Friday, February 19, 2016

Our ancestors didn't waste the trip back to the house

          I think the most “my mom” statement that has ever been made was her recent comment; “I hosted a tea while I was in labor and no one even knew it”. If you’ve ever read this blog before, this will make sense.

         Let’s just start with the “hosting a tea” aspect of this scenario and just how “my mom” this is. Her assumption that teas are a normal everyday life activity that aren't novelty-themed bridal showers is just so 19th century of her- in the best way possible. Let’s get down to the other aspect of this though that is quintessential Jo-Anna Holden. She has asserted for many years that “labor is easy- it’s nothing like the way it’s portrayed in the movies”. She has said many times she would rather give birth than go to the dentist, her logic being that labor is natural and gradual and that the dentist is forced upon you externally. Let’s just acknowledge here that my mom had a terrible dentist growing up, who, it became known later, had a severe alcohol problem. She also had a textbook twenty-four hour first childbirth experience and a textbook quicker second experience, both completely natural. Let’s also say that my mom is a horse.

          When it comes to withstanding pain, I have witnessed my mother practically slice a piece of her finger off at the restaurant, and literally not stop moving through the kitchen for the rest of the night, as is her way (with the thing hygienically bandaged enough, of course). When she swam into the side of the pool while doing laps one day, she still served a lunch to friends that afternoon. My godmother, a nurse, had to force her to lie down after it hadn’t stopped bleeding for several hours, all the while threatening that if she didn’t get out of the kitchen, they were going straight to the ER to get stitches.

          My mother attributes her high threshold for pain with her Ukrainian side. Her grandmother reminded her often that we are descended from a people who gave birth in the fields during a farm work day. Mothers were expected to carry an armful of crops back to the house along with the new baby so the trip back wouldn’t be a waste.

          As I get closer to this baby’s birthday, I am actually grateful for having grown up with this attitude toward childbirth. And yes, I say “birthday”, because that’s what it is. I resent these blogs that refer to it as “D-Day” for delivery day. I mean, really? Who at “The Bump” thought a WWII reference was adorable? Not adorable. At all.

          The more I read, the more I learn that yes, it’s going to be painful, but you get distinct breaks unlike other types of unrelenting pain. (I say this as someone who's had kidney stones, migraines, a pretty bad car accident, and one walloping ear infection on an airplane.) And I've read childbirth is a bit like the anticipation of a blood tests, vaccines, and needles in general. Dwelling on the anxiety is only going to make it worse in a scenario where relaxation is your friend. Is it often described as “intense”? Yes. But I think people mean that in more ways than just pain. There are so many feelings of vulnerability and love that you experience at this time of life, and on that day, it happens in a span of a few hours, and all beyond one's control. Twenty four or forty hours can seem long when you’re thinking about pain, but when it’s (hopefully) gradual, and the result is so emotional, it really seems so short and finite, compared to all the challenges to come. The way I see it, at the end of that long day, you get to meet your baby! However, I am a realist. I’ll report back.


  1. Well, having descended from some of the same stock as your mom, I'd say it's not about being Ukrainian—unless your mother-in-law's heritage counts into the equation in some absurd way that I don't even want to think about.

    I'm from the 100% German side of the family, and I can tell you it's not about that iconic stoical stereotype, either. That may have been my parents, but I was the one who brought the drama and the chaos, so if I could give birth without sounding like TV, it's certainly not about who your parents were or what they did or did not pay attention to.

    With my first child, I pushed for 5 hours. To the uninitiated: Pushing is like the rest of being in labor the way being buried in an avalanche is like catching snow on your tongue the first time you ever see it falling from the sky.

    I still can remember those 5 hours, even 30+ years later... in my memory, there's some fleeting sense that it wasn't a "snow-on tongue" kind of experience, but neither do I remember the feeling of the avalanche. I just know it happened. I got through that many hours by taking them one moment at a time. I wanted Jaime so much that had it been necessary, I would still be there, pushing. At least, that's how I remember it.

    On the other hand, I'm totally on board with your mom's assessment of TV birth. You should know that TV execs whose shows feature birth scenes get wonderful vacations in exotic locations paid for by the pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs that force you to miss the most awe-inspiring moments of your life.

    Don't fall for it, Katrina. You can scream or not, as it pleases you. You can sing opera if you like. You can be scared or not, and still live through it.

    You're going to be fine—because you are a woman who is about to be a mother and your body knows exactly what to do... and how to make you forget everything you don't need to remember as soon as your baby melts into your arms.

    Have a great one :)

    xo, Allison

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