Thing Two was born 7 years ago today in Bakersfield. It was muggy, cloudy, and I was ten days overdue and exhausted from pregnancy and from chasing a 16 month old Thing One around. I went into labor around 12:30 pm, though I didn't realize it at the time. I had a doctor's appointment that afternoon, so I decided, in my typical way, to wait until then. By the time 2:00 came around, I knew it was labor. Only problem? My doctor didn't seem to believe me, and made me jump through the 25 different hoops they put an overdue pregnant woman through. I had an ultrasound, gave a urine and blood sample, and was finally placed on contraction monitors. Finally, around 3:00, my doctor checked my cervix, proclaimed that I was 5-6 cm dilated, and had me walk over to the birth center with John.
Because Thing One's labor and delivery had been so rough, we hired a doula for this go around. She arrived soon after I checked in, and rubbed my back and legs, played music, reminded me to breathe slowly and deeply.
At some point, I entered into some kind of trance brought on by the pain. Childbirth is painful, but it also forces you to become single-focused in a way almost nothing else can. I don't remember experiencing it as pain so much as I remember closing my eyes, breathing, having to submit to the process.
Toward the end, it felt like it was too much. I cried. Begged someone to make it stop. It was agonizing, and I was exhausted, though it had only been a few hours since I had gotten there. This is a sign of transition, the last bit of work before the pushing stage, and it's characterized by a crushing sense of imminent failure. I remember saying, out loud, in exhaustion and pain, "just please come out."
A few minutes later, I was pushing. My nurse panicked, a little. She had tried to manually open my cervix (which is as horrible as it sounds), and I screamed, knocked over the side table accidentally. And then he was coming. I remember the doula telling me to be calm. Before I knew it, he was here, and I was holding him, warm and small, eyes winking in the dusk. It was 5:12 pm on October 19, 1999. He weighed 8lbs, 2oz, was 21 inches long, and had long fingers that looked like a piano player's.
I think sometimes that parenthood is a submission, of sorts, much like childbirth. A submission to willingly allow yourself to feel pain, hunger, anger. An acknowledgment of your own mortality, your own failures, those piled debts you owe to your parents, your siblings, the people you owe because they love you, and those you owe because you love them.
As much as I tease, name myself Terrible Mother, and as much as I craft in my children a sense of irony, the ability to laugh and joke and be sarcastic and funny and biting and a little inappropriate, I love being a parent. A mother to these three, especially Thing Two.