By Clare Smith | June 15, 2018

Part I: Pregnancy

There is a certain mystery that surrounds the phenomenon of being pregnant. A woman has all sorts of internal changes happening; she is bonding with a person with whom no one else can come into contact; she has a relationship with the world that has been redefined by her situation in the world; and she has a tactile connection to life that is indescribable to others - and of course the emotional roller-coaster. To heighten that mystery, no two women have the same kind of pregnancy, and even with the same woman, her pregnancies vary from one to another.

We all hear stories of fear relating to pregnancy because the life of the mother will never be the same again, but there are also pregnancies that are simply a matter of joy for mothers, even if it means putting up with the less than pleasant side effects. I am one of the latter category. Contrary to the many Hollywood depictions of fear regarding a positive pregnancy test (something which is also common in many pro-life films), I am the woman who sobs over negative pregnancy tests, and leaps for joy to see a plus sign, even though I know it means that I will be waging war with my stomach until my next trimester.

People love sharing their fun stories about pregnancy, the funny food cravings, the odd situations from emotional mood swings, etc. My pregnancy stories mostly involve aversion to all food, but having to force myself to eat or I know I will feel even more sick. My first pregnancy I even had to eat three or four times in the middle of the night to keep the nausea from being extreme the next day. I wish I could say that I was like my friend, who realized she was pregnant because of the lengths she discovered herself considering to take to get lasagna in the house immediately, or the friend who had a different craving with every pregnancy and has since discovered that each child goes to the food she craved as his comfort food now that he is grown. I don't have stories of rising at 2am with a desperate need for fruit loops and a husband willing to drive 40min each way to the nearest grocery store just for me (not for lack of a willing husband, but this theory is yet untested), but regardless of the lack of amusement to my story, I would not change being pregnant for the world. I love getting to bond with someone no one else has met, and before I starting having children, I missed them, even though I had not met them.

Even the act of bonding with a child in utero is different for every pregnancy. Different women will bond in different ways, and will do so differently in different situations. Before I was taking care of another baby, I would read my baby bump books, and talk to the one in utero all day. Now that I am chasing after my one-year-old most of the day, my new little one is "along for the ride" with everything we do and rather than having his own personal bonding (at least not often) is often hearing the stories and songs and expressions for the big sister. I can make a conscious effort to include, but that is mostly for my benefit of creating that bond with my newest baby. However, even if no conscious bonding is taking place, there is no way not to be affected by the loss of a child. To borrow a phrase from the Broadway musical I Do, I Do, "instead of one, I am two" and that is something of which it is impossible not to be conscious.

When any woman is pregnant, her child really is doing everything with her. It is a mysterious thing that happens even when I am not actively aware of it. Sometimes mothers find it easier to bond when they know if they are having a boy or girl. They get to talk about and to their child by name, they get to have a more targeted nesting experience, etc. I have a friend who always knew as soon as she was pregnant even before she saw the test and who always knows if the child will be a boy or girl, even before the ultrasound. I, on the other hand, am only certain of the fact that whatever I think the sex of my child will be, will be wrong (and yes, I thought that I was going to have a boy when I had my baby girl). My husband and I have been waiting for birth to find out the sex of our children. We simply bond with the baby as baby until then. Many people get excited when they find out we don't know. For us, there has been fun in the mystery and extra joy and excitement in the delivery room with the anticipation of finding out.

Mystery envelops the pregnant woman herself and the child she carries. Mysterious in her new relationship with the world, in her bonding with her child as no one else can, and in the wonder we all share about who that child will be. The one thing in which we are all united, however, is that as the pregnancies near completion, we just can't wait to meet our as independent beings and discover their personalities. Pregnancy is the unfolding of that new little life, and the unraveling of the beginning of a mystery and story that will only deepen and become more unique as it continues to unfold.

Part II: Delivery

Delivery stories are typically the most prized personal stories that mothers have. Like pregnancy, the stories are prized and varied with each child. Women love to tell their stories. While most men tell stories from the sports fields, or hunting and fishing, most women tell their stories about giving birth.

My baby was three weeks early, in breech, and butt first. There was no way to turn her, so she was a cesarean section. The nurses were thrilled that I didn't know if it was a girl or boy, listened excitedly to the names we had picked for either sex, and declared my husband the bearer of the news. Rather than telling me it was a girl, he leaned towards me and said "It's Gianna." I have heard many times the stories of the long labors, short labors, home births, Vbacs, water births etc. of my friends. I have heard about husbands who have had to be ordered not to joke with the nurses, husbands who know exactly with imagery and breathing techniques help, the difference between having and not having a birthing bar, doctors who aren't ready and have told the mother not to push because the gloves were not yet on, children being present because it was early and the baby sitters did not wake up to the phone ringing, emergency cesareans sections, and the mother who gets calmer the more pain she experiences and confuses all the nurses. The stories are as different as the children who follow.

Any time you want a good story, ask a mother about delivery. If it was hard, she can revel in the accomplishment. If it was simple (as far as deliveries go), it is often a fun story to tell.

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