Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed about being a mother. I jokingly told my mother one day that motherhood is more important to me than marriage, that even if I can’t find a soulmate, I would be sure to become a mother. Looking back, I think my ideals about life largely included joys of motherhood, of being pregnant, giving birth and raising tiny angels into healthy and responsible individuals.
I became a mother at age 24, not long after my college graduation. I had lofty goals of becoming a lawyer, had begun preparing for my LSAT, found a promising job at an immigration lawfirm in Downtown LA and was shopping for an apartment. I was excited to begin a new chapter of my life with my husband as a young professional. We didn’t have much but we were young and fearless. Nothing can hold us back. We called ourselves Bonnie & Clyde.
A few weeks later, a pregnancy test came back positive.
Pregnancy & Labor
Aside from the morning sickness, nausea and weird cravings for tomatoes, my first pregnancy was typical and uneventful until my 6 months check up. My doctor told me that my amniotic fluid level is unusually low and that I must be placed on bedrest. I didn’t understand the meaning of this at the time and simply followed through with the instructions of taking a medical leave from my part-time job and staying home. I was too young and energized to just lay around the house so I continued to do the typical expectant mommy things like shopping for cute baby clothes, eating healthy for two and taking Lamaze classes with my husband.
I was admitted into the Labor & Delivery room on the day of my due date. My doctor concluded that my amniotic level was too low and that its best to induce my labor. At this time, inducing my labor seemed like a great idea as I was tired of carrying around extra 40 pounds and feeling (and looking) like a beached whale. I was excited and all in smiles until my unforgettable encounter with Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin that induces and/or strengthens labor. All I can say is that Pitocin is the devil and I wouldn’t wish labor induction on my worst enemy.
(Warning: If you are an expectant mom or a single woman wishing to read a positive labor story, skip to my Second Labor & Delivery story)
As a first time mom, it took a long time for me to be dilated. More than 8 hours to be exact. I couldn’t believe how much pain I was feeling with so little progress. (Note: one cannot get epidural until one is dilated to a certain degree). I was in so much pain that I couldn’t talk or use the restroom.
All those labor scenes in films where the woman screams at her husband for impregnating her- even that too, is luxury for those who can scream through their labor. When one is in so much pain, one cannot even scream.
I was in and out of stupor for about 6 hours until I was finally 5cm dilated and ready for Epidural. Even the Epidural didn’t kick in right away and I remember begging my nurse for some form of pain control. Please. Anything.
Like a crackhead.
I think she gave me something (don’t remember the name) that made the ceiling spin and walls move in and out. It took the edge off the pain, but only for what felt like 10 minutes. I was in lala land, looking and feeling my worst . This is not the kind of labor I expected or dreamed about.
All the breathing techniques I learned and practiced in Lamaze class proved to be useless. Visualization for pain control? Forget it. I felt like all my inside organs were about fall out and swore (only in my head because I couldn’t speak) that labor cannot be this painful. Something must be wrong with my delivery because it possibly cannot be this painful.
Every mother in history on the face of this earth cannot have possibly gone through this. This is crazy. I was going to die.
I understand my labor & delivery experience may have been worse because I didn’t go into labor naturally. But considering that about 4 out of 10 women are encouraged to have their labor induced by their doctors, I also know I’m not the only first time mother who experienced such traumatizing and painful labor.
All hail mothers.
Meeting My Child For the First Time
Then she came out.
After hours of pushing and grunting, she came out. And like magic, all pain swept away and my heart was filled with a fullness that only mothers can understand. My heart was overflowing with love, joy and gratitude and I felt like I lived my entire life for that moment. It was greater than any feeling, even the feelings of joy I felt on my wedding day.
This was different. This was a connection that is only possible between a mother and child, a metaphysical bond that began a long, long time ago even before I became pregnant, perhaps before I was even born.
The first few days are a blur. I remember feeding, changing diapers, feeding, changing diapers, and feeding. I remember marking every feeding and diapering session on a chart that no one even checked. I remember being scared to give her her first bath because she was so tiny, fragile and beautiful. I remember being so thankful that my mother was by my side because I had no idea what I was doing.
Contrary to what everyone claimed, motherhood did not come naturally. The desire to love and protect my baby came naturally, but the daily duties of motherhood did not.
The lack of sleep, chafed nipples, torn and swollen body parts, fluctuating hormones and the excruciating pain I felt in my womb every time I feed my child– none of these felt natural nor uplifting.
There were of course, nights of endless crying, anxiety and delirium that accompanies long-term sleep deprivation. But eventually I regained control over my life, learned how to change diapers and breastfeed with my eyes closed, and began to enjoy the first year of motherhood.
It was difficult- yes, and there were moments when I could’ve killed for more sleep or a long warm bath or a glass of wine or lunch with a girlfriend but overall motherhood was enjoyable and rewarding.
I felt my heart grow bigger with every giggle and laughter, and learned the deeper meaning of life.
Watching my child go from a tiny, red and helpless little thing to a plump and adorable baby was priceless. Then seeing her go from laying on her back to flipping over and making eye contact. The sweet scent of her hair. And to see her smile and coo– I felt I had gotten over a huge hurdle and mastered motherhood.
I felt accomplished. I felt that the hardest part was soon to be over. How clueless I was.