My family sat with me in the delivery room during my first labor. I thought I wanted them there. I thought it would be fun and memorable.
I thought wrong.
The Pitocin kicked in, and my first big contraction hurt like a motherfucker. My mother could see (and probably feel) my pain, so naturally, she started reading a Martha Stewart article to me in a very loud voice. She was probably trying to keep herself from saying, “Hang on, you have a ways to go. This is only the beginning.” Not helping, Mom. Also, please leave.
I felt bad about changing my mind and not wanting an audience. I mean, I had invited my entire immediate family to witness the birthing of my babe. I envisioned candlelight, soft music, and a buttery-soft baby that would slip gently from my womb. It would be magical. We would gather round holding hands, blessing this new life. So of course, we had to get this on video for posterity’s sake. I would cherish it for the rest of our days.
But that is not what fucking happened at all. As soon as I kicked my family out, things got ugly, real ugly. My bra physically hurt me. I somehow got it off, and it was dangling from the wires connecting the Pitocin drip to my arm.
I started to think about my dream birth: The videos I saw in Lamaze class painted a lovely picture. Were these women actresses? How did these beautiful goddesses make giving birth look so serene and peaceful? Who the hell would ever let themselves be filmed in this state? Just look at me!
Women giving birth could be alluring — I had seen it with my own eyes. But I was anything but alluring, and the lovely movie I envisioned was not going to happen. No way, not in a million years. And so the brand-new video camera bought especially for the occasion, carefully packed in our hospital bag, stayed there. In fact, if I had seen anyone touch that fucker I would have broken it in half with my bare hands.
This event was not meant to be recorded. There would be no candlelight or family circle. And the baby, unfortunately, would not simply glide out like he was heading down a water slide. I had to let go of all of my expectations.
I was sweaty. I was cursing. I was hyperventilating as the most primal sounds rose from deep within me, resonating through the hospital corridors. When the very kind and considerate hospital staff brought my husband his dinner served on an actual silver platter and he had the nerve to take a break from holding my damn leg to see what was for chow, I went hella crazy on his hungry ass. That was it, I didn’t even want him in there. None of this needed to be caught on camera, that’s for damn sure.
“Just GTFO! Never mind, stay, but just look away. And don’t touch a single morsel of that damn food!”
I struggled with the entire birthing experience for a while after. Why wasn’t my birth magical? Why couldn’t I look like a delicate flower giving birth to a mini delicate flower? Why did I resemble a beast-like creature who loathed everyone? I couldn’t even begin to imagine the horror of having a nice couple over for eggplant parmigiana one fine Saturday evening and having my husband whip out the video of the birth of our son after a few glasses of wine.
And when it was time to push and the nurse asked me if I wanted a mirror so I could see my baby crowning “since we decided not to film it,” I couldn’t even manage that. I could not see straight. I was barely alive. All I had left was my voice — “No, I do not want to see that. Get this thing out of me now!”
I didn’t want to see anything except for my child lying on my chest happy and healthy. Film that, take lots of pictures, bring in the whole damn fam (again) — that I could manage. That I welcomed. But recording any part of my actual labor where I was making “cat in heat noises” while sweating profusely? That was not in the cards for me.
While many people do film their births, and I find it wonderful and am only a tiny bit jealous, there’s nothing about my birth that was beautiful. Labor did not look good on me, and it’s not something I want to relive or share with family and friends. And you know what? I am fine with that.
So when the next babe came, and then the next, the video camera stayed home. We’ve since made up for the absence of that footage by taking lots of videos of the kids, where I am not in the background screaming profanities with my legs in the air and my bra hanging on wires. And I will take it.