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April 23, 2013

Getting Ready

IMG_20130423_202141It is with as much relief as terror that we acknowledge that this is really happening. That after 36 weeks of us definitely thinking of getting around to performing these tasks that there is now a crib set up in our room, tiny diapers stacked next to the changing-pad, order created from the chaotic mess of our garret/closet which contains a ridiculous four-years-worth of baby and kid stuff. The baby clothes are laundered and waiting in a drawer. And the baby itself is head-down as confirmed by last week’s ultrasound and therefore I’ve not had to spend this week consulting moxibustionists. This is not to say that there aren’t a thousand things I want to/have to do before our baby arrives, but at least they don’t involve putting furniture together, matching tiny socks, or turning impossible babies. In a fundamental way, we are actually ready for the baby to come. And due to a crazy trick of nature, we’re even excited.

There wasn’t a lot of “birth preparation” going on the last time we went through this. We took the obligatory pre-natal class, but due to obvious defects in our personalities, Stuart and I just sat in the back and made sarcastic comments. And Harriet was stuck in the transverse-lie from so early on that it felt futile to make real arrangements for the natural birth we’d been hoping for. The “natural birth” itself was a choice we’d plucked out of the air without much context–it didn’t really seem possible that we’d come out of this whole pregnancy gig with something as miraculous as a baby anyway, and we were very much just going through the motions. When we were waiting for Harriet to be born, we were really just playing house.

This time however, it’s been so different, and I’ve been so much more deliberate in my choices. Even though my choices are the same, but this time I understand what they mean to me, to us. And it’s different too now that “us” is also Harriet. Having a little person with stakes in the arrival of another little person changes everything. She is also evidence that this baby is really going to happen, and our lingering memories of her babyhood make us quite aware of what we’re getting into.

“This time, it’s been different….” I keep writing this, and it should be self-evident, but the difference continues to fascinate me. It all feels a bit like Annie and Ernie McGilligan Spock and their fantastical trike ride: “In the same front yard/ Stood the same small tree;/ On the same brown table/ The same pot of tea.” And yet not the same at all. “How was it possible?/ Think of the shock…”

There is relief though this time in how much seems so different. My introduction to motherhood was such terrible time and we’ve still not quite shaken off the trauma of it all, and so I relish the idea that this time around we could make a different story. I think this was why it seemed particularly distressing last week when doubt was cast as to whether Baby was really head-down after all. And, “No way, no how,” said I. “I am not having another c-section.” For the past four weeks, I’ve been practising birthing hypnosis, and its impact became evident to me in how I responded to the potential breech situation. “I have courage, faith and patience,” I said. “This baby is going to turn. I am not going to book a c-section. I am going to go into labour. I am going to deliver this baby breech if I have to. This baby and my body know what they have to do.”

It’s quite true that I am determined that my birth story is going to be different this time. Not that the birth of Harriet was particularly troubling in itself, and recovery from c-section was remarkably easy, but I’ve told the story to myself over the past four years, it’s become clear to me that the c-section was responsible for some of the disconnect I felt from my baby after my birth. And I have gotten more angry as time as passed that I never saw her when they pulled her out of me, that I never saw her purple and sticky. She wasn’t shown to me until she’d been tidied up and wrapped in a blanket, which was only a few minutes, but I am sure I missed something terribly important in that gap. I read a copy of my operative report last week and it was fascinating (“interoperative finds: a live female”) but disturbing too that this thing had been done to me and I was so uninvolved. Unfathomable that the subject of the report was me.

(Last Tuesday when we thought Baby was breech, I was in a foul, foul mood. I’d also brought home a pamphlet from a cesarean support group that helps women spiritually heal from and grieve their c-section experiences. “What kind of bullshit is this?” I was exclaiming [at the dinner table, naturally] and my terrible husband with an evil glint in his eye said, “I think you should go.” I protested and he shrugged calmly: “You’ve been grieving your c-section for four years,” he said. My fist shook at the ceiling. “I am allowed,” I told him, “to grieve my c-section and find c-section support groups totally stupid.” I am a complicated person, and therefore this is my right.)

Harriet’s birth was booked two weeks before it happened, and it baffles me now that I opted for surgery so readily (though not before trying an ecv so there was a bit of effort on my part). But I think that my scheduled caesarean brought with it a bit of relief, some assurance, less of the great unknown. I’ve been sorry ever since that I never got a chance to go into labour though, and I’ve never shaken the feeling that I missed out on something monumental in my own birth as a mother. I went into her birth uttering inane phrases like, “The baby’s in charge,” but I never really meant it. If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that I can out-stubborn the most unruly toddler. I was a fool to pretend that I could give in so easily, and this time I refuse to. I think I also said things like, “What matters is the result of a healthy baby and not how baby arrives,” which is a very easy thing to say if your body is not involved with baby’s arrival. Birth happens to Mother as much as Baby and to suppose that the mother’s experience somehow matters less is so completely insulting. This is also the thing that disappointed people say, as I know from experience, and also because my friends who’ve had amazing births will tell you straight that how their babies arrived matter to them very, very much. And I want to know what that’s like.

As much as one can ever prepare for something as unknown and unpredictable as childbirth, I feel as though we’ve made a valiant effort. Daily hypnosis practice, so much reading, the 3 hour pre-natal refresher we did last night which was so fantastic. I am very excited about the chance to try something I feared would always be out of reach to me. I can’t quite believe it really that anything could be so straightforward, and while I know that there is nothing straightforward about birth (just as I know that Harriet and I would have died had I not had access to a c-section with her in a transverse lie, and I know that these things don’t matter to some people as much as they’ve turned out to have mattered to me, which is just fine), I feel confident and supported in this being a road I can travel down.

And I now am excited and hopeful to discover just where that road leads.

6 thoughts on “Getting Ready”

  1. Mark says:

    All the best to you, Kerry. You’ll do great!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Oh, what great news–congrats on your appropriately angle baby!

  3. Laura says:

    “Birth happens to Mother as much as Baby and to suppose that the mother’s experience somehow matters less is so completely insulting.”

    THIS THIS THIS! A million times this! Thank you for it.

    All the very best, Kerry. Good luck, good health, and goodness every which way.

  4. alexis says:

    So excited for you and your family, Kerry!

  5. Carrie says:

    I loved, loved, loved this post, Kerry. Baby head down is wonderful news. Yes, be complicated! It’s entertaining, but more importantly it’s real and true. (And now I’m wishing you’d like a doula, says the birth junkie …)

  6. Joan Clare says:

    Celebrate this beautiful time in your life, Kerry.
    Love you…

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