By: Ann Brown
The thing about being pregnant for the first time is that as far as you know, it’s all about labor. The fact that an actual baby arrives at the end of it, and then you have to raise it forever, well, that part is just so unimaginable that it doesn’t exist.
Labor. Contractions. Breathing. Hee hee hoo. Hoo hoo hee. Find your focus spot. Yeah, yeah, whatev. I figured I’d get through it or die trying and either way, it was all all cool. Plus, for fuck’s sake, the Queen Mum had babies and she seems way detached from her lady parts so if she could do it, I could do it.
So, yeah. Contractions. I didn’t obsess too much over them when I was pregnant. For me, it was all about the pushing part of the deal.
Because of, well, you know. Hemorrhoids.
In my family, the word “hemorrhoids” is spoken in the same hushed tones as the words, “Holocaust” or “pork”. Hemmorhoids are feared and revered –the ultimate proof that Our People Suffer. And they are the Purple Heart of pregnancy, for sure. How much do you love your baby? Enough to have a prehensile tail of blood vessels hanging out of your ass for the rest of your life, that’s how much. Now give Mommy a big kiss and go to grad school.
Years before I got pregnant, years before I got my period, I knew that pregnancy brings hemorrhoids. I might not even have been sure at that point that pregnancy brings a baby, but through generations of ancestral knowledge I knew not to push.
My mom said, “It’s a conundrum. They tell you to push the baby out, and you want to, but you have to think about hemorrhoids and be careful.”
As my due date drew near and the baby’s room was readied and the birth plan was written (my first piece of fiction, come to think of it), I practiced my fakeout pushing. Never mind that no woman in the history of EVER has been able to fake push out a baby; no woman ever had the fear of hemorrhoids put in her like I did.
Remind me next time you see me to show you my fake, hemorrhoid fooling, ooh ooh I’m pushing the baby out face. All scrunched from the neck up; below the waist I am as loose as a bowl of overcooked linguine. Luckily my years of faking orgasms gave me a strong foundation in this ruse.
So, the big day arrives. I am in the labor room. It’s time to push. I know what to do.
But there’s an unforeseen problem. No one told me that it’s not that you HAVE to push, like someone is forcing you; it’s that you MUST push, like your body won’t take no for an answer. If you have never had a baby, the only thing I can tell you it’s like is when you get a dozen fresh bagels from the bakery and you have to climb into the back seat (where you put them, you know, to discourage eating them before you get home) during a red light and tear open the bag. And eat them all.
Which, coincidentally, was what I had eaten that morning before I realized I was in labor.
And so when I gave in to my primal urge that afternoon and pushed, pushed hard while Robin held my hand and gave me encouraging words that, frankly, aggravated the fuck out of me (“I couldn’t care less if you love me right now. Just get this baby out of me or go home and clean the house”), I knew that nothing – not even the dreaded hemorrhoids – could keep me from helping my baby be born. So I pushed with everything I had. I pushed so hard that all it took was, like, three good pushes and it was out.
“Boy or girl?” I asked Robin. Before he could answer me, I added, “and you know what? Pushing is not that hard. I don’t know what everyone complains about. I guess I am even more awesome than I realized.”
Robin looked at me with that kinda bemused, kinda disgusted at me face, the face he makes when I say shit like, “I actually look thinner when I gain weight because of, you know, the way my clothes fit me.” Only this look was less bemused and more disgusted.
“Well? Boy or girl? What is it? And why isn’t it crying?” Uh-oh.
“Well,” Robin said, “Because it’s a poop.”
“You pooped. When you pushed so hard just now, you pooped. That’s what’s on the delivery table. A POOP.”
“You still have to push the baby out.”
So I did. And it was fine. No big whoop. And no you-know-whats.
The gift that does NOT keep on giving. Best Mother’s Day gift a child could ever give a mother.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
The first few hours after Harrison was born went by in a blur. She arrived at 10 PM, on the hour, and by 11 PM we were back in our room and introducing her to friends and family who had arrived and been in the waiting room. I was running on adrenaline, to and fro between the room and the waiting room. We had quite a crowd, but by midnight we were finally starting to say our good-nights and hoping for some rest. Erikka was resting after her surgery, and they were pumping her full of medications to bring her blood pressures back down to normal while I got to spend a lot of time with our new bundle of beautiful joy. I was having to give her formula in a bottle because Erikka obviously didn’t have any milk yet, and the baby was pretty sleepy after being born to even attempt to latch on and nurse. I remember finally lying down to sleep at about 6 AM, in complete and total exhaustion and bliss; we all slept about two hours before we were awakened by nurses coming in to check both Erikka and the baby.
A couple of days later, as we’re hanging out in our hospital room – a regular room, no longer one of the giant labor & delivery rooms where we had spent the first twenty-four hours – I was sitting on the couch, hanging out with Harrison. She had eaten, I had changed her and swaddled her, and she was lying on a pillow near the window, wide-eyed and looking around (even though I know she couldn’t see very far still). I sat there, as I had been doing most of the time since her birth, staring at her in amazement, with so many thoughts crossing my mind. At that moment, days after entering the world, she was completely perfect. Think about it.
Right now, Harrison has no idea of what hate is. She has been surrounded by nothing but love, admiration, and lots of kisses on her tiny little face (and feet, too). She doesn’t have any comprehension of what it is like to be angry, well, unless she is wet, dirty, or hungry. But it isn’t real, genuine anger. She trusts every single one of us who she was entrusted to, and is secure with her very limited knowledge that we will indeed take care of her. She has never been hurt, or had her heart broken or her feelings trampled on. She doesn’t know sadness, nor does she have any inkling of what it is like to feel guilt or disappointment. Right now, she is absolutely perfect.
How can we protect that? How can we keep her there, in that perfectness bubble where she lives right now? I look at this tiny, beautiful baby girl and know that I can’t do it. One day she will be sad – and it will break my heart. One day she will get mad, at one of US, and I will have to talk her down from the rafters. One day, some little snot-nosed girl on the playground will say something snarky and hurt her feelings, and she will come home crying – and I won’t be able to do a thing about it. We’re not allowed to go scream at other people’s kids when they hurt our own.
I look at her and all I want is to protect her, from all of these things. I pray that the trust that she instinctively has for us right now is a trust that she always has in us. While I may not be able to keep bad, sad, or uncomfortable things from happening in her life, I can make sure that I shield her from it as much as humanly possible. I was worried, briefly, that I wouldn’t fall in love with her as madly as I had the two babies who had come from me, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. I feed her, I hold her, I change her, I drive her around in the middle of the night if I need to, I bathe her, and I love her so completely. No one would ever be able to say that this child is not mine – and if they do and it hurts her feelings, then they’d better look out!