When I was pregnant with Eliza, Geoff and I attended childbirth classes. Each class was disturbing in some way. I remember watching a video of a woman holding onto a bar, sweating and gnashing her teeth, while squatting over a hospital bed. I learned in another class that breastfeeding only hurts if you’re doing it wrong. I felt certain that I would do it wrong. We received information about everything from episiotomies to infant CPR. Usually I find comfort in learning, but these classes all seemed like warnings. Eliza was born just fine, but breastfeeding still hurt. Not because I was doing it wrong. As the breastfeeding consultant told me two weeks later, “It just hurts until you develop callouses on your nipples.”
Because of a previous surgery, this Wednesday, I’m scheduled for a C-section, or a Caesar as they say in New Zealand. At a time when everything else is unusual, I like the idea of scheduled childbirth. I also don’t mind the extra time in the hospital. The recovery is going to be more lengthy and difficult. Thankfully, Fulbright allowed me an extra month’s sabbatical, we’ll have family in town, and we’ve made several friends in Wellington. Until last week, I wasn’t worried about the birth. Then Geoff and I went to the doctor and they showed us this:
I shivered, then started crying in the doctor’s office. I’m clearly a more visual person. This image shook me more than any of the information I’d received about Caesars. Suddenly, I was preoccupied and anxious about the surgery, the recovery, and a second round of breastfeeding. But as I write this, I remember the heartbreaking experiences of the past five years—multiple miscarriages, the ectopic pregnancy, failed fertility treatments, and eventually giving up—and realize how lucky I am to be worrying about a totally normal way to deliver a baby.