Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My Labor Story's Labor Story

Well, crap. I just read Dooce's "Labor Story Part Three" and I'll admit, I cried. Not because it was so beautiful -- although it was, yes -- but because, and I don't even know how to say this other than to say it: my experience giving birth was not transcendent. In fact, it wasn't any kind of adjective deserving of those kind of italics.

I know it's not a competition or that there's any one right way to do things, but it's still weird. I am not a monster, I swear, but the earth didn't shake and the heavens didn't open the moment my daughter came into the world. And I don't think any amount of meditation or visualization would have changed that (though for the record, as you'll read in my own Part Three, I did my fair share of mooing. Who knew?).

So before I get to the rest of my own pedantic (take THAT, transcendent!), albeit breezily elegant labor story, I just want to say that I am choosing to even bother telling it because I owe it to myself.

Because it was just plain.

It was just my own, little experience. It was interesting to me, and had its funny moments and it had its scary moments and it had its really awesome moments, but it just kind of happened. And yes, I suppose my life is changed forever but it doesn't actually feel any different than it did a few months ago. Yes, I love my daughter and think everything she does is really cool, but I would not describe what I feel as being "in love" with her. I cannot wax poetic about what it felt like To Become A Mother because frankly, I have no idea what it feels like. It just is.

I've read a lot about being a new parent, starting about nine months ago and ending with Dooce's post, and I've been surprised at how little I have to offer in the same vein. I'd hoped that having a baby would unleash all sorts of emotionality in me, but I've barely even cried. I have no gut-wrenching metaphors or tear-stained language to offer about the gloriousness of my child's birth. I just have my own, simple, non-transcendent story.

And even without the fireworks or gravitas, it's worth telling. Because it's real, and I love it.



* * * *
ADDED:

This honestly is not about me "comparing" myself to Dooce, but rather a response to SO SO SO much I've seen and read regarding Amazing Birth Stories. Heather's story tipped the scales for me, but I didn't write this post until I read a several-page-long "article" today about why breastfeeding is better than bottle feeding. It was reportedly from a medical source, but the piece was mostly opinion, extremely judgmental and relied on "you will be in love with your child" sympathies to prove its point. And I couldn't NOT write something in response. (Despite that I am, actually, breastfeeding.)

39 comments:

  1. Kristy - I've been reading your blog since 2004! I can't WAIT to hear the rest of your labor story. Every woman who has given birth has one, and they are as different as the little ones they deliver. I don't even want kids, but labor stories mesmerize me.....What incredible things we women can do. I'm excited to hear yours. Eve is adorable!

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  2. i am enjoying your story...because i enjoy you and your blog. this isn't a competition.

    (for the record, this is heather's SECOND child. maybe that matters!)

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  4. Honestly? This kind of emotional truth-telling is far from having "little to offer" to the conversation on parenthood. The fact is that a lot of people don't find the birth of their first (or subsequent) children to be a transcendent moment. The internet tubes are clogged with Moms going on about how "in love" they are with their baby, how different and new and exciting their life is and if your experience difference then you are left thinking that either those mothers are lying or that you are quite possibly dead inside, having accidentally expelled your heart with the placenta.

    I forget where I was going. I was imagining my heart being literally pushed out through my cervix and, well, that is definitely a showstopper.

    Anyway. I believe my point was that telling your labor story as it was, sharing your experience as it is and continues to be, is no small addition. There are plenty of labor stories like Dooce's (which was amazing and lovely) but there are just as many like yours (which was amazing and lovely and you can't argue with me about that). The only difference, imo, is that there is a hesitancy to talk about the birth experience if you felt it was anything other than transcendent for fear of being judged by other Moms, women, etc. as not quite doing it right.
    And to that I say: Well, crap.

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  5. Honeybunch, stop comparing yourself to "her." Right now! Yes, Dooce is everybody's hero, and she has a zillion readers. You are Kristy. You have your own flavor and style and readership and motherhood. You're doing everything right; by the script that's your very own.
    *climbing down off soapbox*

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  6. Kristy, I'm going to be brutally honest and earn myself some enemies.

