She came one day early than her due date. We couldn’t have planned it any better because we were hoping she’d come at a time when my husband was on break from his business school studies. He could, then be able to help out until I was ready enough to care for her on my own. We planned and prepared ahead of time,as best as we could buying all the things she’d need, taking the classes to know what to do during labor and attending the classes on how to care for a newborn.
When my water broke, it didn’t all go quite as expected. My contractions weren’t progressing the way my doctor liked to see and so I was advised to take pitocin. I wanted to try to have my baby as naturally as possible and wanted to wait as long as possible before taking any medication. At the next check, my doctor said that my contractions were at a standstill. I agreed to the pitocin to start them up.
After several hours passed, I was exhausted. Dr. Kirsch said there was little progress despite the flurry of contractions. I was frustrated and disappointed that the pain didn’t seem proportionate to the progress. I needed rest and asked the doctor if there was anything she could recommend to help. Her advice? Morphine. The hope was that my labor would progress, while I could rest and have enough strength and energy to push later.
I felt wracked with guilt for not taking the natural route, but felt I couldn’t continue without more rest. I kept asking Dan, “Do you really think it’s okay for me to take the morphine? Are you sure?” All I could think was, “This is wrong! For goodness sakes’, it’s morphine! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be!” The crazy thing is that, despite all of my turmoil, the morphine was ineffective or perhaps only worked when there were no contractions. I fell asleep for the few minutes in-between them. Then, I woke up screaming in pain when the contractions startled me awake. After what felt like an eternity of this back and forth resting and excruciating pain, I was permitted to receive an epidural. Again, more guilt.
I finally slept for a few hours. When I woke up, I was told that I had a slight fever and needed to wait before pushing. My body told me otherwise. I resisted for about ten minutes. When the anesthesia ran out and the fever had ten minutes to resolve itself, she was on her way. And that’s how Minnie came into the world. She was beautiful. All 8 pounds and 6 ounces of her.
When the doctor told me how beautiful she thought my daughter was, I believed her. I knew my doctor had delivered dozens and dozens of babies before mine, who I’m sure were just as beautiful as mine. But for that moment, I believed my daughter was the most beautiful.
When we arrived at the postpartum wing, I kept waiting for that instant elation that I often hear other young mothers exclaim, “I’m in love.” I certainly loved her. I was just not in love with her. It never became the nervous, exciting infatuation I imagined it would be. That feeling of being in love with my baby grew gradually.
I had to get to know her. And it took awhile. Before I knew it, one day while she was peacefully sleeping with her daddy, I felt my chest flood with a warmth. It happened when she giggled or smiled. I laughed out loud when she did her “Blue Steel” look like Ben Stiller from Zoolander. She’d open her eyes wide and open her mouth into a little O. All these little things, made me love her.
“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made all the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.” From C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, P.41-42
I had all these expectations of what a good birth looked like, how I was supposed to feel as I held my newborn. In comparison, I failed. I’ve been embarrassed by that. Because if my whole identity is caught up in these expectations of what I think is right for a young mother, there will always be faults to find. There will be better birth stories with women experiencing much more natural births, other women who had much more traumatic births and were victorious. There will always be women who had that wonderful feeling of falling in love with their baby right away. What I’ve come to realize is that God didn’t mean for it to be like this, for me to be constantly measuring myself against certain expectations or specific people. He gave this story to my daughter and to me for His pleasure and for our pleasure. He has called it good. Why should I believe otherwise? This is the story of the birth of my daughter. It’s the story of when I first became a mother.