My second son
At first, I sang through the pain.
By the end, I’d given up on singing. I was screaming, sobbing, and cursing, taking some comfort in knowing each surge of pain moved me closer to meeting my second child. The pain would pass and leave in its place a miracle.
And, indeed, ten years to the day after meeting my now-husband, I held our second child in my arms and rejoiced.
I really didn’t want an epidural.
My decision didn’t reflect an urge to show how strong I am; strength is far more than that. Nor was it borne from reading research.
It came from remembering. My last labor was a succession of interventions that arguably needn’t have been. Thanks to an epidural then, I didn’t feel much pain, but I did become profoundly groggy and lethargic, neither of which made for a smooth or timely labor.
Worse, when my first son, Li’l D, was born, he showed the same lethargy. I couldn’t rouse him for most of our hospital stay. When awake, he showed little interest in breastfeeding. I left the hospital with admonitions that he must eat soon, but no practical guidance about how to make that happen.
The next several weeks attempting to breastfeed were a struggle. The struggle consumed most my waking thoughts. I couldn’t be sure it was because of any one factor, but I suspected the epidural played a role. My own epidural “before” and “after” experiences were so divergent, I wondered what might have been if my son hadn’t been in a stupor his first couple of days. If he’d been awake enough to engage.
My second son, Littler J, almost immediately roused when tickled and stirred at jarring, unexpected sounds.
He fed easily. At one point, a nurse even exclaimed, “Eating again?!” I replied that this was so much better than the opposite.
It was only several days after Littler J was born that I looked into the connection between epidurals and breastfeeding. There does appear to be a correlation between epidurals and difficulty breastfeeding. See, for example, “Epidurals: risks and concerns for mother and baby.”
There were likely other factors at play in both labors, but my post delivery reading made me glad I opted to skip the epidural this time around. I feel like I traded a few hours of pain for weeks of suffering.
Yesterday, I dressed in a cute outfit and walked to the nearby drugstore. It was a small but beautiful thing.
Last time, I spent so much time and energy struggling to breastfeed that I had little left over for anything else.
This time, with my littlest one not yet a week old, I’ve not only made a trip to the drugstore, but another to the aquarium. I’ve gone shopping with my now four-person family, and this morning carried my littlest one on a solo shopping adventure.
I’m tired, and moving slowly, but I am happy. I am down-in-my-bones, irrepressibly happy. I’d feel it even without the memory of last time, but remembering last time makes this joy feel all the more vibrant.
As my husband paces the house with our tiny son in his arms, I smile.
As my littlest one stirs from sleeping on my chest, I smile.
As my oldest son kisses his little brother’s toes, I smile.
As I awaken to the sounds of my littlest one cooing–not crying, because he reserves that for expressing his indignity at exposure to cold–that he is ready to eat, I smile.
I’m tired, yes, but I’m smiling.
Oh, how I am smiling.