It will feel like someone is stabbing you from the inside. Contractions. Labour. I was forewarned. My due date was the 5th of April and I was swollen and completely over it. I started bouncing on my oversized blue exercise ball to summon my child, my daughter out of me. My pregnancy was healthy but I was still plagued with fears of the pain and outcome. For all of the ultrasounds and info you get about how you are doing, there is still the looming presence of the unknown.
My birthmother gave me up for adoption when I was too young to even remember her, and as such I had no source to talk me through what my own birth was like. I couldn't answer basic health history questions and I knew going in that there would be no one of my own blood to calm, ease, and assist me.
After two days of bouncing I felt the first stab. I was so excited and relieved until the actual pain permeated through me. It instantly felt traumatic and I couldn't run away or block it out. Long moments passed in between each relentless episode. I watched Cosby Show episodes on Youtube to try and distract me. Ironically the one where Dr. Huxtable was pregnant came on auto play. I think I was somewhat amused.
We waited. You’re told to wait because going to the hospital too soon is a mistake. You can get sent back home or worse they will convince you to get an epidural which slows everything down and puts you more at risk to die.
I knew very early on that I would want to stop the pain if it became unbearable to me yet I was shamed and discouraged by others about that very personal decision.
I have confronted deep emotional pain square in the eye and if I need a reprieve from the physical I have every right to take it. I say that with absolute conviction now, but at the time I felt weak and unworthy as a mother because I wanted to escape those sensations.
These type of life changing milestones are ones that no matter how much support you have - you face alone. You as a woman have to pull your strength to bear your child whether it’s during pushing or surgery.
I got the epidural. The moment it hit my spine was pure ecstasy. I had labored softly for 24 hours and pretty intensely for another 12 before going to the hospital. I felt terror and sadness again that I hadn’t taken on the full brunt of the pain like a true warrior.
What they don't tell you is the epidural does eventually wear off and they wont administer a second one. So for me it was more of a long break and then right back to the searing waves. I practiced an intense meditation to lift my body out of the anguish.
My daughter was in no rush and had no intention of arriving without being pulled.
I was on the surgical table delirious, in and out of consciousness, and hearing the doctors say WRENCH WRENCH as they wrestled my baby out of me. They sounded like car mechanics trying to replace an engine.
She was born healthy. 9 lbs. gulp. I was wiped out and shocked, but nature took over and lead the way for this new life with her.
I'm at a moment in life where I need to remember who I am. I need to remember my strength- not just the broad strokes of it, but the details, the gritty ones. I need to remember my fortitude while I was also feeling inept and uncertain. As I edge towards birthing non human creations I need to hold my own hand and recall what I'm capable of. Though we are ultimately alone when facing what comes forth from us, we are not alone in the sharing of our experiences which can serve as the support we weren’t aware of before. This is me chipping in as I step towards what’s next and unknown for me.
Self Portrait, August 2018, Downtown Los Angeles. Romper by H&M