You’d think that by baby number four, I’d have this labor & delivery business down like a pro. “Been there, done that!” you say? HA!
Connor was almost two weeks early when my water broke on June 30th; he was born the next morning. Adrienne’s due date was December 21st; I went into labor around 5:00 the morning of the 20th and she was born about 7 1/2 hours later (I made it to the hospital an hour and a half before she was born). Eleanor was several days late and I chose to go ahead with an induction, thanks to her potentially gargantuan size. So as you can see, three babies, all completely different. I have absolutely no idea what to expect.
For the past 2-3 months, almost every night without fail, before I fall asleep, I lie in bed on either my right side (common) or left side (not common; Baby F likes to hang out in the left womb quadrant, and he’s too heavy at this point for that position to be comfortable), and I have flashbacks. I have vivid recollections of what labor pains feel like – the seizing grip of contractions, being completely powerless in the moment, waiting during the moments of respite for it to begin again. And there’s the terrifying fear that my body will betray me and something will go wrong and I’ll wind up on the operating table, machines beeping and oxygen flowing and “THE BABY!” and…and…and…
Part of me says “You know, you COULD have an epidural and save yourself some agony.” Yeah. I could. I have contemplated the use of painkillers in labor more during this pregnancy than any other. Maybe I feel I’ve “served my sentence” in a way, with three previous drug-free labors (well, Pitocin counts as a drug, I guess, but not in a pain-killing sense, as Pitocin is a terrible, horrible pain-INDUCING drug and I never, ever, EVER want to experience the horror of Pitocin-induced labor ever again, but I digress). Why suffer? this voice wants to convince me. Yet I’m not convinced. Everything I have read about epidurals suggests that I want absolutely no part of a needle anywhere NEAR my spinal column, and anything that will suppress my ability to feel what’s going on down south, especially when it comes to pushing, seems like a terrible idea. I’m not saying they’re bad for everyone; many women I’ve talked with have had tremendous relief during an exhausting labor after an epidural placement. But I just can’t do it.
Another fear I cannot shake – what is life going to be like after Baby F arrives? With my other pregnancies, my children were older. There’s 4 1/2 years between them – age 11, 6, and 2. Connor and Adrienne could dress themselves, grab a bowl of cereal if needed, take care of their bathroom needs, and entertain themselves (albeit briefly). Now I’ll have a 2-year-old who still takes naps, wears a diaper at nap time and bedtime, and requires assistance going to the bathroom, getting clean and dressed. And she needs cuddles and constant attention, too. The two older kids children need rides to music lessons and church activities, help with homework, and constant conflict mediation. Add to the mix all of the chores and daily routines of running our household plus a photography business on broken sleep at age 37 and I’m starting to have heart palpitations. HOW AM I GONNA DO IT ALL?
I’m not even going to pretend that I or anyone can resolve these fears. I know that tonight, after the kids are in bed with their tummies and teeth full of Halloween sugar, I’ll get into my bed (clean sheets, YAY!), turn out the lights, close my eyes, and it will all rise to the surface again like some undead ghoul. My husband can hold me and tell me he’ll help however he can, but he feels that any attempt to help me during labor will be inadequate. I’ll try to reassure him that it will be enough knowing he’s there for me…but how lonely those birthing hours can be, despite being surrounded by people who are there to help. All I can do is reach into my strength reserves; the same ones that pushed me to finish a half-marathon a little over a year ago (which is a slightly different scenario, because if you REALLY MUST QUIT a race, you can!). I have done this childbirth thing three times before and survived, and I have the proof in two things: these three-almost-four wonderfully perplexing creatures that call me Mom, and this belly that will never, ever be flat again no matter what I do.
Won’t be much longer now.