The Mother Of All Lies, 'Mom And Baby Are Doing Fine'

by Elizabeth Paulson

When I had my son a year ago, my husband dutifully let the news be known: Baby was this weight, that length, and yes, “mom and baby are doing fine.” This phrase, which seemingly accompanies every new life brought into this world, which I’d read dozens of times before and dozens of time since, was suddenly the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard.

Fine? We were doing fine?

There was nothing fine about it. I’d had a terrible time. The epidural didn’t work. My husband kept pressing the IV uncomfortably into my bruising hand. It was clearly the nurse’s first day on duty. Afterwards, I’d felt every stitch.

Now this sweet boy was out in the world and he was obviously upset by it, too. I couldn’t blame him. Our first photos show subjects who are unfocused and messy. Neither one of us knows what we’re getting into. Neither one of us looks “fine.”

Lying in bed, listening to the baby cry and not being able to get up to get him, I was furious. My child and I could not be the first mother/baby combo to be incorrectly labeled “fine.” How many other women were declared “fine” but needed something, anything else, after the childbirth ordeal? Sleep, physical therapy, the hospital cafeteria to serve food past 6 p.m.? I was betting most. And I couldn’t help but wonder if this “baby friendly” hospital was really doing right by my little one, in his big plastic shoebox, with what he must have thought were the two most inept humans looking on, wondering how to make him feel safe and happy again.

He surely would not have agreed to the “fine” stamp, either.

It was outrageous to me that two humans, who had just been through what my baby and I had been through, could ever be dubbed something as mundane as “fine.” It reinforced what I had been dismayed to learn throughout my pregnancy. Unless you had lost a limb, you were fine. Unless you were standing on the roof, taking hostages, you were fine. Ignore the pain, ignore the fear, just take your vitamins, obsess over the rules, schedule your next weigh-in, and get on with it. And God forbid you act anything but delighted during those 40 weeks because you’re fine, and so many other women wish they could say the same but can’t. Shut up, and let anyone who approaches you touch your stomach.

I thought about how truly lucky I was that I made it through such a “fine” pregnancy. Putting aside the pain, the feelings of helplessness, and trying not to be overwhelmed about the next however many weeks, months, or years of sleep deprivation, I thought about it more. It was a stressful pregnancy, but that was over now. It was an unpleasant birthing experience, but that was behind us, too, at last. But after all of that, no, we were not fine. We’d probably never be fine again. No, after all of that, we were effing fantastic. That amazing little guy over there? He was the most gorgeous baby in the whole world. And I did that. Yeah, basically all by myself.

Do you call someone who just finished the Iron Man “fine”? No, she’s exceptional. Were the guys who made it through another round at the Coliseum “fine”? No, they were gladiators. Did they say of Michelangelo, after he got down from the scaffolding of the Sistine Chapel for the last time, that his work was “fine”? No, he was a creator and a genius. Did Joseph tell the shepherds and angels that Mary and Jesus were doing “fine”? Yeah, actually, he probably did. Men.

My newborn son and I were on top of the world, even though neither of us could walk or effectively communicate our needs. Even though neither one of us knew what life had in store, we were great. We were certain of only a few things, but they were the most important pieces of information we’d ever have: We were loved, we were alive, and we had each other.

Mom and baby aren’t “fine.” Stop saying that. Even better, stop believing that. It’s never been true for anyone. Mom and baby are flipping miraculous beings; mom and baby are warriors. They made it through birth, and now they are more than ready to conquer whatever life throws at them. Mom and baby could take on the world.

Just as soon as mom can get out of bed by herself.