This is not a birth story. This is a story about fear.
This is not a birth story, I swear. I’ve had three kids, three labors. Three times, I’ve observed my body open, like a scene from some twisted sci-fi flick. Three times, a baby emerged from my body, impossibly and in spite of all logic to the contrary.
With my first two pregnancies, fear was a constant companion. I felt afraid for weeks, even months, before labor began. Spread out over time, my fear mellowed out into a steady but firm pressure on my mind, akin to a pair of hands squeezing my throat. Let’s call it my awareness of the impossible becoming reality. Over a period of weeks, I coped. I read constantly, I took classes, I nested, I distracted myself from the large, cold hands around my throat.
In spite of all of my attempts at distraction, those hands remained firmly around my throat the entire length of each of my pregnancies.
When I was pregnant with Nate, things felt different. Anna and Gabe kept me busy. I felt foolishly confident. I’d been through labor twice before, I knew what I was doing. I barely read; I took no classes. I relegated my emotions to the far corners of my mind.
Want to know something about me? I’m stubborn. I knew those strong, cold fingers were pressed to my esophagus, but I refused to acknowledge them.
My third labor developed over a number of weeks. I recall feeling annoyed when contractions began at eight months. But I continued caring for my toddlers, I continued doing what I needed to do. I did not permit myself to pay attention to my fear.
The night before Nate was born, I readied the house. I think I might have even baked banana bread. I put everything in order, and I ignored the fingers on my throat. When it was time to go to the hospital, Geoff actually argued that I wasn’t ready because I did not seem afraid, but I was certain.
At the hospital, I calmly signed in, I quietly let the nurses do their thing. In just a little while though, I fell apart. I called my midwife even though Geoff was right there with me. “I’m afraid,” I told her. I was. The cold hands squeezed my throat and shut out my air. Nothing could have prepared me.
“Of course you are,” my midwife said matter-of-factly. She rubbed my back and a few minutes later, Nate showed up and I could breathe again.
“Want to guess his weight?” one of the nurses asked my midwife.
“Ten-three,” she answered right away.
My midwife was spot on.
I was afraid once, for good reason.