You Got to Go There to Know There

Shortly after announcing my first pregnancy a female colleague stopped by my office to extend her congratulations. She tentatively shut the door, sat down in the chair beside mine so that our knees were almost touching (before being my office, the space housed a photocopier and paper supplies). She leaned in close to me and said, "Now I'm going to tell you all the things about having a baby that nobody ever told me."

She spent a solid hour divulging information that, in my twelve weeks of pregnancy, I was rather unable to grasp. My life, at the time, was focused on who to tell and when, how much longer I could wear my regular pants and how to avoid yacking in my coffee mug on the way to and from work. There I was, listening intently to this woman confess to me her distaste for washing pump parts and the oddity of pulling out a picture of your baby to stare at while syphoning milk from your chest, hoping your male co-workers won't knock on your door at that precise moment. She told me about the big ice pack you'll need right after delivery, the netted underpants, the toe curling, and lumpy belly, among many other details I tried to stow away in my mommy-to-be-brain for a later date.

Before she left that day she sad, "Let me know if you have other questions and how I can help. And, by the way, they say you forget what child birth is like. My son is a year old now and I haven't forgotten a moment."

Every woman knows that you can never fully prepare for child birth. The birthing classes help but, like one of my favorite characters, Janie Mae Crawford in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, (don't know the book, seriously people, take a women's lit, class, please) said, You Got to Go There To Know There.

I worried, with Caroline's birth, and thought a lot about what I wanted her birth to be like. I read up on birth plans and the drug debate. I wrote my own birth plan and discussed it with the birthing center staff and my labor coach. When the day finally arrived, everything went as planned. We all know that happens very rarely and since then I've felt so lucky, and so proud, when re-telling the story of Caroline's arrival.

Several people asked me if I was scared or nervous for my second labor and delivery but I was not. I knew that I'd survived the first time and that the birthing center staff would take care of me. I also knew that my body would know what to do. All I could focus on was the feeling of my new baby in my arms. Sure, I knew it would be painful but the pain goes away and then you have a baby. Unlike my former colleague, I did forget all the "bad stuff" or at least the bad stuff was now part of our family legend. All the pain, pushing and other events that traumatized Andy, are what made me seem super human. It was a right of passage into motherhood, which I enthusiastically embraced.

I'd written a birth plan for Charlotte. I had a friend who would serve as my labor coach. And a few weeks before my due date I started to get scared. To get the baby I had to deliver her. It was going to hurt. What if it was harder than the first time? What if complications arose? What if I had to have a c-section? The concern was in the back of my mind but I had little time to focus on it, with the weeks leading up to the due date filled with work and illness.

Then, on my due date I woke up in the morning with the exact same back contractions as I'd had the morning of Caroline's birth. It's all going to go as planned, I thought. It's going to be just like last time. Except this time I had a sick toddler to take care of, friends to visit with at the playground, work around the house and delusions that everything in life goes as planned.

Caroline's birth was perfect because it happened just the way it did. It is her story. Her life starts our family legend. But wouldn't a story be boring if every chapter was the same? Charlotte's birth was fast and furious and yes, painful. It's funny, when I was on my hands and knees screaming, I easily recalled the level of pain I'd had having Caroline. We didn't follow the birth plan but in the end I arrived at the same accomplishment. I held my baby girl in my arms. Now, we have a new chapter, Charlotte's story. A story where pain and netted underpants produce perfection.


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