The idea of being pregnant was something that always frightened me. I would sometimes dream of finding myself suddenly large with child, wondering how I could undo it without having to endure the unimaginable pain of childbirth. But all I had to do was wake up to solve the problem.
When I actually became pregnant, I was so excited that I managed to quell the fears by telling myself over and over that millions of women had done it before me. It helped that pregnancy treated me well. I had a few queasy moments in the first trimester, but the morning sickness that I dreaded never materialized. Other than my sometimes irrational emotional outbursts, to which my husband Allan and the doctors were sympathetic, and my swollen, misshapen feet, to which my shoes were not, I breezed through and reveled in the attentions and kindnesses generally bestowed upon pregnant women.
In the ensuing months, Allan and I spent time thinking about baby names, preparing the nursery (that was mostly me), and shopping for the overwhelming myriad of baby items that seem indispensable now, but many of which didn't exist when we were babies. We marveled at the increasing size of my belly and the lively being within. Our amniocentesis results came back normal, and we were thrilled.
During this period, one friend took the time to send me an e-mail outlining all the gory details of childbirth that most people don't talk about and urging me to get an epidural. Despite my fears, I imagined that I would be able to bear the pain and avoid all the invasive medical hookups that Allan and I learned about in the birthing class at our hospital. At my last few prenatal visits, I informed my doctors of my apprehension about labor, as well as my reluctance to have an epidural or an episiotomy. I was, at least philosophically, inclined toward as natural a birth experience as possible.
As my due date drew near, I began to panic about having every possible labor aid that I read about in my stack of pregnancy books. Certain that I couldn't do without a birthing ball -- one of those large rubber balls that a woman can either sit or lean on during labor -- I quickly ordered one online with only days to spare. I carefully selected my most beautiful, soothing, and spiritual music CDs for relaxation, while Allan purchased batteries for the mini stereo system we were bringing. By the time we were prepared to go to the hospital, it looked as if we planned to move in.