There is a legend that has been passed down from generation to generation of women in Central New Jersey, whispered under the cover of darkness by a loving mother to her shy daughter, shared along with a cup of tea and Twinkies in the warmth of a cozy kitchen, offered as a gift by BFF to BFF. The legend tells us that should a woman, heavy with child, go to eat with the father of her unborn child at a certain popular, local Chinese restaurant (a restaurant that will hold the MSG if asked nicely) she will soon go into labor.
I know that this legend is true because, nearly 20 years ago, within a few hours of consuming a combination of moo goo gai pan and beef lo mein (light on the scallions), I too found myself in the bathroom in the middle of the night, staring at my mucus plug in the toilet. And a mere 36 hours later, my eldest son – Thing 1 – entered the world.
I’ve been thinking about birthing babies a lot lately, because some of the my MUCH YOUNGER friends and relatives are still having them.
Since birthin’ my own, I’ve noticed a continuing trend to go “crunchy,” with “rooming in,” “attachment parenting,” “family beds” and “doulas” all the rage.
Anyone who has ever met me knows that I’ve never been a particularly “crunchy” mama. This is the first time I have ever admitted this ANYWHERE, but in the hospital, when the nurses asked me if I wanted them to bring Thing 1 to me for his 2 a.m. feeding (the alternative being that they feed him in the nursery), my response was a firm “Hell no!” (A similar response to that which I write on the forms I complete at my annual gynecological appointment, when asked if I have completed my family. To which I write, in a very neat and sure hand, “DAMN STRAIGHT.” With “DAMN” underlined. Twice.)
At Lamaze, where I learned NOTHING that would be valuable at a time when I expected to be clutching my DH’s ear and digging my fingernails into his larynx — hard — the teacher went around the room asking if we would consider drugs to alleviate pain. I suspected this was a trick question. If I answered “no,” she was going to hand me a picture of a beautiful Tahitian sunset ripped from an old calendar and tell me to fixate upon it should the contractions became too vexing. If I answered “yes,” all eyes in the room would swivel towards me in horror, branding me Mommy Dearest before I had even had a chance to prove them right (which I have many times over in the past 19 years). Ultimately I equivocated – I said that I would try to do “it” without meds, but that I was glad that medical science had developed pain relief in the unlikely event that I needed it. All the while mapping out the quickest route to Barnes and Noble so I could go out and purchase Epidurals for Dummies and self-administer, should that become necessary. It couldn’t be too difficult to find my spinal cord when doubled over in pain, passing that Chevy truck destined to become my son, could it?
In the final analysis, I gratefully accepted an epidural when I was one centimeter dilated, from a doctor who had refused to administer this very wonderful medication in advance – i.e., when the pregnancy test came back positive – but who was otherwise sympathetic to my desire to avoid pain.
I just don’t understand those who attempt childbirth without meds. I liken it to the following: Would you rather ski gracefully down one of Aspen’s famous mountains, swooping and swirling your way to your final destination, where “apres-ski” awaits in the form of a roaring fire and a brandy? Or would you rather tumble head over heels again and again, breaking every bone in your body and collecting small stones in every crevice of your body until you reach the bottom of the mountain?
In either case, you reach your destination. So why not reach it in one piece?
On second thought, in the second scenario they might offer you morphine to dull the pain. Or, if you’re really lucky, an epidural