What's it like to give birth?
May 19, 2006 5:36 PM   Subscribe

What is it like to give birth? I'm male, and one of the side affects is that I'll never get pregnant. I'm wondering what it's actually like to give birth to a whole new person.

I'm specifically interested in the emotional experience of it, what it's like to have a person grow from practically nothing inside you and then to come out into the world. It seems like a pretty incredible thing, and since I'll never be able to do it myself I'm hoping some people who have will be able to shed a bit of light on what it's like.
posted by twirlypen to Human Relations (31 answers total) 84 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard it's a lot like passing a kidney stone.
posted by mullingitover at 5:40 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

mulling: First of all it's unlikely that twirlypen has ever passed a kidney stone, and second of all I don't think they are compareable at all.

For one thing babies don't have sharp edges
posted by delmoi at 5:45 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Where to start?

The whole process is surreal, from beginning to end, and I personally often lost track of the fact that, at the end of this overwhelming experience, would be the start of the REAL overwhelming experience!

I gave birth to twins in August 2005. I went 37 weeks with them until a placental abruption forced an emergency c-section (I had been planning a natural vaginal birth all along, so the c-section was not at ALL what I had in mind).

I remember specific moments quite vividly - when, at five weeks, we found out we were having twins (after years of fertility treatments, this was the best possible news), and the first time we heard their heartbeats.

I remember feeling terrified at the thought of being "invaded," that my body would no longer be my own for almost a year. I wasn't sure that I could handle it, and it scared me to death.

The overwhelming exhaustion, despite barely doing a thing in my first three months of pregnancy. Other friends who had already been pregnant kept reminding me I was exhausted because I was hard at work creating two new sets of organs. That was a huge rush!

And, of course, the first time I ever felt Sam and Molly, my kids, move. My husband was out of town and I was laying quietly on the couch. I was just shy of 21 weeks pregnant. All of a sudden, I felt a strange sensation in my stomach. How to describe it...some say it feels like "butterflys" or "flutters" but not to me. These were strong palpations, almost as if someone was pressing their thumb on my stomach from the inside. I looked at my stomach and could actually see it move - that was potentially the most overwhelming moment in my whole pregnancy until the actual birth.

I became obsessed with watching my stomach move - and with two of them in there, it moved constantly. Mostly when I was still, as when I moved it seemed to rock them to sleep. I would play with them - they'd push out and I'd push back and we'd play games with each other.

I could almost always tell what was a foot, what was a hand, a head.

There was some fear, too, of course. I was constantly holding my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop (you don't come out the other side of years of fertility problems and automatically assume you'll just have a normal pregnancy). Thankfully, it never did. And every ultrasound, every time I heard their heartbeats, the whole thing became more and more real to me.

I was strangely calm when it came time to actually have them, this despite the fact that I began hemorraging while lying in my bed on a Saturday morning. From that moment, it was only about 3 hours until my kids were delivered, perfect, 59 seconds apart.

I can't say I instantly bonded to them - I think I was too overwhelmed - but within 24 hours, I could barely remember life without them.

And once they were no longer inside me, I felt strangely alone for the first time in ages.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to lay this out for the first time. I look forward to reading more responses to this question!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 5:51 PM on May 19, 2006 [11 favorites]

The growing a human being thing wavers between annoying, amazing and creepy. The birth part? That's less fun.

I'm sure everyone's different, but I felt drained. Really drained. Tired. I could feel the kid leeching off me. The first three months, it was hard to fathom there was really a person in there. I just felt... infected.

The minute I could feel her kick, respond to stimuli, it all changed for me. I wasn't drained, I was excited. I could call her name, and she'd move. I took a warm bath, she'd move. I felt like there was a person with me, listening to me, the whole time. Seeing her on the ultrasound while she kicked and I felt it -- it was amazing and joyful.

