Here, on a wild hair-day, is Edith. Her name was actually chosen before I was pregnant. It was a name both Mike and I liked, and whenever we talked about what we’d do if we had children, the imaginary child was always ‘Little Edith’ – ‘When we have Little Edith we’ll bring her here,’ etc. So when we found out we were having a girl, it was like meeting someone I already knew.
Many things surprised me about having a baby. I think we all know that the TV portrayals of birth are inaccurate, but I don’t think I knew exactly in what way, other than that women seem to go into labor suddenly and then deliver a baby in a matter of a few hours – not the experience of any first-time mother I know. But there were other things I found to be much different than how childbirth is usually portrayed. There’s a kind of cultural image of women screaming and yelling in a bed, overmastered by pain, and though I’m sure this might happen in a problematic birth, this image wasn’t at all accurate in my experience. I found that all of what I did during labor was deliberate and purposeful. I read various materials on natural birth which promised that with the right skills a woman could give birth being totally in control, and look back on the experience as ‘amazing’ in some way, but frankly I was skeptical. However, having now been through the experience, I actually found this all to be true for me. I think I panicked for about 15 seconds early on (‘Can I do this?’), but otherwise I only remember feeling that all the way through I was in control and was not merely suffering through something, but doing something.
The other thing that surprised me was that, despite the contractions themselves being so painful, the time between them could be fun or even peaceful. This was true right through the pushing stage, when after a minute or so pushing out a baby I’d be able to spend a few minutes chatting with Mike and the midwives – about their children, about how we felt about the whole thing (meanwhile still being in the midst of it!). My labor records, which I can access electronically, state that two hours into the pushing I ate a popsicle. It is all really bizarre when I remember it.
Perhaps the reason people always forget, or downplay, the difficulty of labor is that it turns out that caring for the baby afterwards is far more exhausting and difficult. But that is another story. We do at least get some sleep. I wouldn’t normally post a picture of myself sleeping, but I think this is actually the cutest picture I have of the two of us together.