Sugar here again. I have passed along the pleas for The Birth Story Epilogue: Vaginagate.
But for now . . . what about MY vagina? Am I ever going to shoot a baby out of it? This seems to be the question on everyone’s mind, even mine sometimes.
Here are some weird times from the past few months:
The Bean is two weeks old. I’ve take him to the Botanic Garden in his stroller. On the way back two female police officers stop to coo over him and eventually ask me how old he is. I tell them. They stare at me, clearly evaluating my figure. “You had that baby two weeks ago?” one of them finally asks. “My partner gave birth,” I say. I don’t stick around for further questions.
My skeevy coworker starts calling me ‘mama’ with strange emphasis. This does not feel inclusive.
My mother asks me if I’m ‘going to have one of my own.’ Argh. I thought we went over this.
At a party for the baby people start talking about how babies lose their hair and wondering about the longevity of the Bean’s full head of hair. I say that he may not lose it as many babies don’t, and I give the example that I did not lose my hair as a baby. A coworker enthusiastically assumes that this means Bionic and I have somehow mixed our eggs together and we don’t know which of us is related to our child. (!!!!)
Aside from how I felt about these incidents (answer: uncomfortable) how do I feel about the idea of being pregnant myself? Now that we have the Bean, I actually feel less like having ‘one of my own’ than I did before. For one thing, wanting to be pregnant myself was related to the fear that I wouldn’t feel connected to the Bean. But now I know that I do feel connected to him. I feel a lot of those things everyone says mothers feel, like the urge to protect, sadness when he cries (rather than oh, say, rage, which has been my emotion in the past with non-related babies) elation when he laughs, etc.
Also, I like my body (kind of) and the idea of stretching it all around a big disco-ing basketball doesn’t appeal. I was an out-of-shape, bookish kid and it was only in my late twenties that I became competent at any sporty things. I’m not sure I want to give that up for the nine months of pregnancy plus endless months of nursing. I feel like this is selfish, but I’m trying to be honest.
I don’t have an ‘urge’ to be pregnant, I guess. People talk about this urge all the time, but I have a hard time imagining it.
Finally, seeing Bionic go through labor and birth was ALARMING. I mean truly frightening. I didn’t realize how frightened by it I was until I went to get a regular gyno check-up last week. First off, the nurse who let me into the exam room had a Russian accent, sending off all sorts of alarm bells about Dr. Russian. After not doing anything bad to me, this nurse left me in a perfectly ordinary room where I have calmly waited in the past. Only now the jars of swabs and rubber gloves had a very ominous aspect and I wanted to bolt.
I am not a fan of this sudden phobia. Part of becoming an adult for me was changing from being a nauseated, frightened teenager who once threw a whole glass of barium swallow at a radiology tech because he too-cheerfully urged me to ‘just drink it’ to a calm woman who is fully aware that I can refuse medical treatment at will and that doctors are not out to get me. But now I’m back in the frightened teenager head space. Ugh.
Let me be clear. It is not exactly the pain of labor that scares me (although that looked like no picnic) but rather the medical establishment’s reaction to it. Yes, Dr. Russian is a special horror, but it was not just her. It was the fact that there was a person in excruciating pain in a hospital and only desultory and half-assed attempts were made to continually mitigate that pain. Oh but I’m forgetting, did I say person? I meant woman, that’s not the same as person.
When Dr. Russian turned down the epidural (for absolutely no good reason and without being in full possession of the facts) and Bionic started helplessly screaming, I was really at my wits end. I did not know what to do, and nobody else seemed to really care. Oh, hysterical screaming? All in a day’s work. It’s just a pregnant lady, everyone knows they’re a little crazy.
How many jokes have we all heard about women in labor freaking out and yelling irrational things? It turns out they have a really good reason to be freaking out. Pain is not funny. Women are not animals. But even big fancy hospital in big fancy New York does not seem to really understand this. This probably makes me sound like the militant feminist that I am, but if a man were in that much pain, I think whole groups of people would be leaping around trying to do something about it. [N.B. why are contractions called ‘contractions’? This makes it sound like flexing a bicep. Somehow I did not put together that they are actually extremely painful cramps until Bionic was actually having one.]
When I think about how the bureaucracy of nurses who report to doctors who report to other doctors who are psychopathic OBs made me unable to effectively intervene while people did dumb, medically unnecessary things like coached pushing, and cruel, medically unnecessary things like withholding pain relief, I wonder how I could ever sign myself up to be in Bionic’s place. Do I want to find Dr. Russian, punch her in the face, and magically ruin her reputation and career? Yes. Am I afraid that instead someone just like her will be yelling at me that I’m not trying and rolling her eyes at my pain if I ever am in labor? Yes. And I probably won’t have a handy 16 ounces of barium to throw at her head either.
So that’s how I’m feeling about pregnancy and birth these days. Kinda ranty and unromantic. On the other hand, the Bean is a continuing joy. I am so grateful that Bionic did get pregnant and give birth, I’m just more than a little amazed at what she signed up for.