Being pregnant is exhilarating—there is nothing like hearing that little high-speed heartbeat, feeling the first flutter, and knowing your body is doing something miraculous.
Being pregnant can also be terrifying.
After hearing so many horror stories from helpful friends and relatives about pregnancies gone awry, I was in denial about becoming a mother the entire nine months. My husband and I were excited to start a family, but I never completely believed I was actually going to bring a baby home from the hospital. It didn’t help that being someone’s Mom for the rest of my life made me nervous, as did the inevitable changes to my body and relationships. Motherhood intimidated me.
Then the contractions started. The small tightening sensations became longer and closer together, although they still didn’t hurt much. My husband insisted we go to the hospital, even if they sent us back home. It was easy to distance myself from the awaiting ordeal as we climbed into the car with a small suitcase—it seemed like we were simply going on an exciting trip to a new place. Which, I guess, we really were.
But it was definitely no dream vacation. The hospital admitted us after I ambled around the hallways for an hour. Walking made the contractions come longer and harder. My husband held my hand and joked through clenched teeth that he never knew I was so strong, as I crushed his fingers between mine.
After ten hours of slow labor, a pleasant, grandmotherly nurse had me push. Four hours later I was still giving it my all with no change in sight. My husband was great with his difficult task of feeding me ice chips and staying quiet. When the grandmother switched shifts, two fresh cheerleader nurses came bounding into the room—I glared at their peppiness. “Push it out, push it out, waaaaaay out,” they shouted.
So I pushed some more. Then, exhausted, and with tears in my eyes I told them I was finished. I didn’t know how many more hours I could push, and the thought of facing an emergency c-section scared me. I wondered if I was somehow keeping the baby inside, since I had worried so much about becoming a new mom.
The cheerleaders ran to get my doctor. She came in, felt the top of my son’s tiny head, turned him around and 30 minutes later he was born with alert eyes and a sweet, elfin cry. Even after fifteen hours of labor—including five hours of intense pushing—giving birth was so much more incredible than I had anticipated.
As the nurse wheeled me out to the car two days later, we passed the birthing rooms and I heard the monitors softly humming with those amazing unborn heartbeats. The past, present, and future surrounded me all at once.
There I sat, gently holding on to that real, little person who had grown inside of me. The person I’d thought about during nine months of appointments and ultrasounds, anticipation and fears. The one who I sacrificed my body for, and suffered pain to bring him here. The one who I would experience new and exciting things with in the future.
Despite the stretch marks and extra fat, my body was beautiful to me. It was strong. I was strong. I had accomplished the most significant thing I could ever imagine doing in my life—and I did it all by myself.
Okay, my husband did help with the ice chips.