When I started getting big, the biggest surprise it that it felt nothing like wearing a pillow. I know it's obvious, but for some reason it was a shock to have her underneath all my belly skin nerves and muscles, especially with all the movement. I never felt fat. I felt womanly, gorgeous.

I played games with her -- placing a cold drink on my belly until she kicked it off, grabbing her foot and tickling her. It was about this time that the fact that I recognized and fully felt of her as someone but my husband just couldn't. He knew it logically, but he made jokes and things that revealed that she was still an "it" to him as opposed to a person. (He didn't grasp the reality of her until she was born and crying.)

Near the end, it got tougher. I felt the weight of her when I turned over. My feet and hands swelled. By the time I passed my due date, I could tell she was cramped in there and frustrated by the way she moved. I wanted her out.

Labor itself was the strangest thing. When I had a contraction, it was excruciating pain. But then, nothing. There was no lingering pain in between contractions, and I would tell myself it wasn't that bad and then bam! another contraction.

My daughter had difficulty, so they extracted her with forcepts and took her to the pediatrics team (there were 12 people in the room besides my mom and ex-husband). Labor was the most dehumanizing experience I've had with all the gadgets and the cruel nurses telling me I wasn't pushing enough in a way that made me cry from guilt.

The disconnected feeling of being out of control of my body from the epidural was worse than the pain. The pain wasn't really pain with the epidural. It felt like the world's worst constipation. It kept hurting and feeling "all stuffed up" until the afterbirth was out. If you know the extremely relieving feeling of "holding it" for a long time and then finally finding a bathroom, you can kinda grasp how it feels once the placenta is out.

At first, I felt empty and overwhelmed. She was so much easier to care for when she was in.

However, once I was able to take her home (it was almost two weeks due to a lung infection) and I was able to hide in her nursery, rock her, sing to her and breastfed her, I felt more beautiful than I've ever felt in my life. I made a human being. Me, a person who can't nurture a plant long enough to keep it from being all brown and crackly.

I felt a distance between me and my husband, even though he took part in making her and was happy and excited, I felt like she was mine to grow and mine to hold and keep safe. He couldn't... understand what it was like. Our bodies were linked, even after she was born, due to breast milk. If she had a stomach ache, I had a stomache ache. After all, we ate the same things in a way. I felt fiercely protective and proud in all the cliche mama cub ways.

I guess I still do, which makes it really, really hard to realize what a different person she is from me, from her dad and rom what I pictured.

I've read Plato's Symposium far too many times and know that making a kid is supposedly the lowest of creative endeavors, but I keep feeling like that's what I was designed for. Even if my logical side, of course, is happy she's an only child, doesn't like being a life support system for spawn and has goals far beyond breeding.
posted by Gucky at 6:02 PM on May 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

Having just passed a kidney stone, I can guarantee it's NOTHING like that. I never was proud of a kidney stone nor did I feel like I had a friend in calcium deposits.
posted by Gucky at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

Surreal (as OhPuhLeez said). Sur-fucking-real!

Overwhelming, and tiring.

Terrifying, in the sense of your immense responsibility not to screw up while pregnant any more than you already did before you knew you were pregnant, and your constant worry about whether they're okay now that they're out.

Thrilling. Wonderful. I can't think of a one-word adjective that captures the incredible love I had immediately for these little people. And I was and am so proud! They are just these awesome little people! THAT I MADE! With some help in the beginning.

But mostly surreal, including having your belly jump around by itself to the point where you keep thinking about Alien, delivering another person into the world and sadly no longer being able to protect them as easily inside your body, and watching them grow up into funny little weirdos with my nose and his height.
posted by theredpen at 6:03 PM on May 19, 2006

One attempt to explain the delivery experience:

