- When I first found out I was pregnant, I focused on the things I had to stop doing.
- I didn’t relax or enjoy our last nights out without kids or babysitters.
- With my other three pregnancies, I took a more balanced approach and enjoyed them more.
When I learned I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I approached my pregnancy as I did almost everything else in my life: I put the research skills I learned in graduate school to work and dove into learning everything I could. I was determined to have the least complicated pregnancy and childbirth possible — and to ensure a healthy baby at the end.
I sought out friends with medical expertise and signed up for just about every class about pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for newborns I could find. I had two shelves full of books and subscribed to expectant-parent listservs.
I was ready. Nothing was going to go wrong. I would have the vaginal birth I wanted, free from complications, and a healthy newborn to snuggle at the end.
I was certain I knew what I needed to do to make that happen.
I tracked everything and thought I was ready
Following some advice — like giving up my morning and afternoon cups of coffee — was difficult, but I did it believing I could control the outcome of my pregnancy if only I worked hard enough.
I started eating organic and tracked my protein intake. I took prenatal exercise classes at a local gym at least three times a week. I turned down opportunities to see my friends if I thought they might expose my baby to secondhand smoke or just keep me out too late. I never missed an obstetrician appointment, and I had every test offered to me. Everything always looked great, exactly as I expected. I thought I was in control.
Then, a few days before my due date, labor started. I had packed my hospital bags weeks earlier, and I felt prepared and confident that I knew how things would unfold. I settled in the hospital with my soothing playlist and birthing ball. Everything went according to plan — for a while.
When my labor stalled several hours in, I got the first real indication that there were things I could not control. I needed a strong drug called Pitocin to facilitate labor. I was disappointed, but I’d known it was a possibility. Then my baby’s heart rate dropped, and I needed to stay in bed with oxygen and continuous monitoring. I was not prepared for that. Many of the tools I had learned for getting through a vaginal birth involved moving around, and they became useless at that point.
I consoled myself with the knowledge that I was lucky to be in a hospital with great doctors and all the drugs and equipment needed to keep my baby and me safe. Once childbirth was over, I could focus on my newborn, and all of this would be an unpleasant memory.
My daughter was born with a rare genetic anomaly
Then my daughter was born. I couldn’t wait to hold her, but she was whisked away. Her head was concerningly large. Her breathing wasn’t quite right. Eventually I got to hold her, but she was taken to the neonatal-intensive-care unit, poked, prodded, and hooked up to an endless number of machines. An IV, which bled, was placed in her scalp.
I had planned on nursing her, but nothing I’d learned at my local breastfeeding center could get her to latch. She was too weak. I began pumping around the clock, waking every few hours to collect and store breast milk, then sterilizing all the equipment. It was exhausting, but I thought it was what I needed to do to make my daughter healthy, and I was all in.
After a couple of years, we found out my daughter has a rare genetic anomaly.
I had done everything “right,” and in the end none of it mattered. The one thing I had failed to prepare for was how little I could actually control. All my preparation, all the stress and worry, was for nothing.
I wish I had enjoyed our last moments without kids more
Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed my pregnancy more.
I wish I would have spent more time just relaxing and marveling that I was growing a new life. I missed out on some last kid-free nights out with friends and great meals because of my own worry. The hours I spent poring over books to ensure a healthy outcome were largely wasted and took time away from things I would have had fun doing. After my daughter was born, I felt as though pumping consumed my life. It disrupted my sleep and dictated my days. I had little time left to just enjoy my daughter being a baby.
I went on to have three other children. I took a more balanced approach and tried to let go of what I thought childbirth and the newborn days would look like. We were all better off for it.