November 18, 2012

Thoughts on Childbirth and Patience.

“Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don't drop-kick a puppy into the neighbor's yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.” --Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I was talking a good game about patience as recently as a couple of weeks ago. But even though I'm smiling in this photo from today, my smile is a pile of phoney baloney. I feel heavy, exhausted and stuck. My patience has left me, even though I keep trying to pull it back like a balloon (or a puppy) with prayer and meditation and pep talks and hot baths. Still, the truth is: I'm the girl who would rather drive across town to another restaurant than endure a 20-minute wait at the restaurant we're already at. I'd rather watch you unwrap your Christmas present today--right now, go ahead!--instead of on Christmas morning.

Nine months is an incredibly long time to hand your body over to another person (even to my child, who I love already but who remains a stranger to me). I am much better at giving my heart and my head to a baby I can see and hold and hear than I am at giving my body to a baby who is known to me only by her slow rolls inside my womb, by hope and faith. I want it back--myself. I am ready. I am tired of peeing my pants when I sneeze and of not being able to cross my legs comfortably or lean into a conversation with a friend. And there are stretch marks this time. There weren't stretch marks with Tessa.

I'm sort of embarrassed to write this blog because I wish that I could find a well of patience somewhere inside myself and pull some extra buckets from it. Instead, I decided last week to schedule my induction for the Monday after Thanksgiving--a week from tomorrow. That's a full three days before my due date. My OB is tops at dangling that induction carrot in front of me, and I'm junk at resisting it. In spite of my somewhat conflicted feelings about my choice, I want to capture them here because this is part of my story. This is part of me, imperfectly. And pregnancy is such a time of growth and new self-awareness. Of this I am now aware: I am really lousy at patience.

I was induced a couple of days before my due date with Tessa as well. I was lucky to have had a fantastic experience, without any hiccups, and to have had the peaceful birth I wanted. Are my inductions medically necessary? Not even a little bit. And I get the impression that they rub some people the wrong way because I'm evicting my baby before she's "ready." But that, I think, is one of the blessings of being a woman today. I get to choose.

I feel differently about modern birth than many of my friends. I'm the girl who turned off the documentary The Business of Being Born, which is this famous exposé about how "medicalized" and unnatural birth has become, after 20 minutes because I was annoyed. That documentary, and many of my feminist friends, advocate for the right to give birth naturally, without intervention. As a feminist myself, I'm on the other side of the fence. For me, one of the greatest freedoms of being a woman today is in having the right to deliver my baby with minimal pain, on my terms, on my schedule, instead of being forced to endure the greatest pain of my life. Is it "natural"? Nope. But I'm grateful for my freedom to give birth the way I choose, just as I am grateful for my other reproductive rights. And just as I'm grateful that we all have the right to plan our births, whether they're in a hospital or in our own homes, with truckloads of pitocin and cervidil and epidurals, or with gritted teeth and saintlike purity.

So, as Tessa says all the time now, "Let's get this party started!" Only eight more sleeps until I meet my Liv. Then I can try to locate my patience in the heft of her little body, the smell of her mouth, her hair, and with the help of others. I won't have to carry her alone any longer. Until then I have to try to enjoy doing just that.