After going through Lamaze, Leboyer, and La Leche classes with his expectant wife, the proud new father remained by his wife's bedside throughout labor and delivery. Wanting to be as sympathetic as possible, he took his wife's hand afterward and said emotionally, "Tell me how it was, darling, how it actually felt to give birth." "Okay, honey," his wife replied. "Smile as hard as you can." Beaming down beautifully at his wife and newborn child, the man commented, "That's not so hard." She continued, "Now stick a finger in each corner of your mouth." He obeyed, smiling broadly. "Now stretch your lips as far as they'll go," she went on. "Still not too tough," he remarked. "Right," she snapped. "Now pull them over your head."
posted by Wet Spot at 6:28 PM on May 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

For one thing babies don't have sharp edges

HA! Perhaps you've heard of the "elbow" or the "knee" or the "foot"? Babies routinely use these as weapons against their mom's poor unfortunate kidneys/stomach/bladder/random internal organ. It does feel like you're being stabbed from the inside out sometimes.

I've honestly tried to block most of my pregnancy out of my mind. I do remember the first time she moved, and thinking HOLY MOTHER OF GOD there is a BABY inside of me!!! Up until that point the whole pregnancy thing had been more of a theoretical concept (except for the puking and exhaustion). Then she became more real, and I began thinking of "her" or "him", rather than "it."
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:29 PM on May 19, 2006

I can't imagine what it would be like to be molded by evolutionary forces to care selflessly for my spawn, to be a helpless slave to my genes. It's much more romantic than the male contribution.
posted by phrontist at 6:40 PM on May 19, 2006

It's much more romantic than the male contribution.

That should read:

Not that men aren't, it's just a less romantic contribtuon.
posted by phrontist at 6:42 PM on May 19, 2006

My youngest is now 13, so there's a gap for me, but what stands out is this:

*the first time i felt the baby move (quicken), it felt like there was an alien in my body. (surreal - absa-bloody-lutely)
*I enjoyed being pregnant, apart from throwing up all day for the first trimester.
*it's weird that perfect strangers feel that they can touch your belly (i don't like anyone touching me, thanks).
*not being able to get out of chairs or off the floor, if that's where you happen to be sitting or sleeping is a bitch.
*the hormones reduced my iq by at least half.
*giving birth was seriously like shitting a bowling ball. With everything going on and feeling interconnected, the actual delivery of the head felt like it could be out the anus.
*the nurses were mean.
*Once the birth was over, the pain ended - oh there was the little matter of the slight tear and the stitch, but compared to the labour pain, nothing.
*I was worried that i wouldn't recognise my baby when i went to collect him from the nursery. I did, but i also checked the name tag.
*I didn't fall in love with my kids immediately. I was scared that i was now responsible for this human being who would probably die mysteriously one night. This strange thing that everyone told me i would know what the cries meant (???) - never happened - i couldn't tell a wet cry from a wind cry, ever.
*Breastfeeding felt much nicer (not straight away) than I thought it should (being as it was my kid and all. And i really really liked the relief of a feed when my breasts were rock hard.

I'd do things differently if I were to have babies now. There's was way too much sentiment (mine- saccharinely) and allowing medical people to have their way (I was young). I also wished away weeks and years because I was so tired of not sleeping.
posted by b33j at 7:17 PM on May 19, 2006

In pharmacy school we were taught that the "big 3" pain management situations, the ones requiring the really strong drugs, are childbirth, kidney stones, and hemorrhoidectomy.

Having only experienced the first, I'll tell you that with a good epidural, childbirth rules. Seriously. I've had worse constipation. And I was fortunate enough to feel an adrenaline rush during the actual birth that far overwhelmed any sense of pain or ickiness or anything like that.

The 3 trimesters are really different - in the 1st, you are so caught up with morning sickness and taking your vitamins that it's more about your own health than about there being another person inside you. I wouldn't say that it is a person at that point. When you see an ultrasound (usu around the beginning of the 2nd trimester) you suddenly realize this is a person, an individual. By trimester 3, you realize this individual's main hobby is kicking you and jumping up and down on your bladder.

It really is nothing like wearing a pillow. It's more like taking a pillowcase stuffed with a cat and tying it around your waist.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:31 PM on May 19, 2006

Fantastic stories.

