Being pregnant is one of the most beautiful and challenging times in a woman’s life, and it is an experience we collectively share. Any pregnancy book can tell you what you can expect at different stages throughout, what size fruit your baby is, and how your body is changing week to week. It is a unifying experience because you can talk about the joys and challenges of being pregnant with a whole tribe of women who have also gone through those same ups and downs.
But pregnancy and labor are also so unique because every individual is different, goes through a range of experiences and emotions, and has their own preferences about labor and delivery (at home, with a doula, in a hospital, naturally, etc.). Plus, it is unpredictable how it will all go down.
I loved having other women to talk to who were completely empathetic to what I was experiencing while I was pregnant. So many women shared their stories with me, gave me great advice, and helped prepare me for what I could expect. I love talking to my pregnant friends now about what stage they are in.
Is he moving a lot? Are you sleeping EVER? Don’t you miss lying on your belly?! Does your heartburn make you a fire-breathing dragon? How’s your bladder treating you?
I like being able to share what got me through and being as helpful and kind as others were to me.
BUT, there were also women who shared their horror stories. That belly was somehow an invitation for others to try to scare the bejeezus out of me! It’s July, and I’m a miserable swollen whale, dying to get to my due date, and several people felt like they should warn me that first babies always arrive late … some even 2 WEEKS past their due date. I knew of course that the due date was just a best guess, but the thought of being pregnant for 2 more weeks at that point was terrifying.
Then came the stories of epidurals that didn’t work, two day labors, babies with cords around their necks, emergency c-sections, episiotomies that left them damaged for life, and awful post partum recoveries. I can’t tell you how many women told me that my body would never be same again — forget that bikini and enjoy that big chest because it is literally headed south once it is all over.
I didn’t understand why people were trying to scare me when I was already worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle it or that something would go horribly wrong.
But now that I’m on the other side, I kind of get it.
We love telling our own story, right? I like thinking about that day and reliving everything that happened. It makes me feel powerful that we made it through 17 hours of labor. I am proud of the fact that I was the most pleasant person ever while this was all happening (I was making up for the fact that I was AWFUL at the end of my pregnancy, although in my defense 100 degrees and cankles would make anyone a tiny bit moody). I feel important, forming a life from love. And I love telling the story to anyone who will listen because it is so unique to me — the shock and excitement when my water broke in the middle of the night, how nervous I was when the contractions got intense, and how ready and determined I was when it came time to start pushing.
And now I’m glad people told me those stories, even if they weren’t always pleasant or easy to hear, because it prepared me. I was under no illusion that it would be easy or that I could predict anything about how my body or spirit would handle it, and I was strangely at peace with that.
I do try to leave out the nitty gritty details when I talk to friends who are going through this experience for the first time, unless they ask. I remember how it felt to have those unpleasant stories piled on when my emotions were all over the place already. No matter what happens, your story will be uniquely special to your family.
Yes, there may be pain and there may be surprises, but you were made to bring this baby into the world, and you will do it. And we will welcome you to the tribe with open arms and listening ears, ready to hear your story and to tell you ours … the good, the bad, and the beautiful.