I remember, back when I was pregnant with Lizzie, that I was talking to my mother about some of the stuff my doctor had told me, and her response was, “I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about all that when I was pregnant!” I wish I could call my mother up now and say, “Mama, you ain’t seen nothing yet!” Women nowadays sure do have a lot more to worry about than when I was pregnant ‘back in the day.’
Here are some examples:
1) My daughter has so many more eating restrictions than we had; for instance, no soft cheeses, so no Feta, Brie, Roquefort, etc.; no luncheon meat; and, of course, very limited tuna! (I’m glad to see that last one on the list!)
2) At least one hour a day, when the baby is active, Lizzie is supposed to count kicks and other movements—and if she can’t count up to ten, she’s supposed to call her doctor.
3) When her “fundal height” was not exactly what it was supposed to be, she had to have an ultrasound (this, mind you, is the fourth time she’s had an ultrasound in this pregnancy!)
4) She’s not supposed to sleep on her back at all because it might restrict the baby’s breathing.
Those are just four of the ones that come to mind. I appreciate all the advances in research that have made these things necessary, and I love to know that Lizzie’s doctor is watching out for my grandbaby, but I also think there is a lot to be said for less worry on the mother’s part! Lizzie’s pregnancy is much more stressful to me than any of my own. After talking to other grandmothers, I know that this partly comes with the territory: you are going to worry more about your own baby (and her baby) than you ever did about yourself. But I also think the culture of pregnancy has changed. Isn’t there something to be said for trusting in nature, for knowing that women have been going through this same process since Eve, and that, with of course some exceptions, things usually turned out all right? I can’t see Eve sitting there and counting kicks! I also can’t help questioning one more expensive medical test/procedure and wondering if they would be calling for that test if my daughter didn’t have insurance.
An increased level of worry is not the whole difference between 1987 and 2014! Lizzie and Janson had their birthing class last week, and there was no mention of breathing exercises or any kind of relaxation technique. They were told that most people don’t do that anymore—in fact most women choose to have epidurals. Now, I know this is one hospital, in one town, but Asheville is not a conservative town, and this is the main hospital we’re talking about! I can’t help but wonder if we have gone backwards, instead of forwards, since we seem to be moving, once again, to thinking of birth as a medical procedure instead of a natural one. Lizzie wants to have the baby without any kind of drugs, but her classroom instruction makes me wonder how much support she will get from the medical folks around her. I will give them this: breastfeeding at least seems to be more the norm than it used to be, even among working women! Hallelujah!
My worries loom larger as we get closer to December 9th (her due date) –or to the date the baby decides to come into this world. And I have to admit: I wonder if all of these concerns/frustrations I’m having are really just expressions of my own awareness that no kick-counting, no childbirth class, no Lamaze method, no person holding her hand, not even any drugs, can make the inevitable, overwhelming reality of labor and childbirth go away for my baby girl. That is, unless Lizzie turns out to be like an incredibly lucky good friend of mine, who had no labor pains and had trouble getting to the hospital on time! What seems more likely is that, like millions of the rest of us, Lizzie will come to a moment where the pain gets really bad and at least a part of her realizes the tremendous hurdle she has in front of her, and she will feel very much alone and scared, maybe even a little betrayed by a system that has led her to think that doctors have all the answers and can make everything better.
If I had one wish for her, it would be this: when that moment comes, when “push comes to shove” (sorry for the pun), Lizzie will know, deep down inside, that she doesn’t need anyone (not a coach or a teacher or even her mother) telling her how to do this thing she has to do, and she really doesn’t need any old doctor’s help either because she has everything she needs right there, inside of herself. And, I would also wish that she knows that, no matter how scary or painful things get , SHE CAN DO IT because, right there, in that moment, she will be as strong as the strongest woman on earth! Go, Lizzie!