    This is Dooce's 2nd time around. She's had darn close to 2 months to write that story and choose the perfect photos (photographed by her practically-professional-photographer husband) to accompany it. She HAD to have a birth story that would bring everyone to tears - it's her job to write that way. I'm not knocking her for it, mind you.

    You are fine. Your story is amazing and honest and human. Okay?

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  7. Well I didn't think it was transcendent when I had my daughter. It hurt! And I was only 19! But it is to me interesting; as is yours to you and I'm enjoying reading it.
    I sometimes wonder if those glowing birth stories are really true; and not just time's reflection on it now that you have the baby and love the baby. Now don't get me wrong I've always loved my daughter but I have to admit now that she's all grown up and I don't have to parent her, well she's way funner to be around! And a lot less to worry about! HA Like you ever stop worrying.

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  8. I had three kids and it was sort of hurty and then it was over. I was very proud of them and I guess myself for having them. Don't let other people's stories get in the way of loving your Eve as much as you do.

    The tears and transcendency come when they leave the house with your car the first time. Oh Lord, that wasn't fun. But it all came out fine.

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  9. Oh yeah...I haven't been reading your blog for as long as the lady above, but do enjoy your take on things and you really crack me up most of the time.

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  10. But really ... what about the mucus plug ? That's what we all want to read about.

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  11. I'm a long time lurker but this is possible the first time I've ever posted here.

    I'm an incredibly emotional person. I cry at commercials and sappy songs. So I thought for sure that giving birth to my daughter would leave me nothing but a big pile of mush.

    So wrong. I can remember sitting in the hospital the day after she was born, looking at her and thinking "I should be over whelmed with emotion but I'm just not".

    I loved her but can honestly say that moment of looking at her and getting overwhelmed didn't happen for a long time. 3 years later and it will occasionally still surprise me at the strangest time. But those moments, days and months after she was born? Nada. And that doesn't make either of us bad mothers or less of mothers than Dooce.

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  12. Have you read this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/27/fashion/27love.html

    It got a lot of heat from the same mothers who judge dooce cause she ate powdered donuts while pregnant and drinks coffee while breastfeeding. Apparently.

    What do you think?

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  13. Oh Kristy, you make me want to reach through the screen and give you a big hug. And maybe the slightest of slight kick in the pants (just a tap really).

    Your story is your story. It no less or more beautiful than anyone else's story. Your experience is no more or less than anyone else's experience. It is yours and that makes it special and unique and wonderful all in its own way. It was The Kristy Experience and I, for one, cannot wait to read the rest of it. (And yes, you make take that as me saying, "So, sit down and write the rest of it is missy. Pronto.)

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  14. One (just one) of the things I really love about reading you is that you are SO levelheaded and breezy about almost everything. I mean seriously, through the last few years when I was going through some events that made me feel, at times, like I was going to completely lose it, I would read your perspective on something equally (or more!) difficult and I'd be impressed all over again.

    You're chilled out, laid back, got it together chick. You do silly things and laugh at yourself, you don't take anything too seriously, and you have an incredible knack for seeing both sides of an issue.

    If your labor story would have been all "OH MY GOSH NOW I AM A DIFFERENT HUMAN, COMPLETELY - STARTING RIGHT NOW!!!!!" I would have been confused. It just wouldn't have seemed like the same girl was writing at all. And having "lost" several of my friends to new-motherhood, and its all-encompassing aspects...I would have been more likely to cry reading that sentiment from you than I would from reading Dooce's "it's transcendent!" account. Dooce is an emotional roller coaster, there is NO one who would describe her as calm or levelheaded or even-keeled EVER. So of course all her stories are like "first I was WHOA and then I was OMG, and then! I died. And then I came back to life and thought it was the MOST this, and the CRAZIEST that..." You see what I'm saying.

    I LOOOOVE your perspective! To me, it is so relatable and real. And I thank you for providing it.

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  15. I'm happy to hear another mother say she didn't have a transendent experience either. I've been wondering if it was because my daughter was born by c-section, but even though I LOVE her, and I cried when I heard her first cries, I haven't felt the overwhelming emotions I've read so many other moms describe. I have never cried just out of love for her.

