When my second pregnancy reached the 41 week mark, my sister called to say I probably wasn’t pregnant after all. I had just, you know, accidentally swallowed a basketball, she joked.
It wasn’t impossible to entertain the idea. I had been expecting for so long. The anticipation had somehow dulled my mind, making reality difficult to discern. I had an easier time imagining that I had sleepwalked to the nearby high school to appease a midnight hankering for sweaty leather.
When my son was born a few days after I talked with my sister, I certainly felt as if I had expelled a basketball. Not the ordinary filled-with-air kind, but one filled with sand or rocks or clay.
At an unfathomable 11 lbs. 2 oz., my son was a beast. When I first held him, I felt as if I was holding my 22-month-old son. Nurses came to gawk. Friends gave him nicknames suited for an ogre.
Of course, he was and still is as sweet and cuddly as any newborn. And he was totally worth the wait — even if I did have to hear several members of my family say, “I told you you should have been induced weeks ago.”
I don’t fault them for suggesting induction. That’s how the birthing process often works these days. Women go to the hospital, they receive synthetic hormones to induce labor, and their baby is born hours later. Easy peasy.
I suppose I’ve always liked to make things difficult. I’m picky, I like to have the last word, and when it comes to delivering babies, I prefer a natural, unmedicated birth. No cervical checks, no stripped membranes, no induction and no epidural. I put all of my trust in my body and my baby. Call me crazy, old fashioned, proud. Even when I began to suspect that my son was abnormally large, I refused to disrupt nature’s course and back down from my plan.
My midwife supported my decisions, agreeing that a go-with-the-flow approach is often best when it comes to the health of both mother and baby. Had we been aware of my son’s weight, however, I’m certain she would have pushed induction and I’m certain I would have considered it. I may have even opted to have a caesarian section after convincing myself I couldn’t deliver such a large baby.
Instead, I ended up with a wonderfully natural birth experience and a healthy son. He pretty much walked out of my womb and into the bathroom to shave for the first time.
When the delivery nurse applauded my courage and endurance, I felt deserving of her praise. I felt like a champion of the world. I could do anything, and I tried. An hour after my son’s delivery, I was out of bed tidying up the hospital room. The morning after coming home, I cooked a gourmet breakfast for my husband and older son. A few days after giving birth, I was out and about with my family. We went to the rollerskating rink, the children’s museum and the library.
As you may have guessed, exhaustion set in fast. And with it came a fierce cold and a case of mastitis. It’s always the body that tells the mind how stupid it is.
Armed with gallons of water, a heating pad and a bottle of antibiotics, I retreated to my bedroom, where my midwife told me to stay until I was feeling tip-top. While I was glad to have a reason to stay in bed all day, I had a difficult time turning off the domestic machine that makes me tick.
I had an even more difficult time asking for the help I needed to keep my household under control. It’s something I’ve always had trouble with. I like to do everything myself and I hate to put people out. This time, though, my family needed nothing more than for me to get over myself.
So, with my husband’s help (first step), I requested visits from family and friends, concentrating on the week my husband returned to work. It turns out people are more than happy to help. Our mothers, who have their own instinctual needs to support their families, were especially excited.
Yesterday, as I lay in bed listening to the sounds of my mother bustling around the kitchen chattering with my older son, I was glad to have listened to my body, grateful to have been blessed with a supportive family and geared up to ask for help whenever I need it — especially now that that basketball’s worth of empty space inside me makes it easy to swallow my pride.