If there’s one thing becoming a mom has taught me, it’s that I can’t possibly be in control of everything. Having kids has meant constantly recalculating my expectations because if I didn’t, I’d lose my mind every time my children changed theirs (“I don’t like sauce anymore,” was a statement I didn’t see coming). What a parent plans rarely manifests in real life, but there are childbirth decisions no one should take away from you. It learned I couldn’t control all the circumstances of labor and delivery, sure, but there were certain elements — like what flavor ice pops I wanted, at least — that were mine alone to decide.
Having a Type A personality can clash with the mechanics of being a parent. For example, I have learned that I must relax my urge to manage everything. When things don’t go my way, or even when they do and that brings everyone in the house to tears (“Sorry, but sauce is being made,” I’ll declare), I can’t get tense about it. I maintain autonomy in certain areas of my life — my hairstyle, my friends, my career — so I can accept that there are many other life choices that are not entirely up to me. Like reading the same bedtime story for the fourth night in a row. But my boredom with board books is nothing compared to the snuggly joy of having my little one cozied up to me, listening to that same story intently.
So while my life with kids reads less like a choose-your-own-adventure story and more like a dog-eared Dr. Seuss (“I do not like eggs, or ham, or anything that isn’t cereal,” is the 7-year-old’s latest battlecry), at least there were certain choices, like the ones I made during labor, that couldn’t be taken away from me.
I grew up when the "mixed tape" as in, so I love music and have curated soundtracks for practically every event in my life. Why should childbirth be an exception? It was important that I heard familiar, comforting, and motivational songs when I was in labor, which is a weird and foreign experience. I was the only one in the delivery room with the status to approve skipping songs.
With my second baby I hadn’t slept well, laboring through the night before shortly before 10:00 a.m., when he was finally born. I might have had some choice words for the labor and delivery staff, my OB-GYN, and my husband. But all is forgiven once the miracle of life is realized, right? Right?
When I’m overwhelmed, I tend to retreat into silence. It takes too much energy to respond to people in those moments. Being in labor was like that; sometimes, I just couldn’t bring myself to form words, not because I was in pain but because the whole experience of bringing a baby into the world, right there, right now, was heavy. I needed to just be… and be quiet.
Your Demand For Silence
Chit-chat in the labor and delivery room didn’t put me at ease. In fact, it annoyed me. Luckily, my husband is the quiet type so he didn’t try to “take my mind off things” (like that’s a good idea when you’re in labor?), by engaging me in small talk. The labor and delivery nurses eventually caught on that quiet was what I craved in those hours leading up to my first child’s birth. It might have been my frosty looks when they cheerily would ask how I was doing.
My birth plan was a joke, and nothing followed protocol. I didn’t expect to be induced, or need an epidural as a result of the wild contractions brought on by the Pitocin drip. There were no birthing balls for me to work through my labor on. There were no other positions I was allowed to get into with a catheter shoved inside me after the epidural. Walking around was out of the question. I was pissed that this birth wasn’t going my way, but luckily, I didn’t hold any grudges once I met that new baby.
With my birth plan scrapped, I didn't feel in control of what was happening to me during childbirth. I was the one with the baby inside me, so shouldn’t I be running the show? I was frustrated by what I didn’t know, having never given birth before, and by having to just surrender to the idea that I would do anything necessary to ensure the safety of my baby. Becoming a mom messes with your head in all sort of ways, and having to adjust my expectations of my labor experience was the first of many times I’d have to manage any ideas I might have about how this whole parenting thing was going to go down.
I’m the queen of self-deprecation, but giving birth woke me up to the fact that I deserve mad props for having grown and delivered a whole other human being. I used to say “congratulations” to new moms, but once I was one myself, I really took that remark to heart. Yes, give me all the congratulations because I did an amazing thing. I know women have been having babies every day for eons, but the world is not marveling at that fact enough. Damn, we’re good.
I didn’t think there would be anything topping the joy I felt on my wedding day: a picture-perfect autumn Saturday in New York City with all the people I loved gathered to celebrate my partner’s and my love. Then I had a baby. Nothing prepared me for the intense happiness that completely washed over me when we welcomed our firstborn. I may have to attribute some of that to the naturally-occurring flood of hormones that rush in upon the baby’s delivery, but no one will ever be able to downplay the euphoria of holding my baby for the first time.
Your First Postpartum Meal Selection
Eggplant parmigiana hero. Full stop. Don’t even try to talk me out of it, citing its extremely high messy factor and the fact that I’m swaddled in nothing but white sheets. I will eat it all and with gusto and I don’t care that it’s not even close to being warm after traveling from a restaurant 20 blocks away in my husband’s vice-like grip, as he knows that, after this baby I just shot out of my body, that sandwich is the only thing that matters.
Your Request To See The Afterbirth
I grew an entire organ and I was curious about it. When it was out, I asked my doctor to show it to me. He lifted the surgical steel dish and there it was: a sizable chunk of my insides that had served my newborn for the entirety of my pregnancy. It was totally gross and I was absolutely impressed with myself for giving birth, not only to a baby, but to this significant piece of flesh that I wanted to honor by giving it a moment in the spotlight. I still think my placenta was one of the coolest things ever, though I had no desire to eat it.