And twirlypen, you could watch arcticwoman movie.
posted by bru at 7:46 PM on May 19, 2006

You know what's crazy about contractions? A contraction hurts like nothing you can imagine while it's happening. Then it stops, and it's...gone. No residual pain. Later they come so fast and furious that there aren't any painless spaces in between, but in the earlier stages of labor, the phenomenon fascinated me.

When I was pregnant, I could not rub two brain cells together to come up with a coherent thought. I would walk around Target for two hours pushing a cart and not have any memory of why I was there. I was very close to not being capable of driving, because my mind would wander so far from the tasks at hand. The amount of food I was able to pack away was incredible.

I described my second birth story on my blog here. In two weeks, she'll be two!
posted by padraigin at 8:07 PM on May 19, 2006

Early on in the first trimester, all of my energy was zapped while my body was building the placenta. Between the loss of energy and the nausea, it feels sort of like having the flu, minus the runny nose. Then the second trimester rolls around, and poof - the energy's back, until the third trimester came and I felt bloated and mentally incompetent. I also had a tremendous amount of back pain, which my doctor told me had to do with the position of my uterus. My labor was "back labor"; cramps and pain all concentrated in my back.

I'll second padraigin's comments about contractions; the intermittent nature of it makes it bearable. It basically feels like intense menstrual cramps. At one of the early stages of labor, I was on the toilet for quite some time expunging poo from my system. If you've ever had an intestinal flu that comes with cramping, you might have had a similar experience. The "pushing" required to deliver a baby is similar in experience to having a bowel movement. I decided to have a natural childbirth, and through the pain I was struck by the experience of feeling weirdly grounded and very connected to the present, much more than I've ever felt before.

I've had a kidney stone before, and I think the pain was worse with a kidney stone than labor because the kidney stone pain was intense and deep and felt like there was a nerve being pinched in my lower back. The pain felt much more relentless than labor because, unlike contractions, there was very little let up.

Having something moving around inside of you is amazing, especially when you start to be able to get a sense of where the body parts are located when they move around. The baby would get the hiccups; I got a kick out of that. It's weird developing a relationship with this entity that you can't see. Occasionally he'd position himself with his back facing my belly button and I'd rub his back through my belly. Very strange and weird and wonderful.

Being pregnant and having a baby is awesome, but that nine months of physical experience seems very small and trivial in comparison to the experience of parenting as a whole. The daily business of childrearing is a greater challenge and ultimately, a more heroic struggle that offers the same experience to both men and women.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:45 PM on May 19, 2006

I've had three kids, the youngest is eight. Being pregnant is not something that I enjoyed. The sense of being 100% responsible for the growth of another human being is overwhelming. What I ate, they ate, everything I did directly affected them. With the first one, the excitment and anticipation mitigated that. By the third one I felt so trapped to have turned my body over to another being that it was hard to cope, plus I was so, so, so tired and sick. But, even by the end of that pregnancy the desire to meet the new person became my primary focus.

As for labor and delivery, it is really hard. The contractions are painful, but for me, not the hardest part. With my first child, the unrelenting nature of the contractions was the hardest part. That baby is coming out and there ain't nothing you can do to stop it. I'll admit that I may have begun to panic at that point. My nurses were really nice though, and said "would you like some pain relief now," and I said "what have you got." Ah, Demerol. It didn't hurt less, but I cared less, and could relax between contractions.

But really, nothing hurts like crowning and delivery. That totally sucks. It felt like I was going to split all the way in two. And when the doctor says that an episiotomy doesn't hurt when it's during a contraction, they are LYING. It hurts like hell. (The stitching after hurts, too. But nothing like delivery. Although by then I felt like I didn't deserve any more pain, so the doctor used three tubes of local anesthetic!)

