Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Childbirth is Nasty

It's weird the way we mothers look back with fondness on an experience that is (for the most part) quite painful and horrific. I'm talking, of course, about the experience of giving birth to our children. I'm specifying children here, because in about 6 months I will be giving birth to a couple of aliens, as evidenced by the ultrasound pics I posted last week. My first baby was a human but she was hell to get out of my body.

In the week before I finally expelled her, I wound up in the Labor & Delivery emergency room three times. Twice for false labor. It was my first baby and I didn't really know how it felt. If I had known how it felt, I probably would have killed myself before I ever had to actually do the work. The third time I wound up there, I thought for sure that this was it. I was in so much pain - gnawing, unrelenting agony. What I had thought for sure were labor pains, turned out to be a nice size kidney stone working it's way down my ureter. The doctor gave me scripts for Percocet and Ambien and told me to "go home and have a beer." I loved him. I think I still do.

Hurricane Katrina was raging on the Gulf Coast, and I remember sitting at home watching the news footage. I couldn't really emotionally connect to what was happening in the world, to the awful things that were happening to those poor people, I must admit. My personal world was in turmoil and I was high on painkillers. It was completely surreal.

I was scheduled to be induced the day before my due date. But I had heard so many horror stories about inducement that I wanted to go into labor naturally. So I said to Todd, "You know, sex can induce labor. What do you say? You want to do it?" He was totally game, my horny husband. It must have felt like fucking a manatee.

Hours later I was having active contractions and out of my damn mind with pain. Todd held my hand tight as an inept nurse tried to stick an IV into my arm to administer pain medication. My dear, sweet husband said, "I'm here...You're Ok. I'm not going anywhere." As the nurse stuck me over and over again in her futile attempts to find a vein, Todd stood up and sauntered right out of the room. Like, he just left without saying a word. I was in one of those rooms that just has a privacy curtain as a wall. Seconds later I heard a loud crash and under the curtain I spied Todd laying on the ground unconscious with a small pool of blood gathering around his head. He had fainted, and taken down a large metal cart along the way to the floor. I just started screaming. Like obnoxiously screaming.

It took a team of people, including my obstetrician, to calm me down. My OB explained that men faint all the time when their wives are in labor. I thought that was only something that happened in stupid sitcoms. Apparently not. They took Todd to the ER and I was assured that he was going to be fine after he got a few stitches. Then the doctor ordered some strong sleepytime medicine for this crazy lady. God bless him. Did I tell you that I'm in love with this guy?

Waking up from my blissful coma to godawful pain was just indescribable. You know, pain that makes a woman beg for someone to stick a fat needle in her spine must be pretty fucking awful. Todd had finally returned to me with fresh stitches in his chin and was full of apologies. He spent the rest of the day on his cell phone doing his Fantasy Football draft.

Twelve hours later, I was still not fully dilated. My epidural had worn off and when I pleaded for another one, a fucking snooty nurse said, "You're supposed to be in pain. You're in labor, hon." If I wasn't catheterized and partially numb from the waist down, I really think I would have attacked her like a wild animal. I hate those fucking people who think that childbirth is supposed to hurt. I especially hate those woman who think they are somehow superior human beings because they gave birth without pain medication or an epidural. What the fuck does that prove? If someone said to me, "I had my appendix removed without anesthesia. It's just more natural that way," I would think that they were insane. That's kind of how I feel about these "natural" childbirth women. Don't get me wrong - people can have their babies any way they damn well please. If somebody wants to endure excruciating pain for absolutely no reason, then godspeed. Just don't expect me to admire you for it. It doesn't make you a superhero or even a better mother than someone who opts for pain management.

When my OB came to me at 2 am and said, "We're going to need to do a C-Section," I wanted to kiss him. After 16 hours of labor, I knew that I wouldn't have the strength to push the baby out. I was relieved that my vagina would remain intact. I had had nightmares about needing an episiotomy. Yes, I'd rather have major abdominal surgery than be sliced open along my perineum. Then and now and always.

