Sunday, January 2, 2011


Reflecting back on the births of my children I was struck by how each experience was as different as the children themselves. The only real constant with every birth was how joyful I was to be having a baby, and how that joy was multiplied upon giving birth.  Having children is a wondrous thing, but, just like snowflakes, no two experiences are ever alike.With my first child I was like a blank slate; devoid of any preconceived notions of what lay ahead. Each new development felt like a surprise; beginning with the diagnosis that the ulcer I was suffering from was actually a condition known, in technical terms, as "pregnancy".
I was extremely fortunate to be referred to a wonderful doctor by a friend of mine, and he was the one man, not including my husband, that I shared each of my subsequent pregnancies with. Initially though, I had some doubts to the wisdom of that referral.
Already nervous when I went for my first pregnancy exam I was truly astounded by what the doctor said to me.  Although he spoke impeccable English, despite it being his second language, he did occasionally phrase things in a different way than I was accustomed to. That was how the problem arose.  The conversation went something like this:
"Okay Mrs. Valente, you do not have an ulcer, but you are about 2 to 3 months pregnant.  What kind of sex do you like?"
In a state of shock, at the utter audacity of his question, I squinted angrily in his direction, and in a voice dripping with reproach said, "PARDON ME......WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?????"
The doctor looked back at me with a puzzled expression, and then repeated himself.  "I said, what kind of sex do you like....a boy or a girl?"
We experienced a "pregnant" pause as I processed this information, and, then, tried to articulate an answer.  Finally, I replied, "Oh.  That is was what I thought you meant.  I am hoping for a girl."
Despite this less than auspicious start, we got along famously.  In fact, I believe him to be one of the finest doctors I have ever known.
The rest of my pregnancy unfolded beautifully, and I awaited each new development with great anticipation.  I began to wear maternity clothes around five months, despite the fact that I didn't even look pregnant. I explained to all the women that I knew, about what it felt like to have a baby move, regardless of the number of children they had already given birth to. Even my pregnancy classes brought me great happiness, and I looked forward to implementing all my new found knowledge about natural childbirth and breast-feeding...then I went into labor.
On the morning that I went to the hospital I was filled with all the serenity and peace, that any woman who doesn't have a clue what she is getting into, can possess.  I was ready to participate fully in this amazing event accompanied by the man that I loved.  Those feelings were short lived.
After being admitted I calmly got into bed and began to read the book I had brought along to pass the time. A nurse came by, and asked me if this was my first pregnancy...she then left the room with a knowing smile.  I was confident at the time, that she had recognized my high tolerance for pain and admired my composure, in spite of my lack of experience.  It was about then that the screaming began.
I had only read a couple of paragraphs in my book when I heard a woman down the hall from me screaming at the top of her lungs. Filled with great alarm I put my book down, and then waited to to hear the intercom alerting all the medical staff to a code blue, or whatever it was they said when someone was dying.  In the ensuing  moments I guessed at what terrible agony had befallen this poor woman.  The first thing that came to mind was an organ transplant performed without the benefit of anesthesia. Finally, with the screams unabated, I spotted a nurse walking calmly down the hallway.
I yelled out to her, "Excuse me, nurse...what is wrong with that poor woman.  She sounds like she is in a lot of pain, and no one seems to be responding!"
The nurse chuckled, and then replied, "Oh don't worry dear.  This is her first child. A lot of first timers are real screamers."  I felt the dark dawning of reality hitting me.  I had been lied to.
About two hours later my labor pains had become unbearable.  No one had prepared me for the terrible pain I was experiencing, and since my only refuge lay in cursing and swearing I utilized this tactic with  gusto.
At around this point the resident doctor came in to check on me. Since I was fully aware that I was now in the throes of an extraordinarily painful delivery I was somewhat surprised by what the doctor told me.
"Wow," he said. "You think THIS is bad?  Just wait until you actually get close to delivering the baby.  THEN you are going to feel some pain."
I was enraged by his comment, and had I not been stricken by the vice-like grip of a mild contraction I would have leaped out of the bed and assaulted him.  Wisely, he left the room.
A little while later my own doctor came to sit with me.  Beside me on the bed, he watched the monitor that was tracking my contractions.  This was accompanied by the steady stream of profanities that I had embarked upon a few hours earlier.
Calmly, after some minutes had passed, he decided to comment, "Amy, perhaps if you spent a little less time swearing, and a little more time practicing your breathing I think you might feel better."
By way of reply I began a new tirade; one that included comments about all the men that had propagated the lies that were told during childbirth classes about how practicing breathing techniques would  alleviate pain. He ignored me, and continued to watch the monitor.
Finally, after what seemed like days of suffering, I experienced a moment of clarity.  I was at a hospital, I remembered!!!  Hospitals had narcotic pain killers in them!!!
"Nurse," I shouted. " I want narcotic pain relievers, and I want them now.  I hate natural childbirth and I am sure that my baby hates it, too.  We both want drugs and we want them immediately!"  I was given an epidural, which, while not as good as morphine, did bring me back to some semblance of sanity.
It was about 12 hours since my arrival, when they finally wheeled me into the delivery room.  I was now filled with all the peace and serenity that is supplied by way of an epidural, and was looking forward to finally giving birth to my daughter.
Much to my surprise a nurse then asked me, "Are you alright, dear?  You don't look very well."
I explained that I felt fine. She then explained that she was referring to my husband.  He looked very green, and was somewhat wobbly on his feet. They brought him a chair, and together we shared that amazing moment when a new life enters the world.  It was magnificent.
Back in my room my husband and I took turns holding the baby, and marveling at what a wonderful child our combined DNA had created.  After a while we sat in silence, and just stared at this precious life that we had managed to bring into the world.  A couple of minutes later though, I remembered that I hadn't had a beer in nine months.
"Let's go out for a burger and a beer as soon as I get out of here!" I suggested.
My husband happily agreed, and then we were hit with our new we would need a babysitter when we went out! And thus it began...our lives as parents.


  1. You missed your calling Amy, you should have been a writer. That was a great story.

    Then when your 1st was born, I got to build towers for her to knock down, and I got someone to carve pumpkins for. Those were such great days.....

  2. thank you friend. i was hoping someone would be amused with that story.

  3. I think Mike is right you should be a writer will waiting for the other parts of your story.

  4. thank you, kevin. your kind words are truly appreciated.