    For me we just "are"; mother/daughter, joy and happiness and love, but I'm not "high" from it or overflowing with emotion or "crushed" by the weight of it....and though my life has changed technically, I don't feel like it has changed. My life is very much the same I just bring my baby along now. The experience of becoming a mother has been so completely normal, expected and low-key.

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  16. I don't expect you to be like dooce's. This is your corner of the internet and ya know, I'm glad it's different.

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  17. The mommy blog echo chamber causes an interminable elevation of smugness. Was the first time you had sex or your first kiss "transcendent? Comparing your experiences is natural, but it's like saying "why isn't my life like 'Say Anything'". The internet seems to turn pregnant women and new mothers into hectoring romance novel writers with their "isn't it *so* amazing" idealization and "I feel sorry for your child" tut-tutting. Have a glass of wine and ignore them.

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  18. I want to echo the statements made above - now go play with your adorable baby!

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  19. I am the mother of a teen. I didn't have a transcendent story either. But he's my kid and I love him.

    I have learned that what works for me is to treat parenting, mothering, baby stories, etc. like beauty magazines. I am never going to be that picture-perfect woman on the cover, and if it makes me feel bad (or mad at the judgmental BS) reading them, then I won't do it anymore.

    But that's just how I worked it out for myself. I had to let some things go, and pick my battles, otherwise this entire thing would make me nuts.

    Wait 'til you start reading about various ways to discipline your child. Oy! That breastfeeding article you read is just the beginning of judgmental opinion masquerading as fact!

    ~bee

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  20. I am waiting on pins and needles for your story. As a first time pregnant mom to be I want all the info that I can get. I can not imagine having the same type of experience that Dooce had, its just not my personality. Maybe, if my experience is more like yours, I wont feel bad because it wasn't "transcendent" because I will have read about your experience. All I can say is Thank You for being willing to put your story out for the rest of us!

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  21. You should tell it! It doesn't have to be something over-the-top, just you and true to you.

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  22. Ugh - Dooce. She makes her living at painting her reality w/creative license. You stories are great because they are yours.
    PLEASE do not compare yourself to Dooce, at anything, ever. She is not the standard for anything.

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  23. Anonymous couldn't have said it any better because I was going to say the very same thing AND sign my name. The problem with blogs is that some of the "blog for a living" bloggers are starting to buy their own hype.

    Your labor was just fine and dandy...well, you know what I mean.

    Labor sucks and is not "transcendent"...pffft.

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  24. I've had three kids, currently a month away from the delivery of the fourth, and my birth stories are all pretty boring. We went in, the doctor cracked a few jokes, various people fainted at various times, they cut me open, the baby came, and then we all got really, really, REALLY tired. Still - I love my kids, I'm in love with my husband, and life is good.

    We're all different. I don't think Dooce is painting her experience in any particular light - for her, that's how it was. We're all different. I'm not on a constant emotional rollercoaster in real life, so it makes a certain kind of sense that my birth stories aren't amped up on hormones either. I may not have some of the incredible highs, but I also escape almost all of the incredible lows. As far as I'm concerned, it's a great trade-off.

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  25. I read Dooce's post - and I didn't cry. It was funny and entertaining though. Most of what she writes is "scaled up" for just that reason, don't you think?
    I completely understand what you mean about having your own experience. I'm having a baby in around a month and I'm trying, weird as it sounds, to not absorb everyone else's stories too much. I want this to be my experience.

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  26. I wish everyone didn't bag on Dooce. She seems like a nice lady. This reminds me of the time a few years ago when there was the "Why does Stephanie Klein get a book deal and I don't?" theme, and then she stopped by and left a comment.

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  27. Kristy

    Not to worry. I felt exactly the same way. I even felt a little guilty that I didn't weep and fall in love. In fact, when they told me they were going to bring my baby to my room, I asked them to wait until I could take a nap. But each day I loved her more and more and many times she's done something that brought tears of joy.

