Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A New Canvas

I swore I would never do it again.
Have another baby.
It wasn't that I didn't want another baby.
I just didn't think I could handle another awful, complicated delivery.
And for some short time I thought my son might be an only child.

But slowly the fear started to give way to hope.
That I could be strong enough.
Be courageous.

I thought this time around I would do things differently.
Ask more questions. Feel more empowered.
I made a rockin' "Labor and Delivery mix" on my iphone. Enough songs for 30 hours or so. A tune for every kind of contraction. From Lady Gaga to Bruce Hornsby to Aretha to the Grateful Dead. I read a lot of books. Talked to all the right people.

Then two weeks ago today, as labor seemed imminent, I started googling wacky stuff, like, "Labor and delivery mantras." I felt like I needed a good mantra. I found one that was short and simple:

"Give me the strength.
Give me the endurance.
Give me the courage."

Perfect. As we drove to the hospital in the glistening sun, I remembered these words.

The contractions were mild, but regular, so it seemed like the arrival of our son was nearing. The doc checked me and told me to walk around the hospital for an hour to help the labor progress.

That sounded like fun.

"Do we have time to grab some coffee?" my husband inquired as we exited the doc's office.
"Um, I guess," I said.

Next thing you know I'm a mile down the road at the Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru, hoping my contractions don't start to speed up furiously like you see in the movies.

We headed back to the hospital just to be safe. We walked the perimeter of the hospital parking lot a few times. I reminded my husband that I was Rocky Balboa and he was to be my revered coach, Mickey, in the delivery room.

"Should I yell, 'Get up, you sonofabitch!'" he asked.

"The nurses might throw you out," I told him. "But that's the spirit, yes."

After an hour, my labor had only progressed minimally. But they sent me up to LABOR AND DELIVERY, checked me in, and gave me a room in which to breathe, walk, and prepare for my son's birth. My nurse suggested rocking, rolling, and other new age hypno-birthing options which were discussed in the birthing classes I was too afraid to attend.

While "Coach Mick" emailed on his laptop, I got down to business of my own. I walked, repeated my mantra, "STRENGTH, ENDURANCE, COURAGE," and rocked my hips from side to side while planting my feet firmly on the ground. In the midst of radiating pain up my back and front, I channeled the energy of women around the world. I envisioned a woman in labor in the Sahara, another woman standing in a rice paddy, another woman delivering a baby at the top of a mountain. Then I pictured myself running a marathon, with all of these women cheering me on, holding "Go, Stacy!" signs for me along my route. Finally, I felt them all in the room, whispering to me, "Strength, Endurance, Courage."

If they could all do it, surely I could too.

And this is how I got through 18 hours of labor.

By the time I was ready to push, it took just 5 minutes and my "coach" was right there by my side.

"You did it!" he yelled as our son made his way into the world.

"You have a new canvas now," he told me, feeling the baby's velvet cheek.

Now it's time to add the color.