Saturday, May 13, 2017

Getting Past the Pain

Son #1 with Grandma Glo and Papa Denny
Mother’s Day seems an apropos time to look back on the day, nearly 28 years ago, that I first became a mother.

Like most of us, for me it was a day of elation, as well as tremendous challenge, tedious waiting, and terrifying episodes of pain. Which, upon consideration, basically sums up the entire lifetime experience of motherhood.

Son #1 was way late. (This set the scene for every single morning of the boy’s high school years.) The night before I finally was scheduled to be induced, I went out for a Mexican meal as a last-ditch effort to bring on labor.

I’d been offered loads of unsuccessful inducing advice—such as going for long walks, driving over bumpy train tracks, or having lots of sex. (I had gained forty pounds and was apparently harboring the Goodyear Blimp in my body. Sex? Really?) But an extra spicy burrito and guacamole apparently proved to be the miracle. Even today, guacamole and chips are the answer for almost anything.

Still, this baby was in no hurry. So even after I’d experienced contractions in very short intervals, was admitted to the hospital, and received an epidural (THANK GOD), my labor dragged on for the longest time known in the history of the universe. Or so it seemed.

When a monitor showed my contractions had lessened to some degree, yet my pain had gradually become even more horrific, I questioned whether the epidural was working.

The attending nurse assured me everything was functioning fine. Huh. I’d always had a fairly high pain threshold and found it hard to believe I was suddenly overreacting, but who was I to argue with a professional?

As I silently and sometimes not so silently swore, I told everyone who would listen that I had changed my mind about this birth. Couldn’t we just forget this whole thing?

And while I second-guessed my decision about having a baby or even about ever having sex, a new crisis arose. The fetal monitor indicated potential distress.

We tried a few simple fixes, including having me position myself on all fours on my bed. No easy task, considering the blimp that protruded from my belly.

Finally, my doctor came in again, looking weary and worried. “This baby is definitely in distress,” she said. “We need to do an emergency C-section.”

I was good with this decision. Not only was I ready to relieve myself of this pain, but I was now consumed with a greater concern about my baby’s life. Take him, now!

I was wheeled into the operating room. As they quickly prepped me for surgery, Daddy-to-be appeared even more stricken than I was. Probably because he wasn’t prepared to see several of my organs yanked out and laid upon the table, as we’d been informed was the modus operandi of this procedure.

“It will be fine,” he attempted to soothe me, as the doctor approached with a scalpel.
She reached down, and although I couldn’t see past the surgical drape over my abdomen, I knew she was ready to start cutting.

“Except for a slight tugging sensation, you won’t feel a thing,” the doctor reassured me. “You’re totally numb from the epidural.”

Except, I was not.

HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! The pain! I felt it all as soon as she began slicing me open. I screamed.

“Stop! I can feel everything!” I shouted.

Her eyes widened in terror and she immediately stopped. Perhaps just a moment too late.

I had feared for a couple hours that the epidural wasn’t working. I had never in my life wanted to be so wrong. But with one slice across my pelvis, I knew I was right.

My horrified doctor told my husband he’d have to leave. They needed to administer a general anesthetic to quickly knock me out and take the baby.

The last thing I remember was grasping his hand. And next, being semi-awake, still moaning in agony, in a recovery room.

Apparently, not only did the epidural not take, but my pain relief pump, which my husband kept squeezing—over and over to relieve my obvious pain—was also not working.

It was the very worst birthing experience I could ever imagine.

Except, I soon discovered my newborn son was alive. Very beautiful and totally healthy. And I was fully in love with this tiny new human.

As I gazed down, now successfully semi-drugged, at my firstborn child, all was forgiven. And eventually, almost forgotten.

Two years later, I inexplicably made the decision to have a second baby. Oh, that insane tug of maternal love.

So much pain and so much worry. That never ends, of course.

The only difference, years later, is we no longer depend on the presumed magic of an epidural to ease things. Thankfully, we have wine.

And a child that makes it all worthwhile.

Motherhood clearly isn't for the weak or the weak-hearted.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of us who have endured—and enjoyed—the journey.

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