Honestly, though, all of it passes away once the baby is there. The reality of a brand new person that you grew is truly awesome. I was so high for a few days after delivery (probably endorphins) that I could have done anything. What I did was enjoy my husband and healthy baby, and that I was no longer pregnant! It is such a relief to deliver successfully and have a healthy baby. I never realized how much it weighed on me that so much could go wrong, until it was over and everything was fine. Plus, suddenly by bladder was not squashed, my heartburn was completely gone and my hips didn't hurt. Yay for not being pregnant!

Then the real hard part starts, you take the tiny, helpless infant home and they are totally dependant on you. That is much harder and long lasting. The nine monthes is just a prelude to the eighteen years of love and responsibility. My girls are 11 and 12 now, my son 8. Next year we will have two in middle school. We are staring down the barrel of puberty: that is truly scary. Labor and delivery only last a day.
posted by rintj at 9:23 PM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

It occurs to me to wonder whether, what with your descriptions of pain, the experience is also be painful for the baby?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:40 PM on May 19, 2006

five fresh fish: I've actually wondered the same thing myself. Is there medical evidence of this? In the Red Cross hospital where I gave birth in Tokyo, when I started whining during labor because of the pain, the nurses basically told me to clam up and bear it because my son was going through the same experience. I don't know if that means the baby is feeling pain, but I agree what b33j said about "the nurses (being) mean;" they are mean here, too!
I actually asked my son when he was just beginning to talk if he remembered what it was like to be inside my stomach and what it was like being born, and he said, "It was tight inside, so I wanted to get out and see mama and papa." So, no mention of pain there.
posted by misozaki at 6:22 AM on May 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

WRT to levels of pain, when I was doing EMT training, they said that the only thing comparable to the pain of childbirth was a broken femur. That said, during mid labor, Mrs. Plinth sat in a tub to help relax her and ease the pain. I sat on the cold floor and promptly fell asleep. Later she told me that it was really annoying that I could sleep and she nearly belted me just to wake me up.
posted by plinth at 7:33 AM on May 20, 2006

I have three children and for all three births I had a midwife - the first and last two had different midwives because we had moved but both midwives were absolutely wonderful. My experience contrasted so much with the stories I heard then (and later) about physicians not showing up in time for the birth, unsympathetic residents taking over, annoyed nurses and so on. None of that happend with me -- the midwife (both of them) was incredibly supportive, she was there (all 3 times) well before the birth giving advice but not being pushy, deflected the occasional negativity from the nurses, was very mother centered in terms of my wishes for pain medication (I didn't want any unless the pain became too much - but it never was necessary), ASKED whether it was ok to do an episiotomy. My real hero was the first midwife who suggested a number of non-traditional approaches to move a very slow labor along after my water broke. Without her very mild interventions, I always wondered whether my births would have been more like my friends (lots of medical interventions). All three births were among the most profound experiences of my life and I think had a lot to do with how easily I fell in love with all three of my children.
posted by bluesky43 at 8:12 AM on May 20, 2006

These stories are so interesting! I haven't had a baby, but from the research I've done (and it seems to be coming out here in these stories too), the environment in which a woman gives birth makes a huge difference to how she experiences it. There are some good books on this, my favourite is Birth in Four Cultures by Brigitte Jordan. twirleypen, and perhaps some of the posters, might find it an interesting addition to the stories coming out here.
posted by carmen at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2006

Carmen, thanks for the link to that book. I'm going to check it out myself.

One thing I have noticed in my friends and family that have given birth is that the women who have been athletes have an easier time of it (or at least *say* they do), especially in that last few moments of pushing, when you are completely wiped but you have to continue anyway.

My purely out-of-my-butt take on that says that athletes understand pain, and especially understand that most pain doesn't last, and that they are capable of plowing through it. The women I know who have never played sports tend to not realize that pain is fleeting compared to the end result (winning, in the case of a sport, and the baby in case of labor), and really tend to be more afraid of what they are experiencing during childbirth.

