Birthing each of my three children has without a doubt been the highlight of my life. I love the buoyancy and general zen I feel while pregnant. I enjoy the suspense and anticipation of exactly when the birth will happen, the searing raw agony of the event itself and then the final glory and that enormous firework display of pride and love at the end. I’m blown away by the vast, screaming, mucousy, bloody, pulsing majesty of it all. I have never felt so fully alive as I do in the moment of childbirth. It’s almost spiritual, like I’m the closest I’ve ever been to heaven on earth, like I’m on holy ground. It’s been my personal burning bush encounter. No recreational drugs, no bungee jumping, no sky diving and other stereotypical high-inducing activities could possibly beat the emotional, physical and spiritual buzz of pushing a baby out through my hips.
Kate Rose Surycz was born at 19h41 on Wednesday 4 October.
Whenever you have a vaginal birth, the first question people ask is, ‘Did you have an epidural?’ When you have your appendix out, no one asks if you had an anaesthetic. I suppose that giving birth without pain relief is the equivalent of putting your body through a challenging physical feat such as the Ironman or Comrades Marathon. It’s impressive and a big test of stamina.
I decided many weeks ago that this time I would have no epidural. When Jessica was born, I suspected my epidural had been administered too late and had therefore not worked anyway. This time, and since it’s my last baby, I wanted to go for the burn and feel what pure childbirth involves. I’m not the slightest bit sporty so childbirth sans epidural seemed an interesting opportunity to test my physical endurance, just for the fun of it. On Wednesday evening when I was in the midst of intense contractions and only a measly 3cm dilated, the gynae asked if I would like an epidural. I fleetingly remembered my commitment to no pain relief and said without hesitation, ‘Yes please! I would like an epidural’. That was a quick test of my willpower – i.e. non existent.
It turned out the epidural was not necessary as I went from 3cm to fully dilated in about 20 minutes and it was too late anyway. I had to just ride it out head on as the pain chewed into me and turned me inside out. Screaming required too much energy. Instead I groaned and grunted, like an animal. I’ve never heard sounds coming out of me like that before. Childbirth is so raw and primal. It only lasted about forty minutes and then it was over. It wasn’t so bad, in hindsight. In the moments of pushing, I felt as if I was being unzipped and torn in two from top to bottom but, in actual fact, I didn’t tear at all or require any stitches down below, which was a surprise. I’m not sure if I’m most chuffed with myself for doing childbirth without an epidural or doing it all in French.
This time I got Al to video the birth and I’ve watched it over and over. Al couldn’t understand my interest in reliving such a gruelling experience and didn’t see the point in video souvenirs. I said, ‘Al if you don’t video this for me, we will need to have a forth child’. Needless to say, he did a super job of filming. I also wanted to watch the expulsion of the placenta. It looks like a big steak. I can’t believe my body made that. I’ve examined Kate’s fingers, nails, eyebrows, eyes, ears, toes and other body parts and thought ‘My body made this. My body made that’. (Well, God did but using my body – you know what I mean). It’s surreal and amazing that a new and complete little human grew out of me. I keep studying her and whispering, ‘Kate, I can’t believe you were inside me.’
One of the reasons I’m so awed by childbirth is this raging torrent of love I felt when blue, bloody, mucousy Megan, Jessica and now Kate were finally pulled out and then placed on my chest. It’s amazing how love expands and multiples. It’s not like you get a finite quantity of love to distribute among all your children. There’s so much to go around. I love them all equally and abundantly.
There are different types of love in a family. My love for Alastair is completely different to the love I have for my children. The love between a husband and wife is conditional whereas my love for my children is not. I always scoff when people say they have unconditional love for a spouse. Alastair and I agree that our love for each other is dependent on certain non negotiable deal breakers – fidelity is an example. This makes spousal love like a crystal glass. It’s beautiful and treasured and precious but oh so delicate and breakable.
There is nothing fragile about maternal love. It is like a thick steel rope that connects me to my girls. It cannot break. It is completely and utterly unconditional. There are no deal breakers, it’s for forever and always and will never ever end. There is nothing that can possibly make me love them less. I will easily maim, kill, or destroy anyone who tries to harm them. I am the lioness and they are my cubs.
My milk has come in fast and furious and for Kate it’s like drinking out of a burst fire hydrant. Breastfeeding on both sides takes about 10 minutes. As expected, now that I have given birth and I’ve got my milk, I’ve lost the zen I had in the last months of pregnancy and my hormones are ricocheting around my body. I knew this would happen. I braced myself for the hormonal backlash and expected it would feel as if I’ve freefallen off an emotional cliff face. I believe this is a fault in our design and a flaw in the childbirth process. Why, God? Why does one need to feel so emotional and unhinged in the aftermath and especially as the milk comes in? It’s ridiculous!
Megan and Jessica are enthralled by their new sister. They seem to love her, possibly a bit much. I may have to teach them how to channel their love and adoration in calm and gentle ways because I’m worried that their version of a hug is putting Kate in a head lock and their version of a kiss is more like mouth to mouth resuscitation. I can already see that Kate will build up good germ resistance, thanks to her big sisters. Megan and Jessica discovered her dummy when they arrived at the hospital for a visit. They each sucked and sampled it and gave it a good fiddle in their grubby paws. Once they left and before I could give the dummy a thorough clean, the midwife popped it back in Kate’s mouth. I remember when Megan was born, I sterilized her dummies every day. Sorry Kate!
I’m looking forward to starting our new normal as a family of five. Some people take it upon themselves to be prophets of doom and warn me how hard it will be to juggle life with three kids but my theory is that running an efficient household and feeling on top of things is mostly about routine, organisation and general good project management. Now to put that theory to the test.