I’ve had lots of curious recent discoveries into the world of infertilite mommyhood that I thought I would have been able to avoid, given my own story and situation. But as I stared into the face of my sister-in-law as we walked through a children’s consignment sale during her 7th month of pregnancy, I realized that I had become my own worst nightmare. I was the woman with the horror stories about giving birth. I was the woman who thought it was better to give you the reality check than the comforting words you need to hear. And I thought I was doing it all for the right reasons.
As it turns out, my advice is probably best suited for only other infertilites. Although I was aware that my SIL had been told by her doctor she’d never be able to have kids, I didn’t know why and I never asked. I knew she was devastated at the time, and as such, was (presumably) really psyched to actually be pregnant given her infertilite status. She’s a very go-with-the-flow kind of free spirit, so I let her lead the way with questions for most of her pregnancy and I avoided mothering her too much. I was proud of myself for having gotten this far, knowing that along her pregnancy she had some complications of her own – too much amniotic fluid, the baby grew very large, and she kept getting dehydrated. So when it came time for some SIL-bonding at the sale, I took the opportunity to make sure she was more prepared than I was for the time of the birth.
This was an unfortunate mistake, however. Because as it turns out, the advice that I have for someone who is pregnant isn’t really relevant for the majority of moms-to-be. I had biweekly non-stress tests. The doctors and midwives joked my baby would glow in the dark I had so many ultrasounds, because he didn’t grow to average size. And I had a baby in the breech position with no chance of even squeezing out a natural birth. Add in to the equation a few other factors, like the small size of my baby, my passing out hours after the c-section, my lack of labor pains (and them being back labor pains when I did have them all of two times), and my difficulty with breastfeeding, and you’ve got yourself a nightmare for a new mom-to-be. Yikes!
So, yes, I told her all of these things… mostly because she asked and was curious, and wanted to know what all of it was like. But nearly every statement I said had to be qualified or dismissed with something like, “But that’s just because he was breech,” or “That’s just me, that’s not the normal experience.” And with every piece of advice I could give, other than stocking up on sanitary pads, I became increasingly aware of how awful I must sound and how unhelpful it really was. She really had no chance of having half the difficulties I did, so why bother scaring her with them?
Now that she’s had the baby, who was born a week after her due date, she’s remained just as relaxed about motherhood as you could imagine a free spirit being. She’s had no troubles breastfeeding, her baby was a whopping 9 pounds, and she had to be induced. After 24 hours of labor that went nowhere, the doctors gave her the option for a c-section and she took it. Realizing how exhausting it had been for me to recover from that surgery – and mine was blissfully scheduled and relaxed, not preceded by a day of labor – my husband and I waited two full days before visiting in the hospital (unlike the rest of the family). I don’t see a trace of shell-shock in her face, as I imagine mine was full of, and I keep my mouth shut about the aftermath of giving birth. I nod as I listen because the first few weeks with a newborn are a universal period of unconditional love and personal sacrifice, and we all can relate to that.
In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my stories to myself until the day comes when someone who truly needs to know, for her own health, asks. And, of course, to all of you – because you wouldn’t be reading my blog unless you hadn’t already wondered.