Lesson number 1: You can plan to have blueberries and strawberries, but be prepared for life to give you durians and mangosteens.
Towards the end of my pregnancy, I was getting increasingly uncomfortable and impatient. I wanted to be active again, instead of sitting around feeling heavy and waiting. So I tried to stay positive by indulging in my own motherhood fantasies. My wish was always to give birth naturally without medication. I pictured myself in labour, sweating and panting and moaning but still beliveably pretty, much like the mothers in all TV shows and movies. I imagined the day I'll be able to wear my old dresses, when I can look like one of those happy, together mums portrayed in mass media, stylish, well-groomed, confident, with baby in tow. I conveniently forgot the amount of weight I had put on and so had to lose in order to fit in my old dresses, AND how gruelling and unpretty the process of giving birth actually was, AND the emotional and hormonal roller-coaster ride that comes with delivery, AND the lengthy recovery period after. My vision of the near future was a comic strip of pleasant images, misled by utopian impressions of motherhood.
July 17 2015. Contractions began at 1 a.m. I got out of bed, not sure if it was a false alarm, because the pain was still bearable. I sat in the living room and watched some late-night TV, until my brain could no longer ignore the pain. 3 a.m., I woke my husband and we set off for the hospital. I almost felt bad, it was a public holiday and he could've had a good night's sleep without waking up early.
The delivery ward was quiet when we arrived. I've heard so many first-hand stories from friends and read a whole lot about birthing pains and how to manage it, so I tried my best to endure the pain using those methods I could remember: breathing, changing positions, walking around, squeezing my hubby's hand, groaning, and listening to relaxing music. What no one told me was that I would barf every single time I had a contraction. I felt so sick and threw up till nothing was left, so I started puking bitter gastric juice. Perhaps I'd overestimated my threshold for pain, but coupled with the misery of vomitting, I surrendered and requested for an epidural. My ideal birth plan started to fall apart.
That marked the start of a 12-hour wait, from 530am to 530pm. I've never dedicated so much time to just one activity and not doing anything else: simply lying there waiting for someone to arrive. It was the most mind-numbing, energy-consuming and patience-trying 12 hours of my life. In the end, I wasn't able to push baby along, and the doctor decided it was safest for mother and baby to go for a c-sec. My birth plan crumbled into oblivion. I'd failed to do what I was so determined and hopeful I could do.
From the time of decision to the time my baby was born, everything went by in a blur. In my mind now, those moments play like a montage. I remember being wheeled into the operating theatre, the bright lights, the happy banter and serious talk amongst hospital staff as they went about the operation, the freezing cold and how I was shaking uncontrollably. What I remember most clearly, despite being drained of all energy, sleep-deprived and heavily drugged, was the instant I heard my baby's first cry. It was loud, robust, demanding and piercing, but the most beautiful and spontaneous and melodious sound. That alone was worth all the wait. I had been impatient and groggy and uptight all day, but when he let out that first cry, even though we hadn't touched, we were bound by the same vulnerability, a strong longing to hold each other, a neediness that weakened my defenses. I bawled.
Minutes later, Daddy brought baby Luke to my arms, and we basked in the first loving moments of being a family. So what if my dream of giving birth naturally without epidural was utterly shattered? How he arrived didn't matter anymore, what mattered most was he had arrived. Safely. And I will love him so very much.
You can plan to have blueberries and strawberries, but be prepared for life to give you durians and mangosteens. As long as we stay focused on the bigger goal (in this case, fruit consumption; and in my example, giving birth to a healthy baby), we will be able to take things in our stride, and find that one way or another, it will all work out fine.