Monday, September 14, 2009

My TOP TEN SURPRISES about Giving Birth

Pregnancy is an exciting period in any woman's life, filled with a combination of expectancy and anxiety. Concern about the baby's welfare begins at conception, and the entire nine months is pregnant with surprises, not the least of which is the birthing process itself.

During the initial phases of childbirth, women begin to feel what some people refer to as "uncomfortable." I remember calling my mother and telling her I was on the way to the hospital, but not to get too hopeful, because it was probably just gas. In my top ten list of amazing discoveries made during childbirth, counting down from ten, my Surpise #10 – it wasn't gas.

A pregnant woman mentally prepares herself for the anguish of knowing a thousand people will be parading through the room at any given moment, and unless she has been perfectly prepared, she will be as surprised as I was by my Surprise #9 – getting shaved.

Surprise #8 was later discovering that when hair growth begins (almost immediately), those tiny little standup straight hairs get caught in the fabric of whatever you happen to be wearing.

Surprise #7 is my all-time favorite surprise, because this one includes the significant other who, instead of being your helpmate, your stronghold, your soft shoulder to lean on, has to tell you exactly WHEN you will be getting your next contraction. "Oh, here comes another big one, Honey!" Along with uterine contractions, you may experience the same vengeful loathing I felt as the muscles in my eyes contracted into a scathing squint.

Unless you give birth at home, interns and residents will poke and prod your belly. They, along with your husband, watch the monitor in gleeful anticipation of your next contraction. If you're lucky, you will get a doctor who uses her palm to feel the contraction. Surpise #7 is finding a doctor who loves to prod with the points of all of his fingers – on both hands – stabbing you at once and disovering that your reflex is to kick him in the groin.

Reflection time: I remember the first moment of feeling a flutter – a tiny movement, something so uniquely different from anything I had ever felt before, a tiny foot, or perhaps an arm or an elbow pushing me at some midway point in my pregnancy. I remember the exhilaration I felt upon first feeling "life" – so imagine my Surprise #6 – pain so intense I could have crushed the hospital with my thoughts. Nobody can prepare you for that level of pain, because you will probably hear numerous stories about how "I went to the hospital at 3 AM and by 3:01, she just popped out." I hated those people.

Surprise #5 was discovering I would not be able to engage in sex for several weeks. But the surprise was more of a "Why would I ever want to do THAT again," than a whiny, "Oh why not?"

Surprise #4 was a surprise filled with regret – oh why oh why did I not allow you to drug me? Why oh why was it SO important for me to go through a "natural" childbirth?

Surprise #3 actually came when I realized, after experiencing the ultimate joy of being pregnant for nine months, that I was warning myself to "NEVER DO THIS AGAIN – NEVER FORGET" combined with a deep-seated wish that my husband were the one giving birth.

And yet, moments after giving birth, I completely forgot the warnings I gave to myself, the regrets over having a natural childbirth, because my #2 surprise was discovering the intensity and depth of love I felt for this little infant I had been carrying around with me for nine months. Giving birth and the process of releasing a child into the world may have created a void in my womb, but it was instantly filled with a love so deep and so profound, I marveled at my ability to love so strongly and to feel so protective.

But the biggest surprise of all, my #1 Surprise was realizing I would be willing to do it all over again, and again, and again.

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