY, after six weeks the class is over and there's a, "Graduation "potluck. While nibbling on pasta salad and raw vegetables the wives hug, exchanging phone numbers, and Facebook friend each other. You sit with the other husbands, boyfriends and the shmucks too stupid to either use condom or give a false address after the hookup in a corner thinking, "Thank GOD I don't have to spend another minute with these stupid motherfuckers (soon to be literally) after this." Still, premommy is happy about what she's learned and you get brownie points for making it through light weight torture.
The big day approaches and at the last OB/GYN appointment the doctor explains premommy's pelvis is too narrow for vaginal child birth and a cesarian will be needed to deliver your little bundle of medical bills. A bit stunned you leave the doctor's office with a date for the delivery. Premommy is understandably worried because she's going to be filleted like a rainbow trout instead of having the baby exit through her no-no place. You, you're worried too, but you're also pissed you had to take childbirth classes which are now about as useful as crotchless panties in a convent.
Sadly, I can't tell you much about traditional labor and delivery. Cesarians are very clinical and my wife experienced three of them. So, I can tell you this much. After premommy gets into a surgical gown you have to stand watching as the anesthesiologist pokes A BIG FUCKING NEEDLE into her spine delivering the epidural which will numb her from the waist down. Then when the medication has taken effect you are dressed in surgical wear and led into the operating room. During the procedure you stand by premommy's head and you're allowed to hold her hand. There is a curtain that shields you from seeing the Cesarian procedure, so you have no fucking idea what is going on in premommy's southern hemisphere. Ready to start, the OB says a few words of encouragement and instruction that you don't hear and the cutting commences. Almost immediately you are shocked when you smell burning flesh as the doctor cauterizes small blood vessels severed during the initial incision. This is used to stop the bleeding caused by the cut. Her insides now open to the world, the doctor then plunges his hands into premommy's abdominal cavity. After what seems to be just a minute or two the doctor says something like, "Welcome to the world" as he holds the newborn over the curtain for you both to see.
Your baby is born covered in amniotic gunk, but you don't really notice. You also don't notice that newborns look a lot like a small, naked Winston Churchill. To you the child, is beautiful and the first wail from their lungs is the sweetest song you will ever hear.
After cutting the cord the nurses clean baby up and hands the wee bairn to you. Looking down at this little life you hold you think to yourself, "You know you're an idiot without a clue. Don't fuck this up. Oops I can't swear anymore. Well, except for the commute home from work where I can use profanity with the same passion and precision as a Shakespearian sonnet." Your wee one is then sent to the nursery as the doctor closes up the girl who has now officially graduated from premommy to mommy status.
After a couple days of recovery you and mommy return home. You're both nervous and both unsure of what to do, but you are so in love with that little human you are determined to figure it out and then crush the fuck out of this parenting shit. As with all things new, you will eventually find your stride. Diaper changes, breast pumping, telling relatives to fuck off mommy and baby need their rest becomes reflexive. Finally, on those nights where mommy is exhausted and little one is fussy, you hold that little life against your chest in the darkness inhaling that perfect baby smell. The little one nuzzles in, making adorable little coos and grunts as they drift off to sleep on daddy's chest. As you rock your angel to sleep you realize that if there is a purpose in life, and a reason to deal with all the fuckery the world throws at us, this quiet moment holding your little one as they sleep has got to be it.
The day you were lost
I never wanted to be a mother the thought of giving up my dreams and life to have a child seemed so disappointing, and it's not just that, maybe because I didn’t want to risk losing my child the day they were supposed to arrive that fear grew stronger the more the months passed at last the 9 months had passed and it was the day for you to be in my arms. And yet, the day I met you everything changed. I loved my baby boy for the 9 months I carried them imagining the day I would finally get to see those chubby cheeks and rolls wondering if you would have the same dimples I had. Emilio, the day you were born was the most painful thing in the world and it wasn't easy being in labor isn't ever easy especially when you know the outcome of your child's life but although that pain was unbearable I know that any mother would gladly relieve if it meant meeting there second life for the first time. Not everyone could experience this exact feeling but I did, I created life that always seemed so far away for me. Through the tears I shed, and cloudy eyes I get to finally hold you, I may not have been the first person who laid eyes on you but I will be the first person you love and who will give you the warmth needed to keep those cries away. Although I had that moment with you for an hour before you were gone I would go back in time and do it all again. You will always be my guide and hope to keep going.
“Love’s Ballet: The Journey of Parenthood”
A journey begins,
a universe to unfurl,
To bring a child into this world,
Is to grasp the sun's essence at the break of day.
In the cocoon of being,
a miracle takes flight,
A symphony of creation,
stars shining bright,
Within the cradle of a soul's embrace,
A bond eternal,
love's endless grace.
The gentle flutter of tiny wings inside,
A dance of life,
a love that can't be denied,
With each passing day,
the bond grows strong,
A chorus of hope,
an enchanting song.
From the dawning of time,
this sacred art,
The convergence of dreams,
life's fresh start,
With eyes aglow and hearts aflame,
A new chapter written,
a cherished name.
The canvas of life,
a masterpiece to behold,
As love's tapestry weaves,
a story unfolds,
From the first breath,
a connection pure,
A parent's embrace,
love's tender allure.
Amidst the labor of love,
the pain endured,
A mother's strength,
a father's support assured,
Through sweat and tears,
the miracle blooms,
A child brought forth,
hope forever consumes.
The world outside awaits,
a realm unknown,
A cradle of wonder,
where seeds are sown,
As parents guide, protect, and impart,
The wisdom of ages,
a treasure impart.
Through sleepless nights
and tender sighs,
like butterflies that rise,
In every milestone and stumble they find,
The boundless joy of a love that's entwined.
Yet, amidst the happiness,
The highs and lows,
a rainbow of hue,
For parenthood's journey is never straight,
A river of emotions,
a voyage to navigate.
From sleepless nights
to whispered dreams,
From scraped knees
to triumphant gleams,
Through the peaks and valleys,
they will stride,
In the sanctuary of love, side by side.
So tell me not only of the happiest day,
But of the journey that led you this way,
Of love's evolution,
profound and deep,
As a child is born,
and hearts forever leap.
For to bring a child into this world,
Is to learn the meaning of love's ballet,
To cherish the moments, embrace the strife,
And find in the journey, the essence of life.