Motherhood’s no cakewalk

By Madeleine Somerville

Imagine building a soul inside of you. Slowly creating fingers and toes, a life that will last decades. While you sit reading the paper or stand in line at the grocery store, you are making a person, a little being that will grow and smile and laugh and hate and cry and be in the world because of you.

From the first day you realize the news with a rush of elation and fear and anxiety, to five months in when you can’t fit into your clothes and feel as though you’ve become a tiny god, harboring life within you. As the final day approaches, you feel as though you’re going to burst with nervousness. The large expanse of what used to be your flat belly stretches out before you like some interminable sentence without punctuation. As you’re waking up one morning and struggling to your feet you suddenly feel it, like something’s losing its grip and being released.

After nine months and all the morning sickness and dreaming and the paranoid way you protected your belly from the touch of strangers, the day has come and it’s time for you to meet the creature you’ve been building all these months. It wasn’t easy to get to this point, it wasn’t easy losing your hard-earned figure and giving up sleeping with your back to the sky. It wasn’t easy to give up those glasses of wine, or enduring the pounding in your head rather than risk taking an Advil.

Why, then, after all this time and effort spent creating this perfect little entity, after the exact precision with which your body constructed each tiny feature and thought, would you put that little life and your own in danger simply because you worry the pain might be too great to bear? Why, at the finish line, would you risk everything and opt to be cut open for convenience?

It’s happening more and more these days–there’s even a cute little title attributed to those who voluntarily choose to have a c-section, "too posh to push." In spite of increased blood loss, higher maternal mortality rates and increased risk of damage to the infant, more and more women are opting for voluntary caesarean sections simply because they are anxious about the pain natural childbirth may bring.

It doesn’t make sense, it seems like a miserable cop out–like getting the shiny trophy without the desperate fight to earn it. The hours of gritting your teeth and gripping the offered hands until they turn white, the times you think you’re not going to make it, and you’re sure the pain will last forever. Doesn’t it then seem like a cheat to hold that baby in your arms and not feel exhausted, as though you’d earned it?

Being a mother is hard work, it’s exhausting for the mind, body and soul. From the moment they place that child in your arms, you will do anything to protect it. It’s hard accepting that someone is dependant on you for everything, it’s hard giving up your freedom and simple things like showering every once in a while, or going to the bathroom with the door closed.

The difficulties of being a mother do not stop after the birth but they do start there. If it’s too much at the beginning, and you cop out deciding it’s too much pain and struggle, just too much to do alone, it makes me wonder how the next 18 years will develop. Perhaps it will be too much effort to baby-proof the house, too hard to schedule doctors appointments, too hard even raise the child yourself.

From the moment the pregnancy test delivers the results, your life can no longer be yours. There isn’t any "you" there is only "we," reminiscent of Zen philosophy. Whatever you do has an immediate and direct effect on another life and that is something too great to ignore. If you haven’t already digested that concept after carrying the child for nine months and you can’t sacrifice your comfort for theirs at the beginning of life, I would seriously question the commitment to motherhood and the qualifications of the doctor willing to take such a drastic step.

Pregnancy isn’t a disease that needs to be cured, it’s not a "condition" or something that "afflicts" a certain number of women a year. It isn’t something to "get over with" in the least amount of time and effort. It is a process, it is the delicate undertaking of bringing a life into the world–healthy and happy.

Giving birth is the culmination of months of anticipation, talking to a person inside of you and finally getting to meet them. Isn’t it worth the extra effort, the pain, the fear and the worry?

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