It’s September, which means that any day now, my friend Kelly will go into labor, check into the Kootenai Medical Center, and come out an unspecified amount of time* later holding a brand new baby boy.
She has read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and taken a childbirth preparation class. She’s had her baby shower and she and Martin have tastefully decorated the baby’s nursery with moons and stars and hopes and dreams. They even have a name picked out: Elijah**. All things are ready, and Martin stands at high alert, waiting for launch.
Since this is Kelly’s first baby, I thought I would contribute to the preparations by passing on a few of the precious jewels of wisdom regarding the childbirth experience that I picked up while bringing my own two little bundles of drool and happiness into the world. These are the things nobody told me, but I wish they had:
* Despite what you may have seen on old sit-coms (Episode #56 of “I Love Lucy” is a classic example) there’s usually no reason to rush getting to the hospital. Labor takes a while, especially your first time. Forty-five minutes after you arrive, you’ll have read all the way through the magazine you brought and will be playing your eighth hand of solitaire, wondering why the TV in your room only gets four channels, one of which is in Spanish.
Take my advice: When contractions start, call Martin and go out for a big plate of ribs and a baked potato with the works. You’ll need the sustenance. Because there’s always a chance that you’ll end up with an emergency C-section, in which case those wonderful, loving maternity nurses who coached you through labor will be replaced by stern, unsmiling, ex-prison warden post-op nurses who sentence you to nothing but tepid broth and melted jello for three days and even confiscate the Whopper with cheese that your darling husband smuggles in for you the day before you check out. Hypothetically.
* There is nothing wrong with drugs. Natural childbirth is great. I really admire women who grit their teeth and make it through the process of labor without any chemical help. They should have their pictures put on the front of Wheaties boxes and go home with trophies. All the same, going drug-free isn’t for everyone. A lot depends on circumstances and each individual woman’s tolerance for pain. Epidurals are a gift of modern medicine (the word “epidural” is from the Latin “epidurus”, which means “please make my wife stop cursing at me”), and there for you if you want one. Besides, that nice anesthesiologist went to school for many years, taking a pizza delivery job to pay his tuition, turning down dates with beautiful girls to study in the library, and driving a beat-up ’89 Pinto to save money, just to be there for you in your moment of need. Speaking of the anesthesiologist, don’t be alarmed if, after your epidural, you experience a temporary compulsion to kiss him on the mouth, set up a shrine in his honor, and/or name your baby after him. Fortunately for Katie, that urge passed just in time, and now she doesn’t have to go through life as Buck Zimmerman, Jr.
* Do not be surprised if your body does not immediately return to its pre-pregnancy condition upon delivery of your new baby. Most people go into the hospital looking nine months pregnant, and come out looking six months pregnant. I’ll never forget the day after Katie’s birth, as I was walking around the hospital with Paul, trying to speed up recovery from my C-section. We stepped into the hospital elevator and a friendly young man asked me when I was due. “I just had her!” I wailed, bursting into tears. As punishment for his kindly meant comment, he was stuck for twenty more awkward seconds in the elevator with us, looking acutely uncomfortable while I sobbed and Paul glared at him. I’m pretty sure he took Bill Cosby’s advice and refrained from ever again commenting on a woman’s pregnant belly unless the baby was making his debut at that very instant.
Of course, I gained sixty pounds with that pregnancy, much more than the recommended 25-35. I blame Katie for not eating her share of those daily Butterfinger McFlurries I enjoyed for nine months. I didn’t put my maternity clothes away until she was eight months old, and by then I was ready to burn my gray sweats and replace them with a leather miniskirt and four inch heels. I settled for buying some pants with zippers.
If you do end up being one of those lucky 2% of women who actually walk out of the hospital wearing their size 6 Levis, for pity’s sake, do not tell anyone! Hormonal, sleep-deprived new moms still grumpily trying to shed their baby weight are capable of heinous acts. They may not slash your tires, but you’re certain to find yourself blacklisted from every Mommy & Me group in the tri-state area. Tread softly.
I’m sure there are many other enlightening bits of knowledge I could pass on, but I don’t want to take all the mystery out of this amazing and life-changing event (and besides, my dad reads this blog and I’d be embarrassed to go into any more detail on certain biological matters.)
I know you and Martin will make wonderful parents. Just relax and don’t sweat a few mistakes along the way. This job is learn-as-you-go. And the benefits are out of this world.
*Somewhere between 45 minutes and 9 days.
**Understanding, of course, that the baby may come out looking nothing at all like an Elijah and subsequently demand to be called Ernie, or Fletcher. Or Krull. Whatever. If your baby is talking at birth, you have bigger fish to fry than figuring out what to name him.
Update: The crown prince has arrived! At nearly nine pounds, he gave his mama a run for her money, but she pretty much had the ideal birth: seven hours of labor, perfectly timed epidural, thirty minutes of pushing–and it wasn’t even the middle of the night! Let’s hope baby Krull continues to be so considerate.