Some things I know I can do: I can pitch a softball game with a broken arm. I can ace calculus without ever taking my book home. I can move to a big city where I know no one and own nothing. I can organize events (trips to foreign countries even) for hundreds of people, on a shoestring budget, with no experience. I can march in the heat and take a stand for what’s right, even when no one is listening. I can bounce back from failed efforts. I can run a half marathon up a mountain and through a dessert. I can turn nothing into something. I can stand up to tremendous pressure. And as my dad reminds me, when the bases are loaded and there are no outs…I never, ever walk in a run.
When friends asked me about my birth plan, I’d tell them I wished for a natural birth. “Because I think I can do it,” I would say, and they’d smile and say, “You probably can.” Even after 42 weeks of pregnancy, when I was scheduled to be induced into labor, a midwife in my OB practice reassured me, “This does not mean you have to give up on your plan for a natural birth.”
Several hours into labor, I found myself attached to an antibiotic drip, pitocin, and fetal heart monitors. I was flanked by Jim and my best friend Emily, but floating in a sea of wires and beeping sounds. The nurses changed shifts, again, and I greeted Melissa, part 3 with a loud, disturbing groan. (Would you believe that all my labor nurses were named Melissa?) My contractions were not getting longer and stronger. They were intense and splitting but totally unproductive. I was told I was experiencing back labor.
Jim and Em rubbed my back and encouraged me and kept me balanced on my birthing ball. Even still, labor was not progressing. During contractions I would totally zone out. Nothing existed but me and this pain. Hours passed with no progress and, confused, I wondered what to do next. I looked up at Jim who I had been leaning on – I couldn’t stand on my own – and I looked over at Emily, and they both gave me a look that told me they were there for me unconditionally. Between those glances and with their support, I felt sure. Then I did something I have never done before: I surrendered to the notion that “I can’t.” “I’m going to get an epidural.” I told them. “This is not natural. I have nothing to prove. I just want to have this baby.”
They nodded and asked for the nurse. An anesthesiologist soon followed and in my regular controlling way I told her “not to f— it up.” Many hours later, after sleep and some laughs with one of the Melissas, it was time to push and then suddenly…after all that…there was my baby. There was my girl. And as I held her I realized that nothing else mattered in the world.
I birthed a baby that day and I birthed a new self – a woman who can lean on her loved ones, trust her instincts, acknowledge her limits, and ask for help. I became a mom.
Happy Mother’s Day! Today I’m more grateful than ever for my beautiful mom and for the indescribable gift of motherhood.