At a family shower for my first pregnancy, guests filled out advice cards for anything they felt pertinent to motherhood. One in particular wrote, “Keep your expectations low, then lower them a little more”, and I felt a mix of rage and the need to take on this challenge.
My expectations were just fine where they were.
I bought Pottery Barn crib bedding (while the rest of my house was furnished in Ikea and Target), watched from a properly ventilated area while my husband painted our daughter’s room with the lowest VOC paint money could buy, registered for glass bottles and enrolled in a hypnobirthing class. I was going to “breathe the baby down” through all of my “surges” (that’s hypnobirthing lingo for you. Spoiler alert: that’s all I took away from the class) into a world of pure, untarnished bliss.
To hell with the person who told me otherwise.
After my husband fell asleep during the meditations in Hypnobirthing for the third week in a row, I decided to entertain the possibility of having an epidural. I was never exclusively opposed to epidurals – quite the opposite. I was open to knowing my options in their entirety and knowing I needed to make a game-time decision for what was right for me and my baby.
As a nurse, I was well versed in the realistic and remote side effects of epidurals…or so I thought.
Three hours into Pitocin-induced contractions and an elevated blood pressure that was keeping me in bed anyway, I made the call for the epidural. Within thirty minutes I was significantly less uncomfortable and nodded off into my final uninterrupted nap.
Some time later I was suddenly awakened by a noise. A moment later it happened again – and I knew the sound.
A grown adult had passed Richter-scale registering gas.
But who?! I looked at my husband, then my mother, both of who made no acknowledgment of the audible assault that had just taken place. No blushing, no guilty glances – worst of all, no apology. Who would do such a thing in the room where I would deliver my first child?
Per my hypnobirthing instruction, it was supposed to be a sanctuary.
I hadn’t requested dimmed lights, Enya or oil diffusers – but I still had basic hygienic standards. I closed my eyes momentarily when the noise shook through room 506 again with not so much as a batted eyelash from either of my support people.
“COME ON!” I exclaimed. “No one is going to fess up here?!”
They both looked up slowly, and then at each other, unsure of who would be the one to drop the bomb. Quietly my husband said, “Um, Amy…it’s…it’s you.” Completely aghast at the accusation I yelled, “How dare you tell me I’M the guilty one! Don’t you think I’d know when I…” and then I felt it. In the one patch of my thigh that wasn’t numb, the plastic mattress rumbled below me and the ugly truth was revealed.
It was me who had no control over my bodily functions.
And there was nothing I could do. Nothing the people who were sequestered in that room requiring a hazmat breathing apparatus could do. We were all just going to have to get through it together.
Within hours I finished the job while delivering my daughter.
My husband’s first statement while the three of us were alone was, “You pooped everywhere!” Expectations took my dignity by the hand and they joyfully frolicked out of my life for the foreseeable future.
In the six years since we’ve gone on to have two more babies and the only thing the three have in common aside from genetics and a maternity leave spent trolling Target, is that blessed epidural.
Parenting is one onslaught of extremes – both good and bad – after another, and I’ll never deny help when it’s offered.
Though no deliveries have included flatus or defecation since the first, each child has their own vivid and memorable birth story that turned out nothing as I had expected and set the tone for the individuals they would become.
My second daughter came barreling into the world when I had to ask visitors to leave the room or risk sitting in the splash zone, and my third clung to my uterus like a koala in a eucalyptus tree during his three-day induction.
They’ve gone on to nurse for different lengths, hit milestones at different times, handle victories and defeats in much different fashions. In each circumstance, I’ve had to alter my own expectations of how to best handle each scenario to be the mother each of them needs.
Almost a decade into the game and I can agree with that veteran mother-of-three (who also happens to be my mother-in-law).
Keep your expectations low, then lower them a little more – that’s where the best stories start.
However, my first bit of advice to a pregnant lady will always be this: burritos are not meant to be eaten the night before an induction.
Related: Birth Story Part Deux