It could be I just know a bunch of weenies, however. (And of course, I know that all women and all pregnancies and all deliveries are different, I'm just commenting on one aspect that I've noticed.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:23 PM on May 20, 2006

I'm 31 weeks right now and I have to say the experience has been all over the map. I found out that I was pregnant about 12 days after conception. The first few weeks were really wonderful - I felt this sense of pride in my body's ability to create life.

Then at about six weeks, morning sickness kicked in and all hell broke loose. It was this terrifying sense of losing control over my body - in addition to just feeling like I had a combination of carsickness and a hangover, I had to stop taking some of my antidepressants and could no longer take the medication that helped keep my migraines in check. I felt angry that I could no longer do these things that made me feel better when I was in pain. I was acutely aware of smells - I could tell what kind of soap people had showered with before coming to work - and they all made the nausea ten times worse. I started getting really bad heartburn and could not eat the foods I normally like. On top of it all, I felt this unspoken pressure to always remain chipper and upbeat despite feeling so uncomfortable ("Sure, I'm exhausted and nauseated, but bringing this little angel into the world will make it all worth it") and it made me feel incredibly resentful.

The bright spots for me were seeing the ultrasounds and hearing the baby's heartbeat. The 8 week ultrasound wasn't all that impressive but the 12 week one blew my mind. In the course of 4 weeks, the fetus went from being a pulsating coffee bean to being a tiny person with arms legs and a face. I cried as I watched him swim around.

Most women report feeling better in their second trimester, but for me the third trimester has been the best so far. I've lucked out on most of the 3rd timester problems - I'm not particularly big, I'm not retaining fluid and I'm able to get around pretty well. I still have horrible heartburn pretty much everyday, but it's more or less manageable. Sometimes I can make out the outline of his body and I enjoy rubbing his back. Sometimes it feels like he's checking out his surrounding by touching the sides of the womb with his hands. He responds to the sound of his father's voice with kicks.

It's been quite an experience. I can't say that it has been all that fun or emotionally uplifting, but it sure as hell has been interesting.
posted by echolalia67 at 7:08 PM on May 20, 2006

As I understood it, the question related to only the actual process of giving birth, not to pregnancy and childbirth both. I have had two children, one difficult delivery and this is how I experienced it.

The only explanation of the pain that I think relates to both genders is that it is similar to a really bad cramping, like you might have if you are suffering from food poisoning or something else that would cause gastric distress, except even more intense and located in the lower back as well as the abdomen. At first, this pain comes and goes but as labour progresses, the interval between pains becomes shorter until the pains become almost constant. As the baby moves into position there is a sensation of extreme pressure in the perianal area and as the baby crowns, this sensation of pressure begins to feel as if may rip you apart. I found this part really frightening, like I might break in two. However, once the head has been pushed out, there is a really strong feeling of release of the pressure which is very relieving.

After the births of my children, I also experienced a real endorphin rush that lasted for several hours. Food tasted great, colours were fantastic, etc. My hypothesis is that this is a remnant of the hunter/gather days, so that women could get to a safe place after giving birth.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:48 AM on May 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by alltomorrowsparties at 1:49 AM on May 21, 2006

Thanks to everyone for your posts; I am about 31 weeks pregnant and am curious, interested, petrified, and anxious about the birthing process in general. My pregnancy thus far has been abnormally "normal" - and I say that because I'm with a high risk OB because I have preexisting Type II diabetes going into this adventure, and yet everything has been pretty stable thus far. Morning sickness for me was mild - lots of nausea but no puking. Second trimester was my big energetic trimester, where I started enjoying food again, and third trimester has been tiring and achy, but not too bad at all.

I never knew how much I would love being pregnant. The ability to create and sustain life has been singly the most empowering feeling and state of mind I have ever experienced. Every week when I see my belly grow and feel more and more pronounced movements, including right now where there's a foot jammed up into my ribcage, it fills me with delight and joy. I cannot wait to meet this person inside me. I constantly wonder what he's thinking and feeling. It is amazing.
posted by cajo at 6:14 AM on May 21, 2006

A bit late in the thread, but my flatmate's mum's answer to this very question to some curious trainee-midwives:
'It feels like shitting a melon.'