    And now when she had her own baby (yeah I'm that old) I had happy tears for both of them

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  28. For what it's worth, you should go read Linda (at sundrymourning.com and then alittlepregnant.typepad.com) for posts on this topic. It's not the birth that makes you a mother, it's the taking care of a child, whether or not you had a "natural" birth, whether or not you adopted, baby was beemed down from a spacecraft. The other day I looked over your facebook updates and I swear I got a little weepy, maybe it's the hormones, but wow. I've been reading for over four years when we were both single, and now you're married with a beautiful baby, and I'm engaged, and well I projected a little, maybe. But I was proud.

    I am interested to read your labor story because it is yours and voyeuristic as this blog thing is, I'm interested.

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  29. Echoing other sentiments--everybody's labor/birth story is their own. I like hearing about others, don't mind sharing mine, and have been present for (most) of someone else's. I do have to admit that I gag a little when I hear someone use the warm-fuzzy/ transcendant/spirtual awakening/renewal paintbrush on their birth story. Which is not to say that I don't believe that it profoundly affected them. It's just that it's almost impossible to not sound at least a little pretentious and twatty when trying to describe in detail any experience that is deeply personal and profound.

    I recently told (again) my 19yo the story of her birth. She was howling with laughter even though she's heard the details before. And yes, I am quite happy with that response.

    I think it's an unfortunate aspect of our human nature that we tend to try and pigeon-hole this or that as the way a good/right/proper ______ should be/feel/do when it's the variety in us that makes things interesting. I especially hate that this attitude seems to permeate the whole culture of reproduction including fertility, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. There's no one right way for any of it.

    I appreciate your willingness to tell your story your way and to express your thoughts about the subject in general.

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  30. Each person's story is special because it's THEIRS, right? You didn't have your experience so that you could entertain us, or so that you could share some tear jerker story with the world. What happened to you during your labor and delivery is special because it happened to you. Some will be able to relate, some not. In the end, it doesn't really matter. I've learned that if I constantly measure myself by other people's experiences or advice, I will melt away and be nothing. This is your life and it's very personal to you. Don't discount it- and don't let anyone else either.

    ~Kim

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  31. Oh, I love it. LOVE the honesty. It's so nice to hear another side, honestly.

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  32. Hi,

    I was just reading past posts and came across a list you wrote of 7 things you wanted to do/accomplish before you die. From November of 2005.
    If you don't remember, you should look. It's impressive how many you've done/accomplished in just a few years.

    Congratulations on getting a start on #3.

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  33. The only birth story I've written and the only one I've cried for is my daughter's. And she's the third of my babies.

    Only reason I cried was because she was born with an unknown horrible birth defect and it was utter chaos.

    The other two? If I had to write it up, you'd probably gouge out your eyes with boredom.

    xoxo

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  34. I agree with "m" up there. I appreciate the honesty. I don't have children yet, but fear I might have the same emotional reaction, and it's nice to hear I'm not alone. All of the major milestones in life have passed without my feeling like I was hit by lightning. I lost my virginity, and I felt... the same. I got married, and I felt... the same. Etc. etc. It's comforting to know that although you've had a baby and your life has changed forever, you are still YOU!

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  35. Who's Dooce? Seriously? Is it because I am British? I am looking forward to finding out about the woman (it's a woman, right?) with my next click.

    My birth experience (first and only) was transcendent but only in a totally trippy had-no-food-or-sleep-for-36-hours-like-a-bloody-wannabe-shaman kind of way. I suspect this is not what she meant.

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  36. I didn't cry until I called my dad to tell him the baby was born. Surprised myself with tears. Then didn't cry again until my baby was in the hospital with meningitis at 3 weeks. Hardly a transcendent experience or a force of nature coming out my vagina or life-changing transfiguration, but definitely overwhelming love ahd worry and a hormonal cocktail like you've never seen. Just plain, like you said. Happy and loving and plain.

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  37. I think motherhood is a daily choice- it's not something thrust upon you at the moment of birth. I'm reading a couple of days late, and your comment in a later post about being surprised you didn't recognize Eve resonates with me. I expected to feel this instant recognition/bond, too, and didn't. My daughter was just this little baby. I had to get to know her. I think a second child is different in some ways. There isn't all the suprise of the event, so there is more time to concentrate on the kid.
    Also, I think Dooce is comparing between this experience and her last with post partum hanging so heavily over it.

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