How to Prep for Labor

Part I: First you are going to want to stand in front of a warm and cozy fire. Take about 30 seconds to write a “birth plan” and then go ahead and rip it into little shreds before placing it gently in the fire. If you want you can have your birth partner help with the ripping because this symbolically will be about as much as they can “help you through the pain” of actual labor. If you have a playlist, incense, a birthing ball, or other materials, those can be destroyed as well, because just like in parenthood, absolutely nothing will go according to plan and it’s best to recognize now that all of your preconceived expectations will go up in smoke.

Part II: Sleep like your life depends on it. You cannot afford to enter labor in a sleep deficit. If you have children already, you will naturally be about 3 or 4 years behind in the recommended 8 hours a night; so lock yourself in a hotel room or your favorite spot to hide while you eat dessert you don’t want to share and set up camp like a toddler in a sea of stuffed animals.

Part III: Don’t make any other major life choices during this time. These last few weeks shouldn’t determine the ultimate size of your family. If these decisions were final, the world would be filled with only children. The biggest decision you should allow yourself at this point is what color nail polish should go on your toes.

Part IV: Change your outgoing greeting to, “We haven’t had the baby yet, but you will be the first one notified when we do.” Also copy and paste a witty, yet sarcastic text to send out when your due date approaches and you aren’t even dilated yet. Make sure it’s still charming as you will want them to eventually bring food.

Part V: Make believe that on labor day you’ll be transformed into Ariel from the Little Mermaid and be forced to give up your voice as the ultimate sacrifice of love. Your birth partner's most important role will be for them to advocate your top 3 most important things.

Here’s my list for reference:

1). Do not let them tell me I am too far along for an epidural. I typically arrive during the “transition” phase which is aptly named since this is when you transition from a human being into Alien vs Predator. Name drop my beloved, dearly departed Grandpa who was the chief of anesthesiology for all of Northern California Kaisers if necessary and do not stop fighting for it until this is me:

2). Do not let them give me Pitocin. My average birth time is about 2 hours (I know I will lose friends by admitting this) so I do not need any help in the speed department.

3). Stay with the baby if it comes to that. I am a strong, independent, Bad-A Mama and I don’t want our little one to be alone.

Ultimately this is you and your baby’s first dance together, so take mental snapshots throughout the experience that you and only you can carry around for those challenging days to come. Mine, for both girls, was the moment I pulled them onto my chest. Today, when the going gets tough I hold them close, put them to my heart and immediately I’m transported back there; where we first met, fell in love, and they showed me how to be a mother.



The Girls are Alright

We had my husband’s holiday party last weekend and while I was dressed to the nines and looked as glamorous and sparkly as you can for being sick, exhausted, and 35 weeks pregnant--it was simply impossible for others not to ask the 3 basic questions: due date, gender, how are you feeling? This is always followed by that look of concern that I still have potentially 5 plus weeks to go. I promise, you will feel absolutely no pain and will have to do none of the hard work if in that moment I went into labor. It is nothing like the movies where strangers gather towels and use pocket knives in parking lots to cut the cord. The idea that 9 cms of labor will occur during that exact moment of our conversation is as ridiculous to me as the concept of, "trying one last time for a boy”.


This brings me to the topic of gender. We are having our third girl—cue the exploding glitter rainbows, other sexist gender stereotypes, as strangers grieve unnecessarily for my “poor husband” and encourage us to buy stock in tampons. Having three daughters is not a national tragedy, unlucky, or disappointing. Society no longer considers daughters to be a consolation prize that require a dowry with a marriage contract and mothers aren't beheaded for not producing a male heir to carry out the family name. I was not what you would call an easy-going teenager, so having three girls is my very own karmic retribution, which I pay for in full every morning my 4-year-old changes her outfit half a dozen times because the previous one was too “scratchy”, “stripy”, or my personal favorite, “too green”.

Would we have loved to have a boy? Sure. Since only boys love Legos, superheroes, and digging holes. Except my daughters love all those things because we don’t live in a bubble of pink princesses and My Little Ponies. Gender can and should be much more fluid. Millennials have coined the term “gender disappointment” as a means of grieving something that can and does hold meaning, but has much more to do with your family’s expectations and nothing to do with what's ultimately in your baby's diaper. Having all daughters will shape my husband and I forever and inevitably change who we are as people. The thing is, there can be no wrong combination, number, or gender because absolutely none of these things will ever affect a parent’s capacity to love our children.


Symptoms and Sacrifice

I have never been the poster person for pregnancy. While being tall I’ve been told, “I carry it well”—I have yet to be spared a single symptom including: hyperemesis, migraines, daily headaches, dormant asthma resurfacing, dormant allergies resurfacing, insomnia, vomiting, high blood pressure, acid reflux in the form of GURD, melasma, and PPD. I officially surpassed uncomfortable right around the time my once rebelliously pierced innie became a Cabbage Patch outie. I recognize none of these symptoms are tragic and I do feel grateful every day that I created life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. Like, really, really hard.

This last week my kids were hit with a cold and then croup and now another cold. One night, Maddie climbed into bed with me coughing so hard I thought her little lungs would burst. I pulled her in close wanting to somehow absorb all her discomfort so she could heal and in doing so she spewed phlegm directly into my open mouth—guaranteeing my fate that there was no escaping this illness. What I couldn’t anticipate was that the combination of pregnancy and croup would resurface my 12-year dormant asthma and I’d develop a wheeze at night that sounded like a seal was slowly being deflated by an angry mouse. Before this, I was waddling along feeling like I could conquer the next piece of large fruit the baby would grow into and now all I want to do is throw a 1.85-woman-pity-party.

There comes a point in pregnancy where a thought begins to creep in and like inception, it can start to take over the last few ounces of rational, and you think, I don’t want to do this anymore. Your body becomes a claustrophobic foreign-territory. There is no escape or pause button and what makes it worse is it’s the only thing people see when they look at you—or rather, look through you. I could have just won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for literature and all anyone would say is, “Yes, but when’s your baby due?” And I am just as guilty as the next, because when people I love create tiny people, I want to know every detail. But sometimes as a pregnant woman you want to scream, I am in here too! Somewhere buried under this watermelon-sized-belly and dueling circus act of boobs, is my individual identity. I have sacrificed over 30 months of my individuality towards creating my girls and I know how that sounds—this was a purely selfish, miraculous act and yet I’m asking for it to be viewed as noble? Take it however you do, just believe that I know the truth; every mother I know is a warrior. No one else can truly comprehend the sacrifice of a mom, except for another mom. We can whisper together in those dark corners of motherhood the secrets that are hard to say out loud, without feeling judged, or harder still, without judging ourselves.

I took my girls to the Sacramento Zoo and Gunther’s Ice Cream the other day and it was the perfect afternoon right up until our minivan pulled into the driveway and the girls fought over who would get to close and re-close the automatic sliding doors with the magic button. To them, somehow the memories of monkeys and the dessert disappeared and were forgotten as they both entered the house in a hysterical fury that is reserved for silly squabbles between sisters. But I hadn’t forgotten. I hadn’t forgotten the way they reached for each other while the lions circled restlessly in unison and when their little tongues reached up towards their noses to retrieve those last drops of ice cream; that’s how I know it’s all worth it. It’s worth everything.