This week I became overwhelmed by the thought that I would have to do this for another three months. Three months! I have the whole third trimester ahead of me. Traditionally, the third trimester has been the most difficult for me. Random ligament and joint and muscle pains, an inability to get good sleep, the frustrating grind of daily life which does not cease simply because my baby is taking up more and more room in a space that simply cannot go on expanding to accommodate him.
There are a few things that have gotten easier throughout five pregnancies. I know that so many pains the come because of pregnancy and labor likewise pass away. I've got a few tricks up my sleeve for keeping my blood sugars normal and my A1Cs down. I know some things that one should really freak out about (postpartum hemorrhage) and some other things that one really needn't worry about (babies with only one kidney). One is that I do not feel the need to apologize when other people have to accommodate my weakness. When I need someone to open the door a little wider so I can fit through, or when someone needs to slide their chair a little closer to the table so I can squeeze behind, or when someone has to walk a little slower so I can keep up, or when someone has to bend down and pick up something that I dropped because I simply can't get down there anymore. These things do not make me blush with shame. Some may resent me for it, some may appreciate the everyday opportunity to care for another human being, some may mock me, and I may wish that I were at the height of my strength so I could avoid the inconvenience it causes others. But I know that this will pass, that it's not a bad thing for other people to notice and meet the needs of a pregnant woman, and a great number of people become weak at the end of their lives and never recover, requiring compassionate care for months or years until their natural deaths. So I do not feel ashamed of my weakness.
But on the whole, I would not say that having babies really gets any easier. Why is this?
I was one time at a doula training. In a room full of two dozen women dedicated to natural childbirth, only a handful of these women had delivered their babies without an epidural. One woman, in particular, stood out, because she had given birth to nine children at home with a midwife. Nine babies! Nine epidural-free deliveries! She was the subject of much awe. This mother's experience took center stage one afternoon when another would-be doula asked her whether she was still afraid of giving birth, or whether she was just so accustomed to it that it was like no big deal. Chuckling and blushing, she said no. No, she still approaches birth with fear and trembling. It's too different, too important, and too intense to ever treat like it's no big deal. At the time, I couldn't possibly understand this. Hadn't she seen just about everything she could see during a pregnancy and labor so that she would feel absolutely confident in doing it again? Hadn't she experienced such a quantity of pain that no pain could ever again frighten her?
But now that I am enduring my fifth pregnancy and approaching my fifth labor, I realize how what this mother said can be true. I have known pain, and fear of the pain of childbirth doesn't own me. I did, after all, agree to a second, third, fourth, and fifth pregnancy. But it does not mean that I am not still afraid of the pain. Furthermore, I've heard countless women's birth stories and pregnancy tales. I've got my own to add to the bunch. But rather than giving me a sense of security about it, all it means is that I know just how high the stakes are. Sometimes seeing it so many times just tells you how many things have to go right for a woman to end up with a healthy baby at the end, and how important it is to the mother, the father, the doctor, the baby, their friends and family that baby and mother come through it unharmed. That truth gives me some pause and a sense of trepidation in the face of this monumental task.
To put it more simply, a friend one time asked me if it doesn't get easier? I answered, honestly, no. No, it doesn't get easier. You just grow accustomed to, and you stop raging against the fact of, being tired and in pain. I like to think it's humility, not cowardice, that keeps me from facing it without some fear and trembling...