With maternal mortality and C-section rates ridiculously high in the US, it is no wonder women are seriously contemplating whether they want to put their bodies through the process. The fear of childbirth is real. You would think having one kid would ease my worries. But the relative comfort and effortlessness that existed during my birthing experience has only heightened my sense of worry should we try again.
I’m thankful for my ignorance the first time around. I’m thankful that I had access to a hospital that talked openly about the dangers of childbirth and had plans in place to be a part of the national solution. I’m thankful I was given answers to questions before I even knew those questions needed to be asked. I’m thankful that I had doctors who prioritized my health as much as the health of my unborn child. I’m thankful people valued me.
This was treasured especially considering that I didn’t particularly enjoy pregnancy. I love control. Pregnancy had a way of making me feel like nothing more than a human incubator. Nonetheless, I was intrigued by what was happening inside of me and Google was my best friend. Is there really anything more fascinating than knowing what size fruit is inside your belly? I probably should have been educating myself on a more technical level, but as a healthy 20-something, I never expected pregnancy and birth not to go as planned. Even through an inconclusive glucose test and dangerously low iron levels, I still maintained a level of naivety.
People are nosey. When you’re dating someone new, they’re all “Do you think this is the one?” After you’ve been dating for what they deem to be awhile, it’s “So…when are you getting married?” You finally get married, and the rhetoric becomes “When are you guys having kids?” You bring one kid in the world and amidst your sleep deprivation they think it’s appropriate to ask, “Are you ready for number two?”
The truth: I can’t help but contemplate number two. I can’t help but wonder if I have enough love to go around. I can’t help but wonder, “Is our family done?” I can’t help that I have been hit by reality. I can’t help but to grapple with new fears and new worries. I can’t help that ignorance is no longer bliss. I can’t help that after 41 weeks, inducement and somewhere between 80-90 hours of labor that my fear of pregnancy has transferred to a fear of childbirth.
I now know many, maybe most, women are not afforded the option to labor as slow and as long as I did in the actual hospital. I’m horrified by the countless stories of women, laboring much less than I, being forced into having a cesarean under the guise of an emergency. Because not only can a hospital make more money via cesareans, they can then turn over another bed in labor and delivery more quickly. We aren’t life-bearers or mothers-to-be in some places, we are nothing more than a paycheck.
Maternal deaths from childbirth and pregnancy complications are far greater in the United States than many other wealthy countries. And as a black woman, that percentage is even higher. There are a number of factors…that I won’t be discussing. Because quite frankly, many of those factors should be NON-factors in the first place. Bottom line, there are still hospitals in this country where I could go and my life not be valued, and whatever the reason…it’s bullshit.
You know what else is bullshit? Due dates! The Internet confirms that only about 5% of women deliver on their given due dates. In theory, that moment of realizing “OMG, it’s happening!” should be the best surprise. But I’m scared shitless of my water breaking in any given moment and having to be rushed to the nearest hospital. You know the one I haven’t vetted with the doctors I haven’t met or researched. The whole shock and awe is romanticized in movies, but it’s a real life nightmare for me. Because what if?
What if labor takes too long? What if there are too many women in labor and not enough staff? What if the baby goes into distress? What if my body goes into distress? What if the whole birth plan goes to hell? What if one or both of us needs emergency surgery? What if my post-natal care isn’t a priority? What if I think something is wrong but no one will listen? I mean Serena Williams has notoriety, means and a team of doctors for her day-to-day life causing her to know EXACTLY what was going on with her body post delivery, yet she was still ignored.
In far too many cases, the beginning of one life means the end of another. From conception to discharge, the journey of a new life is truly a compilation of miracles. A miracle, despite every ounce of fear, I hope to experience again with eyes wide open.
Although ignorance was bliss in many ways the first time around, it left me unprepared for the what-ifs. Competence comes with power giving you strength and emboldening you to speak more freely. Competence also gives you understanding. It is no wonder more and more women are seeking the services of midwives and doulas. Your army of advocates can never be big enough.
We, the carriers, are often an afterthought, which is a dangerous, unhealthy mindset. Without us, there are no babies in utero or actualized. Our health physically, emotionally and mentally is of the utmost importance.
I’m scared of having another baby because there are too many people who think otherwise. I have come to realize that pregnancy and childbirth are the first lessons during this mom walk of putting yourself first. And it is okay to be scared…you’re about to do something extremely brave.