I was not born to ask for help.
I was born into the wrong generation (Boomer) and with the wrong nature (I can DO that myself, might have been the first words I said to my mother).
So when my first son was due it came as no real surprise to anyone that I was absolutely determined to have a completely natural birth, preferably at home.
Now no one, probably, wants to hear another birth story. But bear with me. I think it’s possible that women tell birth stories like men tell war stories. And for women of my generation–and nature–NOT having completely natural childbirth was akin to cutting and running in a big battle. It just wasn’t done. It would show you for the chicken-heart you really were in the mother wars. I had friends who had endured DAYS of labor. I was coming to motherhood late and even more set in my ways. I wasn’t about to be one of the lily-livered deserters.
There were a few details I was overlooking.
I was 39 when first son arrived, which added to my determination, but also, I neglected to take into account, added to the risks of something going awry in childbirth. And I lived in Mobile, Alabama.
Now, you might think that Mobile would follow the old ways of childbirth–and one of the best books I’ve ever read was indeed told by an amazing midwife who lived in Mobile, Motherwit–but when I got there in 1990 to teach at the Jesuit college, it was a not a hotbed of natural childbirth. The more technological the better, in fact.
In fact, midwives even in hospitals were outlawed at the time–right up until the time that they realized that infant and maternal mortality skyrocketed when they were banned–and they remain illegal in home births to this day.
We had just moved there (the actual order being: I got my Ph.D. one May morning, got married that afternoon, and moved the next day to start my first academic job that week) and knew no one. So I scoured every source I could find to identify an obstetrician who at the very least did NOT favor Caesareans. It was actually a bridge too far to find one that was all in on natural childbirth. But I did find a nurse practitioner who had done it herself and did not think I was raving when I said I really wanted to go that way.
Things did not go my way. I’ll spare you the details, but a night of hard labor and a unrelenting irregular heartbeat on the fetal monitor scared me out of my willfulness.
When my lovely OB said he was going to wait 15 more minutes and then start surgical prep, I had one comment.
“Don’t wait,” I said. “Prep now.”
I was exhausted and afraid. And I was OVER natural childbirth.
Even I knew that, after months and months of resistance to any sort of assistance, help was called for.
My son was born, we all survived, and I learned this one thing: it didn’t matter at all how he got here. He was here and so was I.
As you can see in this photo of him at one week old, my son was born a three-month-old. He was almost 10 pounds. He never wore those cute little newborn outfits. I could see clearly, once he was safely in my arms, he wasn’t coming out any other way.
So you’d think that I had learned my lesson about asking for help when it was called for.
But nooooooo–I still resist every step of the way.
So when I was struggling to get my latest programs written, slides made, videos filmed, the shopping cart set up, and the whole business uploaded in some way that would make them available to people, I was exhausted. I was also writing two books, working on several wonderful books with clients, and tending a dying cat–but I still wasn’t going to cry uncle.
Until I did.
I finally got someone who could help me finish the programs and get them out into the world. Where they might do some good.
Here is what I know: I am not very good at technology. I am not great at figuring out the back end of anything. I am really good at writing books and talking about writing books.
My second son was a planned Caesarean. By then I had no resistance. We could tell by ultrasound he was almost as big as his brother I knew by then I was not good at delivering whopping big babies by natural means. I was a very grateful patient of a good obstetrician who, though he avoided them when he could, turned out to be brilliant at surgical deliveries. Appropriating what one friend of mine said of her Caesarean birth experience, I would have taken those babies by any means necessary. They could have been delivered by pickup truck.
And creating a program might not be as life-threatening a situation as it was Dec 2 1990 when my wonderful son entered the world by a different method than the one I had in mind. But the lesson remains valuable.
Who knows, maybe with the second program I’ll just get help from the start and it will be ready in no time.
Sometimes what looked like cutting and running is actually a strategic maneuver that wins the war.