Please share with us your expectations for giving birth if you are currently pregnant and how your expectations were or were not met if you are already a mother. And for those of you with multiple children or who may be pregnant with a second child, please share how your expectations have varied from pregnancy to pregnancy.
I think I was among the delusional when it came to childbirth. In fact, I’m certain of it.
First of all, my son arrived far earlier than I anticipated. Three weeks, to be precise. I went to the doctor for my routine 36-week check up, only to be told that I was four centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. When just the day before I carefully planned out my week to tidy up all my loose ends in the event the baby came the following week, I was suddenly on maternity leave and urged not to stray too far from my house.
Oh, bother. I would hardly consider this good use of my maternity leave!
The morning following my 36-week check up, I felt the pangs of early labor. Surely my son will come now, I thought. But, alas, no. He was just testing me. After returning home from my second trip to triage, I was disappointed that he was stalling.
Late that evening, my labor (finally) progressed further. I’d like to think it was the chocolate ice cream that spurred it along. At any rate, we went back to the hospital, and, once again, I lay in triage for what seemed like an eternity, ever so fearful they would send me home once again. But, they didn’t – and once I was admitted, I thought the baby would come very soon afterwards.
Boy, was I wrong. But after reading others’ birth stories, I think I was among the luckier ones. I just wasn’t as lucky as I would have liked to be.
Because I made it to four centimeters and 80% without knowing it, I honestly thought labor couldn’t possibly be all that bad. And when a nurse came to my bedside and asked me if I wanted something to ease the pain, I initially refused, caving only a moment later when another contraction assaulted me. I was adamant, though: I did not want an epidural. And, so, I didn’t have one. I had Nubain instead, which sent me into an opium-induced state of delirium. Oddly, Nubain is given to lots of women in early labor and is often ineffective for women in advanced labor (as I was), but it did the trick. I only asked for one refill, and that was it.
Thirty hours after the onset of early labor, ten hours after arriving at the hospital, eight hours after being admitted, three contractions and six good pushes later, I heard my son for the first time… and was strangely disappointed at the anticlimax of childbirth. I’ve no idea what I was expecting to feel, but I knew I didn’t feel it. I peered down at the miracle of my messy, still unnamed son and, though relieved to be done with labor and elated that he was perfectly made with all ten fingers and all ten toes, I was just so unbelievably tired. And when the nurses gave him to me to nurse right away and he didn’t want to latch on, I felt awful – all my expectations of being a “good” mother were already fading away before my eyes. (Mind you, he didn’t completely figure out business of latching on until the next morning, but I had far more calls to the nurses’ station than I thought I might.)
I laugh now at my naivete, how I believed that watching my nieces grow, talking to all my mom friends, and reading everything I could about motherhood while I was pregnant would somehow prepare me for the onslaught of mothering. Nothing can prepare you for motherhood, I’ve discovered. And just when I think I’ve figured out what my son needs, wants, and expects of me, he immediately changes the rules and I’m back to square one.
And yet, I would do it all again, with no hesitation.