An Unintentional Empowerment
I had my first child in an attempt to save my marriage. Not that I thought that having a child would bind my husband and I together in shared love but because having a child would mean that I had to care for that child and caring for that child would keep me from running around and getting myself into the sort of trouble I’d gotten into for most of my semi-adult life, i.e. having random sex with strangers.
My decision was a purely one-sided decision; my husband and I had discussed numerous times that having children was nowhere on our list of priorities, but I was about as desperate as I could be. I wanted the marriage to work. I cannot say that I was “in love” with my husband; I’d never experienced that emotion in the context of a conscious relationship as a grown-up-ish person. I wanted the marriage to work because I wanted the marriage to save me from myself and thus far the marriage alone hadn’t been accomplishing my goal. I was unable to control myself.
I kept the fact that I was pregnant from my husband for as long as I could and, while he had been far less than pleased about it, once the child was born, he softened some.
The process of birthing that child, however, had been, for me, a nightmare. My mother had birthed eleven children and never once had I heard her even mention any discomfort. She had told me, though, that for my birth — I was her first — she had been knocked out cold with something called Twilight Sleep which, as I found out only recently, (thank you Google) is a mixture of scopolamine and morphine which eventually lost favor with obstetricians for a number of reasons including the fact that babies were often born not breathing, as I, apparently also was.
I knew I wouldn’t have twilight sleep to ease the process, but I figured there’d be something… something… I mean, there had to be, right?
Fourteen hours of hard labor without the least relief followed by a ten-pound human taking his sweet time about exiting the birth canal was way more painful than I could ever have dreamed it would be. I literally cursed my infant child as he entered the world, just as I had, not breathing. I was furious. I was half out of my mind and I was loudly threatening to kill him myself if he died on me, so also, clearly, I was pretty much out of my mind.
My son was a beautiful baby, a veritable Botticelli angel, and he grew into a beautiful child, an intelligent, curious child who demanded more attention from me than I deemed comfortable. “This kid,” I thought to myself, “needs a playmate.” We were living, however, in an area of mostly older folks and one lumber mill. I didn’t have any friends there and wouldn’t have known where to even begin the process of making friends as I was relatively shy around women since for much of my young life I’d been viewed by other women as a threat, and not without good reason. So, once again, I took it upon myself to solve my problem by getting pregnant. I would make a playmate for him.
Again, I withheld the fact that I was pregnant for as long as I could but once I revealed my condition, I stated that I wanted to attend classes in “natural childbirth.” I wanted, more than anything, to avoid the pain I had endured birthing my son. My mother had delivered her last child using the “natural” method and she had nothing but good to say about it, but my husband was livid at the idea of spending money on such a frivolity and so, once again, I took matters in my own hands. I took out a book on the subject from the local library, made copious notes, and set about preparing myself for a far better experience than I’d had with the birth of my son. My condition, my pregnancy, became, as far as I was concerned, MY pregnancy. I studied and practiced my breathing technique every day. I would be ready when labor began and I would let no one know I was ready to give birth until I absolutely had to.
My husband’s parents had come to visit for the Thanksgiving holiday and were staying just a bit down the block with his father’s mother. Dinner was to be at our house. I had experienced the first labor pang shortly after getting up that morning. It was mild, but obvious. I said nothing. I dressed as usual, as though nothing out of the ordinary was going on, and went downstairs to put the turkey in the oven and get breakfast for our son. It wasn’t long before my mother-in-law showed up to announce what food she would be bringing over. Contractions were still quite far apart at that point and I had no trouble disguising them, leaning back against whatever counter was handy and sighing mildly.
When the contractions got to be about ten minutes apart, I let my husband know that I was in labor and that we would have to leave for the hospital immediately. I called my doctor’s service to let him know what was up. We were living in south Jersey at the time, about 30 minutes from the bridge that would take us to Philadelphia and the hospital where my doctor would eventually meet us.
By the time we reached to top of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the contractions were just about a minute apart. I remained calm, letting my husband know that we’d best head right for the emergency room entrance, which he did. This was, perhaps, the first time in our marriage that I’d ever told him what to do… and it felt good not to be second guessed. Because I’d gotten my breathing technique to a point of exquisite harmony with my body’s undulating pangs, I was barely even uncomfortable… actually feeling, I thought, a little bit as if I were high on something, a condition I was not very familiar with and was enjoying. I’d never in my life felt so pleased with myself.
It was impressive how quickly and smoothly I was handled by the staff. In almost no time at all, it seemed, I was prepped and ready. I had no idea where my husband was but I knew he’d been headed for the parking garage and would figure it all out. I arrived at the room where I would give birth just on the verge of doing so and orgasmed as my baby slid through the canal… much to the astonishment of myself and the nurses who were present.
“I’ve never seen that before!” one of the nurses exclaimed.
My baby girl was out in a flash and the moment I saw her there arose, from some primitive and formerly silent area of my brain, the words, “I’m nursing her.” Prior to that very moment I had found nursing to be just this side of disgusting. My mother had bottle-fed every one of her offspring. My closest sister, a schizophrenic, had nursed her child, but aside from that, I’d only ever seen nursing mothers in National Geographic magazines. But I felt that urge as strongly as I’d ever felt anything. I would sometimes muse, in retrospect, that my new daughter might have been exercising some kind of primitive mind-control thing. She was a pretty potent character, but I’m pretty sure that I was just in the serious grip of Mother Nature.
That birthing experience was a distinct turning point in my life. It lent me a level of confidence I’d never had before. It lay the foundation for the person I am now, though heaven knows I had a whole lot more mistakes to make and a whole lot more to learn between 1975 and the present… but I don’t think I’d have made it to here without that one specific class in life and the lessons I learned in taking control of that one particular experience… though I do think I might have had a little help on the inside… she’s clever like that.