Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birthday brings back childbirth memories

Thirteen years ago tonight, I was terrified. I was big as a house, six days overdue to have my first child.

I wasn't terribly worried about becoming a mom. I was very worried about having a baby. I had no idea that babies were actually much easier to care for when they're inside.

Once she was out, I thought to myself, what's the big deal?

Insert laughtrack here.

For weeks I'd been clutching my magic slip of paper, my "permission for epidural" that my doctor had given me. "You probably won't need it," he told me, smiling. "Your body will know what to do."

My body did not know what to do. My body wanted to be over at Friday's, eating nachos. I fully expected all the doctors and nurses to stay by my side, calming me, coaching me through this experience. I was outraged when they weren't.

They're probably still talking about me in the nurses' lounge.

When it was time for the baby to arrive, my husband changed into surgical scrubs in the bathroom, his legs shaking so bad he could barely stand. Despite my magic sheet of paper, I didn't get my epidural - I gave birth naturally. (I'll be reminding my daughter of that later, if she starts giving me trouble as a teen).

I remember standing by my hospital bed, holding up a tiny Newborn Pampers. I turned it this way and that, realizing I had no idea what to do with it. I just... stood there. I think I realized then how much I had to learn.

A teen-age volunteer walked by my room and smiled. "The little cartoon picture goes in the front," she whispered. I blushed. I looked down and my new baby stared at me with those big, trusting blue eyes. "Jesus God," I murmured. "What do I do with you now?"

Sometimes I still ask myself that question, and my daughter is turning 13 tomorrow. But one thing I know for sure: I love her immensely, completely; I can't imagine life without her. Everything else, we'll just play by ear.

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