My first delivery was much harder than my second. The contractions were stronger, I pushed longer and ultimately spent forty-five minutes after delivery watching the doctor stitch me up. I winced in pain as I felt each stitch tear through my skin. I imagined holding my baby for hours after delivery, not laying spread eagle in pain while my husband held him.
In the big scheme of things both my labor and delivery could have been much harder. I didn’t suffer any major complications and I didn’t end up with an emergency c-section.
Still labor and delivery was much easier this time around. Although I was in labor for twice as long the contractions were easier to handle. I learned to breathe through them and though I wanted to jump out of body during transition I managed to calm down long enough to push my son out.
On the day my second child was born the nurses commended me on a medication free delivery. “Your chart says no epidural. Way to go mama,” they said. They cheered when I told them I breastfed my first child for twenty-one months. When they asked if I needed medication the day after delivery I often said ‘no.’
At some point I turned to my husband and said, “Everyone is acting like I’m superwoman.”
A week after my son was born my husband and I gathered up the boys and took a walk to the playground. Along the way we ran into a few other moms who peeked into our stroller and inquired about our son’s age.
Every time I answered seven days the other mothers jumped back in shock. “You look amazing,” they said. “I couldn’t get out of the house for three months after my son was born,” they told me.
That’s the way I felt after my first delivery too, but this time was different and I’ll be honest their words were a boost to my ego. I began to feel like superwoman.
Not because I didn’t have an epidural. Honestly I avoided that because of my history with neuropathy. Not because I breastfed for twenty-one months. I was lucky to have lactation support and a baby who was patient with me. And not because I was out and about a week after delivery.
The truth is ten years ago today I sat in a hospital bed with a pulmonary embolism unaware of what that meant or what was wrong with me. As months passed and doctors failed to diagnose my condition I felt broken. I cursed my body instead of praising it. I went on long walks and cried at the realization that I could die and that if I lived I surely would never be well enough to give birth to any children. Years later, when I finally felt well enough to get pregnant, I spent months failing to conceive. And in the midst of trying was unexpectedly diagnosed with blood curdling neuropathy. Once again I felt let down by my own body.
When my husband and I drove away from the hospital on the day my second child was born I bawled uncontrollably. I still cannot believe how my body has healed over the last ten years. It is certainly not free of aches and pains, it couldn’t run a marathon or even run a few miles, but the fact is I survived two medical crises and infertility.
My body is stronger than I ever could have imagined and I have two beautiful boys to prove it.