I never went into labor with my first child. The midwife noticed some disturbing dips in his heart rate, and after some hours and a lot of observation he was being pulled from my body via emergency c-section. I was 41 weeks pregnant.
I kind of thought this was a fluke – everyone says you tend to go over your due date with your first child. But then baby number two came, 42 weeks rolled around – and still nothing. Of course I experienced some Braxton Hicks – the small contractions your body experiences throughout a pregnancy to ready itself for the final act – but my final act never came. A previous c-section and a body that didn’t want to release its baby meant a repeat surgical birth.
At one point during the lead up to my second c-section, they had me hooked up to a fetal monitor. I remember the nurse pointing out that I was having contractions. “Do you feel that one?” She asked – over and over. Nope. All I felt was the mildest menstrual cramp I’d ever had. Why did I feel cheated by this? I remember thinking, “I hope I can feel one before they wheel me into surgery.” That can’t be normal thinking, can it?
I have written many articles about how I have made peace with my labors – and frankly I feel very, very lucky. When I hear women talking about laboring for hours on end only to end up with a surgical birth, I feel beyond thrilled my births didn’t go down that way. I can’t imagine having to go through the pain of labor and also having to recover from major surgery in the span of a few hours. But back to the first part of that sentence – “I can’t imagine having to go through the pain of labor.” I just can’t. I have no idea what it feels like. I know it’s normal; there are tons of women walking around like me. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I’ve missed something sometimes – however strange that sounds.
Giving birth is a different experience for everyone – and so much of it is out of our control. The part of me that wanted to experience pushing a baby out of my body is the same part of me who considered the pain of labor something that just had to happen. After having no pain in labor (well – a c-section is not a walk in the park, but you know what I mean) I can finally say it’s not a rite of passage.
That’s reserved for holding your baby in your arms for the first time. Corny, but true.