My attitude about certain things is colored by my experience. All of us live this way.

My pregnancy with Helen was easy. EASY. The only bad thing about it was that I had HORRIBLE heartburn at the very very end. When I was in the delivery room pushing, I could get 4 pushes out of every contraction, but I couldn’t push for that third of the four or I knew I’d throw up from the heartburn.

The instant of birth, however, was awful. Thank God I had an epidural and didn’t know just how bad it was until later. I had a 4th degree tear (misdiagnosed as a 3rd degree tear — because that’s what it looked like from the outside), complete with a torn anal muscle. Whee. A 4th degree tear means that my entire perineum tore. ALL. OF. IT.

Recovery sucked. It took me 5 weeks post-partum before I could sit on a hard chair without a doughnut cushion. And, of course, my muscular problems, which affected so much more in my life than anyone could ever possibly anticipate.

Then, Alice. At 6 weeks pregnant, I started bleeding. Had an ultrasound, and everything looked fine with the baby. 8 weeks, still looked fine, but still bleeding. Then I started in with morning sickness, but it was always at night. I puked my guts out EVERY night. Multiple times. So they put me on anti-nausea meds. And I was still bleeding. And then I got an AWFUL sinus infection. I lost weight the first trimester.

2nd trimester was great. I stopped bleeding at 14 weeks, and the nausea went away, too. I felt fantastic, sexy, and energized. I finished 5 (FIVE) quilts 2nd trimester. Had my big annual scrapbooking event in May, over Mother’s Day weekend. Stood up all weekend, making lunches and salads and snacks and running around getting stuff for people, etc. Sunday night, after it was all over, I was talking to Jerry and suddenly the pain was so great that I had to sit down. Turns out it was Alice, dropping into the birth canal.

On Tuesday, I lost the mucus plug and started having contractions. 28 weeks. On Wednesday I was in the hospital being monitored, because I had definitely had some preterm labor and they wanted to see what this baby was going to do. She was definitely head-down, engaged, and my cervix was softening. They put me on Brethine, the Drug From Hell, and told me to be as sedentary as possible until I got to 36 weeks. EIGHT WEEKS AWAY.

Here, Elaine, take this drug that makes you want to rip your hair out and leap out of your skin, and oh, yeah. Sit still. For eight weeks.

But I did it. I didn’t want to ever look back and think that I hadn’t done everything I could to make sure that Baby Alice had the best chance she could have. I did what the doctor told me to do, which included stopping labor one more time after that by lying on my left side and gunning water until the contractions stopped. I received steroid shots, and people came to play with Helen every day because I couldn’t chase my two-year-old around.

It made me so sad that I couldn’t enjoy my last two months with Helen alone the way I had planned to, but I just did my best. We read stories and snuggled on the couch and I’m sure she didn’t sustain any emotional damage from it. But I did. My heart ached to know that I couldn’t be the one out there pushing her in the swing because if I did, I’d have contractions. I couldn’t pick her up when she fell and bumped her head, because if I did, I’d have contractions. I couldn’t chase her around the circular floor plan of the main level of our house, because if I did, I’d have contractions.

But in the end, it was worth it. I got Alice. And when she was born, it was simple. Her birth was as simple as Helen’s pregnancy had been — less than 10 minutes of pushing, my belly collapsed, and there she was. And recovery was easy. I was sitting on a hard chair that weekend. I took one painkiller in the hospital because the nurse said I “needed” it. I refused the second one. I didn’t need it.

Every pregnancy is different. Every childbirth is different. And every mother responds in a totally different way. Some new moms bounce back really fast and are ready to party immediately. I was not. I didn’t have PPD, thankfully, but I didn’t dive headfirst back into my pre-parent life. I didn’t WANT that life anymore. Some people do. I did not. I still don’t. I don’t intend to force my views and expectations of life during pregnancy or post-partum on people, but I fear that I do. And I hate that.

Oh, well. My attitudes are colored by my experience. And my experience is that my children have brought far more joy to my life than they have ever taken from it. I don’t have a unit of measure large enough to even begin to describe what they have given to me.

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