So here is a general update post, I suppose.
Nesting is the name of the game right now. I’ve let the dishes pile up in the sink in favor of getting things ready for baby. I’m washing all of her little clothes, taking inventory of what we have for her so far, and making lists of things we still need to get…trying to make things as comfortable as I possibly can for the little pumpkin before she arrives, and trying to set up our little space to accommodate all the needs of a newborn.
Yes, we’re planning to do the cloth diaper thing…at least while we’re at home. I don’t think I will be hardcore enough to carry around dirty cloth diapers when we’re out and about.
As the baby grows and I feel her every little hiccup and squirm, I’m reminded of just how close I am to being a real mom. And as the moment of her grand entrance draws nearer and nearer, I find myself getting more and more scared. Of so many things.
First of all, there’s the labor, of course. When I first found out I was pregnant, I downloaded everything Ina May Gaskin ever wrote, and I found myself especially drawn to the birth stories in Spiritual Midwifery. Of course, no one in an Ina May Gaskin book ever really describes labor as painful, exactly, even amid descriptions of screaming and vomiting. Adjectives like “psychedelic,” “far out,” and “holy” are the norm. Contractions are referred to as “rushes.” Labor is made to sound like this massive LSD trip. I have no LSD-tripping experience, so this isn’t really all that helpful to me, but an LSD trip has to be better than the ripping, searing, unforgettable, indescribable pain that labor is more often sold as, right?
I even watched birth videos online–and even more incredible, Saleh watched a few with me. I can’t speak for Saleh, although I will say that he did a pretty good job of not freaking out, but as for me, they mostly left me feeling like, “Okay, that looks like it really sucks, but I mean, it’s not that bad. I can do that. I can. It’s doable. And it’s worth it for my kid. Right?”
Of course, the kind of women who tape their births and upload them on the internet are typically not the type of women who march into the hospital and demand their epidural at the first contraction. They are not women who want to smack you in the face with the message that if you have chosen to pursue a natural birth, you are a naive idiot who has no effing clue what you’re getting yourself into. They’re mostly women who want to share the exquisite joy of their beautiful births and all that stuff. Such a woman is often giving birth in a tub in the middle of her living room, surrounded by an entourage that includes a midwife, a doula, a spouse, her other children, perhaps the proud grandparents, her six closest girlfriends, and even maybe a curious cousin or two. As the baby emerges, everyone is cheering her on. The woman looks simultaneously enraged and enthralled. And then, plop, there’s a kid.
So while the internet may be full of women declaring, “If you want a natural birth, stay the hell away from me in case your mental illness is contagious,” it’s also full of videos declaring that it’s a survivable experience, if not altogether pleasant. And there’s plenty of research to back up the conclusion that when possible, it’s by far the best way to go for mom and baby.
So all that was/is somewhat encouraging.
At the same time, my pregnancy experience has not exactly led me to believe that an uneventful (well, as uneventful as popping a tiny human out of you can be) natural childbirth is in the cards for me. Everyone says that if you want to know what your pregnancy will be like, look at your mom’s pregnancies. Well, my mom was freaking born to be pregnant. She wasn’t sick a single day during either of her pregnancies. She had no stretch marks. She had no heartburn.
Has the opposite been true for me in every single instance? Let’s see, check, check, and check.
Furthermore, my mom had amazing labors. She was in labor with me (her first) for maybe seven hours total, and popped me out with a few pushes. My brother, meanwhile, took around four hours from start to finish. Her labors were easy (she describes them that way, not me) and fast. “Yeah, it hurts,” she told me, shrugging. “But it’s so worth it, and it’s not that bad. Heck, I was chatting on the phone with your aunt in California while they were stitching me up after I had you!”
Yeah, Mom, just keep on braggin’.
So due to my observation of the pattern that my pregnancy has taken compared to my mom’s, combined with the fact that I’m going to be giving birth in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, I’m now expecting a terrifying, excruciating, days-long labor experience that involves the shadow of an anesthesiologist with an epidural needle in hand darkening the delivery room doorway, cruelly tempting me as I wrench my husband’s arm out of the socket while he implores me to tummy breathe and I scream at my British midwife, “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO? I CAN’T UNDERSTAND YOUR ACCENT,” and culminates with a curtain separating my face from my abdomen as a team of doctors saws me open to rescue my child.
And all that…all that scares me.
And then of course, getting the kid out of me is just the beginning. I admit that I broke one of the rules I set for myself in an earlier post–I tried to read a parenting book. But it wasn’t a parenting philosophy book, exactly…more like a book on surviving your baby’s first year. I read the reviews before I bought it; it came very highly regarded, and was supposed to emphasize the importance of listening to one’s parenting instincts, where other parenting books tend to make you feel like all of your instincts are wrong.
Still, by the time I got about a quarter of the way into the book, I had to stop. Simply could not continue. You know that episode of Sex & the City where Carrie is sitting on her bed going through her mail and she opens an invitation to Big and Natasha’s engagement brunch, and she is so shell-shocked that she puts the invitation down on the comforter and then gingerly shoves it off the bed with her foot? That’s totally what I would have done with this book if I had a hard copy of it instead of having it downloaded on my iPad.
This book terrified me. It was like studying for the most horrible test imaginable. I found myself panicking and thinking, “I’m never going to be able to remember all this! What if I forget something? Am I going to be a terrible mother if I forget something? ‘Cause I know I’m going to forget something!”
Labor doesn’t seem half as scary as actually having a baby. I mean, labor will inevitably end. Having a child will never end. For the rest of my life, even after she is no longer a child, after I no longer have the direct responsibility of keeping her alive, I will be worried about her. I will want to take care of her, even when I have no clue how and books can’t tell me.
Aaaaah, I can’t even write about it anymore because it feels like my brain is going to turn inside out.
Fear is kind of a theme of my life, I suppose. My childhood milestones are marked by the things I was scared of–fireworks, balloons popping, thunderstorms. It didn’t get a whole lot better as I got older. I’m just not brave. If I could wish for one character trait, it would be bravery. There are so many things in my life that I wish I would have been brave enough to do. There are so many things that I wish I were brave enough to do right at this very moment (and some of them are the most stupidly simple things, like attaching something to an email and clicking send). There are so many things that I hope I will be brave enough to do in the future.
I’m scared, always. Just…really, really scared. I’ve been told that being scared about having a baby is a good thing, because it means you care about being a good parent. And I can safely say that’s true. But being scared won’t keep me from messing it all up…will it?
But who knows, maybe being a parent will be a crash course in bravery. On this side of it, looking up the hill (nay, the mountain) I have yet to climb, it certainly seems like if I can give birth and then manage to settle into parenthood without any major traumas, I can do anything.