A week or so ago, I had a strange dream. In the dream, I went into labor. I then woke up in the dream, not having been aware of having gone to sleep or been anesthetized, and someone brought me a fat baby to hold. I was confused, because I didn’t remember having given birth to him and he looked odd to me. Odd because he seemed very big and very fat – full term, in other words. I understood he was my son, and felt very happy yet at the same time detached. I kept wanting to ask someone where my other one was – the other son. I knew though that they wouldn’t understand the question. So I began to breast feed and felt much love for the baby, tinged though by a feeling of emptiness.
The issues in the dream are obvious. The sense that a new birth – one with a happy ending – while something I very much want on its own terms, will also be something of a do over. Not everyone, I know, shares the latter feeling. It’s not a very admirable one, either. And of course it’s impossible. I will never shed the pain and emptiness left by Natan’s death. Yet I have to admit that I want to know that I can give birth safely. That I can have a healthy birth.
The other night I actually managed to go out with friends. One friend, who I’ve called Beecher before, mentioned that he has a friend who’s pregnant and will be having her baby “at home in a tub.” Another friend responded, “That’s so cool.” But the third friend said in shock, “Ew. How can that be safe?” Quickly though, Beecher and friend three looked at me rather horrified.* I just said, “It can be safe as long as everything goes well.” That’s stating the obvious, I suppose. I know this, practically. Most births are normal & interventions requiring the presence of oh, a perinatologist, are rarely needed.
Back to the at-home water birth. I’m sure if it all goes well for the family, it will be a “cool” experience. It’s my issue that it makes me feel inadequate to not even have the option of rejecting it. It would be immeasurably awesome to go into pregnancy, labor, and childbirth with the idea that it’s an experience to be designed according to personal preference. And to feel like I have a place at all in the narrative.**
If I go to term, I will be a “normal” birther in the technical sense. The doctors and anesthesiologists can handle the “red flag” on my file re: extreme reactions to medication, under calm birthing conditions. There’s absolutely no reason to think that without the extreme stress of preterm labor and a reaction to a tocolytic, the situation will be anything but that. Yet I don’t know that birth will ever be anything I can enjoy discussing.
I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something horribly wrong with me. I don’t want anymore fear, anymore pain, anymore panicky calls to doctors or drives to the hospital. More than anything, I just want November/December to get here and for this to be over, happily.
*No need to ream any of them for insensitivity. There were many beers gone between them and children/family life are still very outside their experience. Beecher finds all things womanly sort of incomprehensible and yucky (good thing he’s gay). I remember him pointing sort of speechlessly and mortified when a tampon fell out of my bag a few years ago – you’d have thought it was used.
**If anyone takes this as an opportunity to chime in on a “home” v. hospital birth debate, I’ll delete it instantly. I have no problem with being Orwellian. Take it elsewhere.