When I was sixteen, I had my wisdom teeth taken out. Before this procedure, I can remember walking down the hallway in my high school with a friend and declaring with great vehemence that there were only 3 things that I was afraid of in this life (ah, youth…) the wisdom teeth extraction, childbirth, and death. My logic, as I explained to this now faceless and nameless friend, was that they were the three main serious physical processes that I was pretty sure I was going to have to experience (ah, youth…).
A few weeks later, I survived the first of my three great fears, mainly with the help of Valium. (Some of you may recall that I’m a fainter) So on the doctor’s orders, I got drugged up before we went to the office. I was so high that as we were waiting for the surgery, I spent the time picking each individual dog hair off of my sweatpants and handing them one-by-one to my mother. I remember that this felt Very Important to do, but have no clue what I thought she would do with them. After that, I remember going into the little room, crying through a video about wisdom teeth, seeing the doctor coming in and telling me to pump my arm to make the veins good for the IV, refusing, and having him grab my spaghetti arm and put it through the motions. Then, the next thing I know I’m telling them to take the rubber mask off of my face and learning that it is, in fact, my face that is the rubber mask. An afternoon in bed, a few days of eating pureed stuff, and it was all done. Pretty trauma free, really. One down, two to go, I thought.
I love the naiveté of myself at that point – sure that I would get pregnant, sure that I’d be free from other physical problems or issues, and sure that death, childbirth, and a minor oral surgery were roughly equivalent in the standard human fear, trauma, and pain scale.
So now, here I am, staring down the barrel of my second major fear.
I always knew I wanted a baby – but I was never really pumped about the method of getting one. Although the first part seemed pretty great, it was the endgame that always deterred me. This was before I knew that the middle part would really suck a lot too. So, I put it off. I couldn’t have a baby because I was dissertating. I couldn’t have a baby because I was unemployed. I couldn’t have a baby because we didn’t have any money, or a safe car, or a house. I was too young. I had too much to do. It was the wrong time. I wanted to travel, see the world, eat raw cheeses, drink Manhattans. But then suddenly, I was in my mid-30s and reading all that scary shit about how TICK TOCK my fertility was decaying as rapidly as milk left out on the counter on a hot day and we had a safe car, two very good jobs, and a house. Add to this the fact that Spousal Unit was really, really, really, really excited about having a family. I mean, he really, really, really wanted kids. Once again, my half-hearted arguments lost out to his well-reasoned one. My point that I liked my life as it was paled beside his: “Yeah, it’s great to be 30 and childless, but do you really want to be 80 and childless?” This one got me. So we embarked on this little reproductive adventure. After one false start and one poor misplaced little embryo, I now find myself very pregnant, with, apparently a future football kicker with preference for lying on its back.
I always figured that when I got to this point of things, I’d just be resigned. I mean, there are only 2 ways out of this situation that I’ve gotten myself into and I’m going to have to do one or the other, although neither seem like a picnic. More like medieval torture. But, here I am and, really, I’m not resigned. I’m fucking freaked out. Completely. I mean, what do you wish for here? That you spend roughly 24-48 hours in terrible pain so that your innards can turn themselves inside out? Many funnier people than I have described this process — Carol Burnett springs to mind readily. She said once that childbirth was like taking your bottom lip and pulling it up over the top of your head. I liked that one. But, essentially, something really pretty big has to come out of a space that is really pretty small. Intelligent design, my ass. This seems like very, very bad planning to me. The other option? Getting your guts sliced open, rearranged, and then put back. A process that my friend described as “the single most disgusting thing I have ever witnessed” akin to “a crime scene” Yeah, that’s appealing.
So I’m freaked out. This is how freaked out I am: Spousal Unit and I, as good little obedient small-hippy town liberals are seeking the help of a Doula for the birth. We got some recommendations, and met someone that was well-liked by some folk. Plus, she’s a specialist in hypno-birthing. Why not, I thought? Follow the swinging watch, you are getting sleepy, and after I count backwards from 10, snap my fingers and then you’ll have a baby. That sounded good.
We met her last week, liked her a lot, and hired her. So, she left me with a book on hypno-birthing and a CD. Basically, it is all about learning relaxation techniques. Less swinging watch and more “relax your toes. Breathe. Relax every muscle in your face. Breathe.” More yoga, less Freud. But, I swear, every time I pick up the book, I have a full-on panic attack. Pounding heart, breathlessness, sweating, the whole nine yards. I cannot read about hypno-birthing without freaking out.
Let me emphasize the irony of this situation. I have had repeated panic attacks simply reading about how to relax. How fucked up is that? (working on earning my NC-17 rating here.)
I know, I know, all you parents out there are saying shit like “in the end, it will be worth it,” and “once you see the baby you won’t care about how it got there,” or my other favorite “you forget the pain.” Well, I sure as hell hope so. Who’d want to remember? And I know that maintaining this high-tension state of things is a sure-fire guaranteed way to ensure that I have a difficult birth. So, I’m listening to the CD at night trying (without my Gen-X ironic filter) to practice breathing through my eyelids and walking through rainbow light and shit like that so that when the time comes I won’t panic, I won’t freak out, I’ll just ride it and let my body do what it needs to. (Which has NEVER been one of my strongest characteristics, really.)
And besides, maybe when it is all over, I’ll feel like I did after the wisdom teeth – that it was all pretty trauma-free. And then I’ll be able to say, two down, one to go!
Oh, and FYI — Dissertation update:
I’m right on schedule for a Saturday chapter completion. (fingers crossed, knock on wood, throw salt over the shoulder, don’t step on any sidewalk cracks…) I revised the intro of the chapter yesterday, cutting it from 8 to 5 pages and eliminating the repetitive fat. Today, on to the next section. I’ve got an 11 page revision goal to meet and once again will trek to the giant air-conditioned evil bookstore empire to soak up their cool in the 90 degree heat and humidity. But first, I’m going to go swim!