We are 5 weeks into our 8-week childbirth class, slowly preparing ourselves for our baby’s entry into the world. Our instructor is incredible, as she paints the very real picture that labor and delivery can be hard, hard work, but then empowers us with loads of affirmation and advice. Turns out that the scene played on movie after movie where the woman rushes into the delivery room, pushes for a minute, screams and slaps her husband with the threat that he will never touch her again, then pushes just one more time before a fresh, chubby-cheeked baby appears isn’t super-realistic. We’re watching movies of a whole new variety since we’ve started this class – videos of actual births where pregnant women don’t have perfect hair and makeup, where labor lasts more than 10 minutes, where newborns are wrinkled and covered in goo. It’s intense, but exciting – that will be us in September. I’m going to go into labor, I’m going endure a myriad of contractions, I’m going to push like hell, and then we’re going to have a baby. It’s gettin’ real. The eager anticipation was fun and full of joy. Until it got too real.
We watched our third lesson’s video at home last week. I settled into the couch next to Shane, computer on my lap and hand on my belly, ready for that feeling of yearning and empowerment I had felt when I’d put myself in the shoes of the other video-taped mamas. But this particular montage of several different women coping with early labor, with advanced labor, and with pushing and delivery threw me for a major loop. It elicited neither joy nor excitement. I felt the pin-pricks of oncoming tears as the final scene faded and I closed my eyes in hopes of composing myself. Shane reached for me, curious and concerned, and asked what was on my mind. I took a deep breath, but quickly gave up on any attempts at holding myself together. “I’m scared!” I blubbered, fat tears rolling down my cheeks. He asked me to elaborate on what in particular I found so frightening, and my inarticulate response was, “All of it.” There was a woman in the video who coped with each contraction by rhythmically chanting “I. Can. Do. It. I. Can. Do. It.”. The cadence of her voice rang in my head, but the words in my mantra were less optimistic: “I’m. Not. Read-y. I’m. Not. Read-y.” A host of unfamiliar anxieties bubbled to the surface and bowled me over. I’m nervous about being physically exposed in front of a room of people. I’m afraid of the pain. I’m anxious about the mess, the blood and fluids and Lord-knows-what-else that will come out of my body. I know, I know – all of this stuff will lead us to the point where we meet our beautiful baby, and that moment of holding him or her in my arms for the very first time will rock my world, but in a way, that’s the scariest part of all. Because vulnerability of the body is one thing; but vulnerability of the heart? That’s even messier. I will be opening myself in brand new ways to this little person, feeling unfathomable love, but on some days also feeling mind-bending tiredness, or frustration, or worry, because I have to/need to/want to do everything in my power to make sure that our child feels cared for and safe and treasured. And as Nance reminded me today, I can’t run away when the going gets tough. This is an all-in, heart-on-my-sleeve, life-long deal.
Shane dried my tears that night and we both chuckled when I wondered aloud what in the world we had gotten ourselves into. Because deep (sometimes very deep) down, despite these Kelly-esque freak-outs, we know we’re ready, and we know how desperately we want to meet our child. This baby was not conceived out of short-sighted, fickle desire; he or she is the miraculous answer to years of prayerful longing. Yes, I’m glad that I have a couple more months to prepare my mind/body/home, but damn, I really can’t wait to take this rocker for a late-night test drive.