Which I thought was kinda cute as my flatmate is this melon.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:09 AM on May 22, 2006

Interesting question.

I'm quite pro-choice. Always have been. After my pregnancy, I'm even more strongly pro-choice. Who am I to tell anyone what they should or should not do with their bodies?

That said, I've always been strongly pro-life for myself personally, and pregnancy re-emphasized that for me.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 4:34 PM on May 22, 2006

after having the incredible experience of actually feeling and interacting with a new life inside of you, how could one ever justify having an abortion?

Well, one big thing is that you can't feel and interact with the life inside you during the first trimester, so its kind of a different thing. Until about 14 weeks the baby isn't big enough for you to feel at all, which will make a profound psychological difference.

After 14 weeks, well, those procedures are not common, and not every mother feels ... maternal ... towards the life inside her. Its a parasite after all -- you're physically sick, its sucking energy out of you... but also, many of the terminations that are done after 14 weeks are done because there is something significantly wrong with the fetus. Its possible to argue that many of these terminations are done out of love, from the parents' desire not to bring a child into a short life that will not be anything other than painful suffering.

I'm 32 weeks pregnant now, and I've also had two miscarriages and I terminated a pregnancy almost 20 years ago. I've always been pro-choice and nothing about my current pregnancy has changed that. Had I been told at 20 weeks that this baby I'm now carrying had a severe abnormality -- say anencephaly -- and that it would not live any kind of normal or pain-free life I would not have hesitated to end the pregnancy ... not for my sake, but to save the baby the suffering.
posted by anastasiav at 9:48 PM on May 23, 2006

Found this post through Metatalk, and while I'm late to the thread, I thought I'd add in my experiences.

I didn't know I was pregnant the first three months. I felt run down, and working in a school, just thought I had the flu. I had no traditional morning sickness.

In fact, I sat in the teachers' room and declared that I was never having kids, because raising other peoples' kids all day was stressful enough, and that I couldn't take the leaking out of every hole in their bodies. Two weeks later I found out I was three months pregnant. My first emotional response was embarrassment and fear.

Shortly there after I hit the middle of the third trimester. It was like I was hit by African Sleeping Sickness. Every time I stilled for more than a minute - standing, sitting, or lying down, I conked out. I was also starting to forget things, simple things. I was told it was the hormones, and bought a small pad to carry around and jot things down. The smell off coffee started to make me nauseous, and as I was starting to show, everyone had a comment on that and everything else I put in my mouth. The emotional response at this point? I was frustrated I couldn't stay awake or remember things like my own telephone number, or going to the store for butter, only to buy everything else. I was disturbed by the fluttery there's-an-alien-in-my-belly feeling that sometimes came with the movement. I was cranky that people assumed that despite having lived on my own for several years, I was suddenly in need of a mother hen to care for me.

The last trimester started out normally. I was big. Big enough that people started treating me in that Fragile Mother To Be way. I stopped filtering what I said, because people just assumed it was the hormones, and it made me less cranky anyway. Nothing fit. I wasn't comfortable. I was having trouble fitting into booths when we went out to eat. But at night I started thinking about what it would be like to hold my baby, and I looked forward to it. Night also meant the start of really weird dreams though. I once dreamt my baby was a jelly doughnut, and when I went to pick him up from the crib, he exploded all over me. Sometimes I woke up laughing, sometimes I woke up sure I should be thinking of adoption because I wouldn't be able to be a good parent. I also started looking at my husband, openly staring, and really wondering if he would be a good parent. The emotional response during this time was a grab bag - happy, sad, worried, angry, and hopeful.