For my C-section, they laid me out on an uncomfortable bed with both my arms strapped down on extended boards at my side, I felt like I was being crucified. Why it's necessary to restrain a woman during this process is baffling to me. Helpless feeling. Paralyzed from the waist down, arms tightly strapped down, a blue sheet hung down between my eyes and some truly gruesome activity. When they cut, I could feel the blade opening my abdomen. It didn't hurt at all; But I could feel it happening. I could feel my doctor's hands inside of me tugging Liv out of her warm, snuggly home. And then: silence. For a brief moment after she was born into the world, she was quiet. I felt this sick panic and screamed for her. I heard my voice yelling "My baby - is she ok?" And finally - I heard her crying. It was the last time I'd be happy to hear that.

Childbirth is just nasty. I think that's why God made pregnancy so horrible. By the time we're full term, we're willing to go through anything for it to be over. Why am I telling you all this? Because Liv had her 4th birthday yesterday. Four years ago I became a mother. And I'm about to do it again and again. I feel insane right now - more so than usual.

Me and Liv 9/1/05


  1. Oh Gwen, I laughed out loud at your description of Todd taking a header in the hospital. I've never had a child...hell, I've never even had cramps, so I can't relate. But if pain-relieving drugs are involved, I'm all for it. Save the heroics. Take the drugs. I love your doctor too.

  2. And the thing is, even if I'd read this before I had kids, I still wouldn't have REALLY gotten it. The one and only thing I actually enjoyed about the birthing experience? The feeling immediately after giving birth. For about two minutes, I felt like a fucking hero, like I could have climbed a mountain, wrestled a bear, anything. And then the adrenalin wore off...

  3. Damn right, it's nasty.

    I had an amnio this time and he was watching the giant needle and I heard the nurse mumble, 'You okay over there?' and I almost leapt off the table and knocked him on the head.

    You guys look super-cute in that picture, though.

  4. This is, without a doubt, my favourite post of yours. Seriously. Great work.

    My daughter's birth had a lot of similarities to yours:
    - long labour without progress
    - C-section
    - obnoxious nurses
    - nearly lost father (I was in the O.R. and to make a long story short, turned the wrong way at one point after my daughter was born and saw the "other" side of the curtain)

  5. Ewww. I so wanna know what is on the other side of the curtain. Morbid curiosity.

  6. My wife endured four pregnancies, all natural, and had an epidural for every one save the second . . . there was no time with that one.

    Glorious post, my dear. You have a way of crafting sentences that speak volumes . . .

  7. I wrote a post about giving birth to my linebacker of a son who caused me to have SEPERATION OF THE ANAL MUSCLES. Thank God for pain meds. You look so serene in your pic-- after that ordeal I was expecting crazy Bride of Frankenstein hair or something.

  8. Great blog post. I have yet to read one of your posts and not have some kind of emotional reaction to it - be it sadness, empathy, laughter, etc or assorted combinations thereof. Good luck to you and happy birthday to Liv. :-)

  9. Been through all that all too recently. Well, not the hard part. But it isn't pleasant to watch either. I don't think my partner romanticizes pregnancy. I think she hates it and is glad it's done and glad that we're not planning another child. It isn't magical. Quite the contrary - very biological and visceral. Anyway, over. Good luck with your two in a wee while.

  10. I hate all that badge of honor, no drugs crap. If you don't want them - fine, but don't act like you're better than me because I chose comfort and calm.

  11. Oh, but I live vicariously through those of you willing to do it! Happy birthday Liv! And can't wait for the Aliens to get here!

  12. oh, you are really horrifying me girl, you know that?

  13. Why does everyone I know like pretty after having a baby and my hair totally had a party and had dark circles under my eyes and was white as a ghost?

    NOT. FAIR.

  14. I can't figure out why they always send the nurses who can't start a fucking IV. I guess they figure a laboring woman is in so much pain that she isn't going to notice multiple needle sticks? Gah!

    After one c-section and one VBAC, just know that the whole crucifixion thing is at the whim of the OB. They really only have to strap one arm down, and you can request that for the next time. Having both arms immobilized and the physical pain it caused still gives me nightmares and was one of my great motivators for a VBAC. Of course, someone later told me that it was up to the doctor, and I wished that someone had told me earlier. LOL

  15. Gahhhh!

    Starting IUD this week.

  16. Gwen, the internets miss you.