I’m perfecting the art of waiting. It’s a fine balance between making plans and making no commitments; keeping busy and letting myself do nothing; getting things done and putting no pressure on myself.
Yesterday I crossed several must-do’s off my list. I got some more of my iron supplement, cleaned the bathrooms and bought food for dinner. It ended up being a busy day even though I hadn’t planned to do much. Last night I let myself collapse on the couch then go to bed early. I was tired from staying up to watch a terribly disappointing Vikings game the night before.
But once I got into bed, I was kept restlessly tossing and turning by tumultuous thoughts and minor physical ailments. It shouldn’t surprise me that my body aches and creaks with every movement now that I’m carrying a full grown baby on the front of my body.
I can feel my baby’s head right on the base of my core, pressing on my tailbone and cervix, like she might just tumble out when I bend down to pick up Twila’s toys. It’s amazing how long the laboring process can take when the baby really only has to travel a few inches. Why is the process of exiting the womb so difficult and laborious? And my even bigger why is why does it hurt so much more for some women then for others?
Two of my close girl friends had natural child births within a week of each other this past month. The first was surprised by how able she was to focus through the contractions, relax away the pain; the second was surprised too. She was surprised by how utterly intense the process was. She was nauseated the whole time and had very painful contractions. Why the difference? Why can some women relax through it while others are tumbled by the intensity?
I have to admit that I am in the ‘surprised at the extreme intensity’ camp. I was totally thrown by how much pain I was in with Twila’s labor. It was actually more painful, more difficult and longer than my birthdaughter’s birth seven years before. That really threw me off. I was filled with fear by the surprise intensity.
And now that I am close to labor again, that fear is revisiting me. What if it is that difficult and painful again? It has taken me a few weeks to identify what it was I was feeling when my body began on several nights to have contractions and my mind just shut down the process. It’s fear that I’m feeling.
Maybe fear is the most pervasive feeling that infiltrates most women approaching labor. It’s scary for me because I have to let go of the controls. I’m not good at that. It’s the same reason I don’t like flying. Even though I probably take my life into m hands on a much more treacherous level each time I get behind the wheel, at least it’s my hands my life is in. Leaving my life in the hands of some unseen pilot has always been in the top scariest challenges of my life.
But birthing, laboring a child into existence: that is the ultimate relinquishment of control. Every laboring woman must let go at some point and let the baby work its way out, let her body do what it was made to do, slowly or quickly, painfully or effortlessly, the vast majority of bodies deliver the same result: a baby. But we don’t know how it will feel or how long it will take. Our job is to find a way to let our bodies work. It’s scary to be swept up on the process. Maybe that is why we as a society like to medicalize the process; it makes us feel like we have more control over what is happening.
Maybe like in driving a car instead of taking a flight, the illusion of control is more comforting than embracing the reality of what we cannot control.