My latest from the Walnut Creek Patch
When I was pregnant with my son, Campbell, the doctor told me I would deliver no later than Feb. 28.
“Have all your hospital things packed and ready to go by the 25th of February,” she said. “This one’s gonna be early.”
February 25 came and left me with nothing more than a fully-inflated birthing ball by the front door. Feb. 28th arrived and I spent the day watching ER reruns on TNT while peeing every 16 minutes. At this point, everyone started to call and ask the dreaded question: “Have you had the baby yet?”
Friends from college, relatives, neighbors. Each with their own wives tales on how to induce birth. Chinese food was what apparently induced my husband and his brother. My godmother suggested buying an eggplant. Not eating the eggplant, mind you, just buying it and putting it on your counter like a vegetable womb.
But despite the sure-fire tricks for bringing this baby into the world, nothing worked. At that point, I felt like Animal Planet would call to include me in a segment on gestational periods of the African elephant. Little contractions came and went and I had dreams that my water broke and flooded the house.
On March 5, I bought the eggplant. Nothing.
Finally, on March 8, my husband told me I had to get out of the house because I was beginning to refer to the 1995 cast of ER as “my friends,” so we went to the Oakland Zoo. The 50 pounds I gained during that pregnancy jiggled through tortoise habitats and lions’ dens until I could not walk any more without fear of collapsing into the otter pool. My husband got me into the car and took me to the local Mexican joint, where I ate a burrito grande and a Sprite.
The next morning, at exactly 3:34 a.m., with the dust of the Oakland Zoo on my feet and salsa in my veins, my water broke. And at 10:50 p.m., my gorgeous 8 pound, 11 ounce son, Campbell, was born. Right on time.
Then I did what I didn’t think I would ever do. I added my tale to the old wives’ roster of birth-inducing tips. I told people the secret was the zoo and Mexican food with all the certainty in the world. People laughed, much as I had laughed at the whole eggplant deal, but I remained steadfast in my conviction. And when I was pregnant with my second son, my husband dutifully took me to the San Francisco Zoo (for a change of pace) and the local Mexican joint, where I had a burrito grande and a Sprite. The next morning, at exactly 4:25 a.m., my water broke. And at 10:54 a.m., my gorgeous 9 pound, 11 ounce son, Brodie, was born.
Nowadays, the story of the birth of my children rarely comes up in conversation. Like the fact that my older son’s doctor dropped the placenta on the floor with a resounding “Whoopsy-Daisy!” or that, at one point during the beginning of my younger son’s delivery, the petite Indian doctor who would bring Brodie into the world looked me in the eye and said, “You will like me. I have very small hands.” Or that during the long labor and seemingly endless contractions, upon finally garnering that epidural, I turned to the nurse on call and said, in a drugged haze, “This is better than a spa!” To which she retorted, “Honey, you’ve got to get yourself to a better spa.”
But for now, we’ve moved on to Little League and backpacks and standardized testing and General Grievous. In this new world of later bedtimes and character-free underpants, it seems that those days back at California Pacific Medical Center and Alta Bates respectively are so long ago I can hardly remember the epidural.
No wait, I remember that very fondly, actually. Quite fondly indeed.
And despite the long labor and the fact that for months after the birth of my first son I walked around as if I’d dismounted a large horse, those two days are, by far, my most precious days … my most exceptional accomplishments … my most shining moments.
For in and among the hospital gowns and disastrous feedings and engorgement came the loves of my life. And for any mother, whether by birth or adoption or fostering, this Mother’s Day brings with it a recognition of what we do on a daily basis to protect and adore and support our children. It also allows us to think back on those first days and the wonder and, at times, sheer terror, of bringing a new little life into our homes and hearts.
I’ve loved gathering similar mom stories from a variety of mothers here and far. Mothers like Joanna, who was convinced that her second child was a boy. So when the doctor announced that she and her husband had a beautiful baby girl, Joanna kept joyfully repeating the word “vagina” to the doctors and nurses.
Or like Amy, who, two days after giving birth to her third child, watched as her middle child was playing in the living room and bumped her hand. “She was convinced she needed a Band-Aid,” Amy said. “I, the recent labor survivor, was not convinced. But she said, ‘Mommy …. it HURTS so BAD!” with exactly the same emphasis I had used two days earlier in labor.
Nancy, a mother of a biological and adopted child, was presented with an adoption opportunity when her first son was a toddler. That did not come to fruition, but she and her husband finished meeting all of the state requirements for adoption. At that time, however, they did not conduct an active outreach to find a child.
Then, three years later, Nancy received a phone call from the agency that said she and her husband had 30 minutes to decide before meeting the baby. Nancy said, “We like to think that our son was created just for us and delivered right to us.” She went on to speak eloquently of the love she has for both of her children. “It really drives home the idea that the connections of parenthood are so little related to genes,” she said. “I can very honestly say that even from the beginning I had the exact same feelings for each child.”
AJ, the mother of two boys, had what many birthing mothers experience – seemingly endless labor. After three epidurals and a litany of check-ups and Pitocin, AJ was finally at the moment when the doctor and nurses tell you to push. Well, push she did. And push. And push. All the while asking, rather unsuccessfully, for a mirror to watch the miracle of her child’s birth.
“I asked for a mirror and then I was told to push, push, push, push, push, push, push, nothing,” she said. “Still no mirror….really nothing, push, push, push, push…still no mirror…push, rest, push, push, push, rest, push, push, push, rest, nothing.” After three and a half hours of straight pushing, her son, a beautiful baby boy (with no mirror in sight) was born.
Finally, there was Amy who spoke of the bond between mothers in that moment of labor and delivery. “My mom was in the delivery room, behind the doctor, watching the delivery,” she said. “During the final pushes, I looked up and saw the excitement and glow in my mom’s face as I was becoming a mother for the first time. I had an overwhelming comfort come over me. I will never forget that moment for so many reasons. Mom and I have had our share of ups and downs, but there was no face I would have rather seen in that moment of transitioning into motherhood.”
It is pretty amazing to think about the role we have played and continue to play in the lives of our children. And that no matter when you birthed your child or was given the gift of your child via a momentous phone call, we are mothers and this Mother’s Day we should be proud of the work we’ve done and the joy we’ve created.
While I was in my delivery room with my first son, my mom and husband took a little break to get something sinful from the vending machine. And my dad stayed behind to be with me. Ever stoic in that mustachioed Italian way of his, my dad wasn’t altogether comfortable as I suffered through three or four contractions in his presence. When my mom finally returned, my dad said in a very soft whisper, “My god. This is hard work.” To which my mom replied, “That’s why they call it labor, Frank.” And labor it is. And yet a labor of love it will always be.