Sunday, March 29, 2015

Just Breathe...

When I married back in 1977, I made a deal with my husband, no children for at least five years, with a renewable five-year option. Neither of us were ready to commit to having children yet. I was the youngest of 9 children from a good Irish family, the oldest being 22 years my senior. I was possessed of 28 nieces and nephews and had seen enough babies, I believed, to last me a lifetime. I had buried both my parents the year before and I was 21 years old. But, life is funny like that and four years into my marriage, I delivered a baby girl, who at this point in my life is probably my best friend and strongest advocate. Two and half years later, I gave birth to my son, which if I knew it at the time I would have thought I had given birth to an alien.
I found myself walking home from work and noticing the babies in their carriages strolling along the sidewalks or in the park, I traversed along the way. Each week I seemed to notice more and more of them. In the beginning, I thought there must be a baby boom, but in reality, my subconscious mind was just opening up to the possibilities. A discussion followed with my husband, who felt we needed more time, he was building his photo studio and money was tight. But as I think it has previously been mentioned, in those days birth control pills were not as developed as they are today, and inevitably women needed to take a break from them. After ten years of birth control pills, it was my turn for a break and so I found myself pregnant.
Well while I had thought emotionally I was ready to take this on, once confronted with the reality, I was ready to turn tail and run as fast as I could. I was petrified; pure and simple. Discussions with my older sisters who were already mothers did little to alleviate my anxiety and fear. They were rather dismissive as if it were all just a piece of cake. The terror was still there lurking deep down, so now there was no one with whom to share this fear. 

Oddly, the fear did not keep me from talking with my unborn child, swearing I would protect her and keep her from harm. Taking care of all the foods I ate, staying physically fit to be ready for her arrival. I knew it was a girl and to those who knew me, I had a good idea of who she was already. They thought I was just being maternal, but that was not it at all, and they would never understand it anyway, so I never tried to explain. I needed to find a way to control this situation that seemed to me to be the ultimate surrender of my mind and body to the strangers who would assist at her birth. This did not sit well with me as I like to control my environment and who I share it with. The horror stories abound when you are pregnant. It becomes a veritable can you top this story from all those who have gone this route before you. They talk about 18 hour and 24 hour labors and more…it is absolutely disgusting the things they used to talk about in those days.
I spent a good deal of time talking myself down. Women have been doing this for centuries, how bad could it be? I would get through it just like them. This only goes so far though. Then I found the Lamaze Classes! Well, this was more like it, I thought. A reasonable approach with a full methodical outline of the stages of labor (not the broad definition of the 18 hours etc.); but a responsible outline that defines the stages the majority of it without pain and a short span you need to get through. That suited me just fine. I could manage 2 or 3 hours, I was sure. But, then you learn to do the different breathing techniques and you can go those few hours with some sense of control and the inevitable outcome is well within reach. I was convinced this couldn’t possibly work or else all those other women with their stories would have used this too. But, it was still early days for Lamaze and not everyone used it then. It was the only option available that gave me a glimmer of hope that I would get through this.
The morning arrived and I did all the things you are told to do but eventually you need to go check in at the hospital. Real panic set in then. My new mantra became there was no way through this but to endure. There were no options to choose, there was only through it. I avoided going for as long as I could and then there I was, all hooked up and lying in this bed with scratchy sheets and my husband working his job as my coach. A coach can be anyone you trust who works the breathing exercises with you. In hindsight, I would have just as soon as had my sister there. It would not have mattered, as long as they did their job. You become totally focused on birthing this baby, you no longer care who is around you or what you look like; none of it matters.
I’m here today to tell you that there are ways to get through birthing with some control and with minimal pain. Not saying there is no pain but you are so busy breathing your way through it; that becomes more important than the pain. It is endurable, it is not terribly scary, unusual for young women who have not spent a good deal of time in hospitals but certainly not the dreaded experience I had anticipated all those months.
And the arrival drives all that straight out the window; here is this miniature adult lying on your chest and you are just so outrageously high on life (such a bad rap that saying gets) because you have just produced this perfect little person. I, am not given to hyperbole when I say that there is not another event in your life as perfect as that moment, it is not an overstatement of fact. That child you have just welcomed from inside your being into your physical world is the most important accomplishment of your life and you are just head over heels in love with her or him. I think maybe that is even more crazy, you feel this way with your future children as well. The unbreakable bond of mother and child has formed and it can never be broken. Just remember, I convey all this as the woman who started out thinking children were a complete bore. And just so you know, I still think other people’s babies are a complete bore. In my reality, my children were and still are exempt from my policy statement thirty-three years later. I’m still waiting to see how this policy applies to grandchildren. It may require a rewrite.
Eileen Gagliano 

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