Thursday, August 6, 2009

champagne thursday: toast #44

i'm kind of sad that this post isn't the 43rd champagne thursday toast because it goes out to my mom, and 43 is her favorite number. i thank my mother so much for the way she always reassured me that giving birth does not necessarily play out the way it is consistently conveyed in movies and television. she always told me not to believe all the screaming and cursing and overall hellishness of the whole process, and i cannot thank her enough for it because, even though i was still fairly terrified of going through it, i had her calming words to make me believe that it wasn't going to be that bad.

it's awful what women do to each other. when you're pregnant, or even talking about wanting to become pregnant, there is no shortage of women who will bombard you with horror stories of 36-hour labors and white-knuckle pain. and i'm talking about women who weren't even crazy/brave enough to go without epidurals or any kind of traditional pain management. stories like these, and even those of women who went through natural labor, are just the grown-up version of the terrible ways girls in middle school treat each other.

i'm not going to pretend to know what it's like to be dilated beyond 4 cm without the benefit of an epidural. i have no idea how bad contractions get after that point, or what it feels like to be stitched up afterward without pain medication, but stories like those told by dooce here, here and here are the reason that so many women have panic attacks about labor and delivery. i'm not trying to invalidate her experience in any way - i'm sure it is extremely painful to go through the process without an epidural. i'm certain of it. but the drama with which these kinds of stories are told is outrageous. it's like when someone tells you that they were in labor with their child for 27 hours. yes, okay, you were, but how much of that time were you actually in any discomfort? most women don't even know they're in labor for a good portion of it, and they only find out later when it had actually started. my water broke at 9 pm one night, and langley was born at 12:33 pm the next day, so yes, i was in labor for at least 15 hours. but i didn't feel any contractions until well after midnight, and i didn't have contractions that were all that unpleasant until after 5 am. i have no idea how long the hours after that would have felt had i opted for a natural delivery, and i don't want to know. i can say that up until 8:30 am, the most uncomfortable part of my labor was getting the epidural, although it wasn't because the epidural itself was painful, only that the doctor administering it had trouble inserting it and compounded the problem by trying to be funny about it. after that, the most uncomfortable part of the delivery was the "stretching" process, which, even with pain medication, was not something i would repeat just for funsies. i did not scream during the delivery, and i did not wish death upon my husband. i did not have 12 people rubbing my back, and i did not once think that i couldn't get through the delivery.

i say all this not to belittle anyone who had painful labor experiences, only to reassure other women that not every horrible thing you hear about giving birth is true or is going to happen to you. if hearing someone tell a far less dramatic version of the usual war stories eases the anxiety of just one woman the way my mother's stories helped to ease mine, i'll be happy.


Jenera said...

when my soon to be sister in law announced she was pregnant, I told her all about the things no one told me. Like that your belly button will stretch and will hurt more than you could ever imagine. Or that the farts, goodness, the farts will kill you and everyone around you. Or that you can tell everyone to leave the room if you want. My two labors were pretty similar but very much not like anyone else's.