A pedicure is no preparation for childbirth
Twenty-four hours before I Twenty-four hours before I gave birth to my son, I asked my husband to paint my toenails. I hadn’t seen my toes in weeks, but I was pretty sure my pedicure was in bad shape, and since I was scheduled to check in at the hospital the following morning to have my labor induced, I wanted to make sure my toenail polish wasn’t chipped.
Twenty-three hours later … well, let’s just say that the state of my pedicure was the least of my concerns. In fact, you could have cut off my toes and I wouldn’t have noticed.
I had approached childbirth like I approach most things. With enough preparation and organization, I figured, I’d breeze through it. I signed up for Lamaze class. I practically memorized “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” And I carefully crafted a birth plan detailing my plans for a drug-free, natural childbirth up to the very point that my healthy, happy baby would be brought to me to “room in” for the rest of our very short hospital stay.
What’s the famous line about “best-laid plans”?
My little Billy had a birth plan of his own. A week after my due date, my midwife informed me that after 41 weeks of pregnancy, nothing good happens for the baby.
But wait a minute! The first bullet point on my birth plan clearly stated, “I do not want to be induced.”
Scratch that. I was scheduled for induction the following Sunday morning.
However, once again, little Billy had his own ideas. Nine hours before my hospital appointment, my labor finally began. I didn’t believe it, and at first, refused to let my husband take me to the hospital. I had an APPOINTMENT; labor was supposed to begin promptly at 6 a.m. – not at 9 p.m. the night before.
Cut back to the scene 23 hours later.
I couldn’t have cared less if you set my birth plan on fire. After 14 hours of “natural” childbirth, I had demanded every drug the hospital could legally supply me, and threatened the lives of everyone – my husband included – within arm’s reach.
I think the only thing we salvaged from our original birth plan was item No. 12: “My husband does not wish to cut the umbilical cord.” David said that the birth of his first child was not the time to try out amateur surgery.
And nothing else mattered as soon as my little Billy was finally born. No “plan” could have prepared me to be so overwhelmed. No drug could ease my pain like the sound of his first cry or holding him next to me.
I didn’t get to keep Billy in the room with me after all; he had trouble with his intestine and required almost immediate surgery. And we didn’t have a short hospital stay – Billy was in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a week, a week that taught me what real pain feels like.
As David and I hovered next to Billy’s enclosed crib for that week, as they put an IV in his head, doctored the abdominal scar from his surgery and placed electrodes on his chest to monitor his labored breathing and heart rate, I tried to remember why I had ever cared about whether I was allowed to have popsicles during my labor.
That week also taught me what real friendship and family mean, as we encountered love and support everywhere we turned. If you ever lose your faith in humanity, spend a week around the doctors and nurses who work in the maternity and pediatric wing. NICU nurses and doctors are as close to angels as we’ll meet on this earth. We owe our child’s health – not to mention our own sanity – to their remarkable care.
We’re all home together now. Billy is eating, sleeping (sometimes) and pooping (often!) completely normally.
And I can see my toenails again. It turns out that David did a really terrible job of painting them. But it’s hard to imagine that there was ever a time when I gave a second thought to any toes other than the 10 tiny ones that I’m holding in my hand right now.