My pregnancy was cut short. A month into my last trimester, my water broke and I went into the hospital on forced bed rest. I was kept in a room by myself to keep the possibility of infection down. The baby's lungs weren't developed enough for him to survive birth. I was scared, and I was lonely. People didn't want to visit much, because while a baby is happy news, one that could suddenly die or die and take the mother with it made other people uncomfortable.

With my legs up, the baby rested on my diaphragm and stomach. It was hard to breath, and it took me a long time to eat. I would finish breakfast just as the lunch tray came in. I felt like I was always eating. I was bored. I mentioned scared, right? I was very scared.

My husband tried to be comforting, but when you're in that position, the only people who seemed to understand and make me feel better, were other mothers. They didn't have to talk even. Just knowing that they were there and healthy and so were their kids made me feel better.

The baby's lungs finally reached a point where he could be born, and the doctors induced. I was still a month early. Emotional response? Terrified.

Labor hurt. At first it felt like menstrual cramps. But instead of settling and getting less painful, they got more so. Then it was the worst menstrual cramps I ever had, then the worst in the history of women anywhere, and then it just felt like I was splitting apart each time they hit. It was a white flash of light behind your eyelids kind of pain, that you can't even think through. The contraction would hit and I'd scream until I thought my throat would bleed. Then it would stop and I'd pass out from exhaustion. I'd wake up screaming with the next contraction. Emotional response? Terror. Also anger. I really hated that I had to feel that, and my husband got to stare at me with that goofy comforting look that men get when they love you and just have no idea what to do. He teared up and I told him that if he cried, I'd kick him in the head. He laughed, but I was dead serious at the time.

I also hated the nurses because they wouldn't give me something to make the pain stop. I hated my doctor because he was in his car driving to the hospital, and he was old so I knew he was moving slow, and I wanted him there RIGHT GOD DAMN NOW THISHURTSDAMMIT! I hated the woman next door who could do that breathing shit and drop her baby without a bit of pain, like she was standing out in a field somewhere and had dropped a hundred kids before her. I hated the bed I was in. I hated the sweat damp sheets. I hated the stupid lights that weren't bright enough. I hated that everyone was looking at my vagina, and that my legs weren't shaved.

I didn't want the baby to come out sometimes though. If he came out, then I couldn't keep him safe. It's not like I could carry him around in my pocket. He'd be out there where other people could touch him. Breathe on him. I asked everyone in the room to go wash their hands at least four times.

Then I got an epidural. All the pain instantly stopped, and contractions felt like a building pressure rather than actual pain. I was so grateful. Then I was tired. I conked out and slept for an hour. I woke up towards the end. Everyone was worried because my body was ready, the baby was ready, and then suddenly....I stopped having strong contractions. Everything started happening so quick though, I didn't have time to worry or be scared. I was being told to push, and people were coming in and out of the room. There was a lot of building pressure between my legs. Then between contractions, I told the doctor I felt like I needed to push. He told me I wasn't having a contraction and it wouldn't do much good. I pushed anyway, and my son's head popped out. After that, it was just felt like something sliding out of me. Emotional response? Shock, like what just happened kind of shock.

They handed me this squirming, crying, red thing and I thought, "Is this it? This was what caused all of that?" I was suddenly sure that I wouldn't bond with him, and that I felt nothing. Then my husband tried to take the baby, and I didn't want to let go. Not for a second.

After giving birth, I was tired. I slept for a long time. When I woke up, I was starving. Emotional response then? Satisfied.

Hope that helps.
posted by FunkyHelix at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2006 [8 favorites]

Later, I will come back and post some more, but I the blog I link in my profile is one I wrote while pregnant. I haven't even read it, let alone updated it, since then (more than 3 years ago now). It talks about some of my experiences being with child. There's a whole pregnant woman's blog community out there, too. So if you're really interested you could find some of these and read the experiences as they happen rather than through our memories of years before. I imagine the answers change somewhat with the perspective (and forgetfullness) of the intervening years.
posted by raedyn at 4:07 PM on May 24, 2006

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