I saw Ricki Lake’s “The Business of Being Born,” became well-versed in the “cascade of interventions” that are likely to happen at a hospital birth, and decided I wanted to give birth at home. We chose a naturopathic physician / midwife who seemed in line with our philosophy and approach to birth and hunkered down for the tidal wave of birth to arrive.
What I know now that I could not have known then is that preparing for birth is like packing a backpack for a trip to the moon. It’s an exercise you go through to give yourself the illusion of control, to feel that you have some inch of influence over gravity’s relaxing grip as you orbit unfathomably through space.
What I know now that I should have known then is that agreeing to proof a book in layout two weeks after giving birth is a bad, bad idea.
It went down like this: I labored for 60 hours at home — from a Monday to a Wednesday–until it became clear that my son’s head was stuck at an angle and wasn’t budging. We raced to the hospital where some other complications were identified, and within 30 minutes the surgeon lifted a perfect little boy body over the C-section curtain. As my son Theo’s life untwined from mine into his own breath and being and I watched the nurse performing his Apgar test, it slowly dawned on me that I was no longer in labor, that I was no longer pregnant — that my son had birthed me into motherhood.
Theo and I spent the next five days learning each other’s rhythms in the bright spotlight of around-the-clock, nursing supervision. A week later as I was surfacing from the haze of heavy-duty narcotic painkillers, euphoric awe and interminable exhaustion, the PDF proof arrived. I printed it, put it in a binder, got out my highlighter and my Pilot V Ball Grip pen. Then, I sat down to dinner, started crying and just couldn’t stop. My concerned husband and mother in law quickly made a plan to relieve me of baby duty for the night and sent me into private quarters to sleep.
What I realized during that blessed night of honest-to-goodness sleep — my first peephole of contemplation since Theo’s arrival — was that giving birth had initiated me into the superhero, secret society of motherhood. I had tapped into the universal power shared by women everywhere who simply do what has to be done, with love and with gratitude. I had endured three days of unmedicated labor; what was proofing a 264-page book at the nadir of depletion compared to that?
The next day, I returned to the dinner table, wiped my bleary eyes, and I proofed that book with the hormonally-enhanced ardor, focus and determination that only a new mother can.
Next month: The utter obliteration of mind, desk and to-do list in the first three months of motherhood.