Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Musing on labor...

Yesterday was Labor Day, a day dedicated (the United States Department of Labor website informed me) to paying “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to muse on a special contribution of mine and my husband’s to our world.  Going back nine and a half months, I recall a day that may never be recognized as a national holiday, but will forever be the day that first comes to mind when I hear the word “labor.” 

I’ve heard it said that no one gets a medal for having a baby without drugs.  “You know," the triage nurse said to me in a ho hum tone while I breathed deeply through another intense and painful contraction (I found out later that I was likely in what some people describe as transition at the time), "you can have an epidural right up until the baby's here."  We had just gotten through telling her I was going to try this without an epidural.  "Please don't offer me an epidural unless we ask for one" I had handwritten in very friendly penmanship in my "birth plan."  But even in the midst of labor, the look on her face was unmistakable to me, the sound of her voice was clear.  She was annoyed that I was exerting energy, that I was experiencing pain.  

It felt kind of like if someone saw you biking up a hill on your way to work one morning (maybe this is a choice you'd made to get a little exercise, or because you liked the way you felt after a rigorous bike ride up a hill, or because you wanted to reduce your carbon footprint, or save gas money) and someone yelled at you out their window while driving by “You know, no one gets a medal for riding their bike to work!”

I've also seen the opposite happen...  Someone says to an expecting mother, “You’re not going to use drugs during labor are you?”  Revisiting the biking analogy, it’s as though you’re driving to work one morning and a person standing outside your car yells at you, “You really should walk to work you insert judgmental adjective (Lazy jerk!  Fat ass loser!  Wasteful scum!)” 

We don't tell people how to begin their work days.  We don't make critical comments to people who make a different transportation choice from our own.  We don’t make people feel bad for trying to do something they perceive as good.  Or at least, we shouldn't. 

I would like to propose that we honor all the ways in which women labor babies into the world.  And I’d like to do it without negative commenting.  I’d like to allow women to celebrate their own experiences of labor without needing to put them down. 

I’d like to celebrate my own labor.

No, I did not get a medal for laboring our daughter into the world without pain medication, but I didn't need one.  Actually, I reject the notion that any person needs promise of a medal to motivate her to do something difficult.  My labor was a rigorous, fast-paced, intense, and at times painful ride.  With my loving husband by my side, as well the reassuring calm of my doula’s voice (see below), I felt every contraction, deep breathed and counted, moaned and shouted, and even “hee hee hoo-ed” just like in the movies.  As I pushed, I asked for a mirror, and got to watch the most beautiful, perfect, glorious baby fly out of my body and into the world.  It felt amazing.  I felt accomplished.  I felt proud.  I didn’t need a medal.  I would have chucked that thing through a window.  It’s presence would have felt like a ridiculous belittling token next to the living, breathing, cuddly piece of love that we received instead. 

In my view, that’s pretty “nice work, if you can get it.”
If you're looking for a calm, cool, comforting doula with a lot of heart in the Los Angeles area, please look up Kate Zachary.  She's precisely the kind of marvelous, Midwestern, (someday) mama, we wanted right by our sides.

Nice Work If You Can Get It - today's blogpost title is a song by George and Ira Gershwin

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