There are many firsts in one's lives: first kiss, first time driving a car, first time birthing a baby. The first time giving birth comes with many new experiences. For example, laboring to have Danny was also the first time I ever pooped in front of a bunch of people and the first time my mom and sister saw me naked as an adult. It was also the first time I was ever fed a milkshake by my sister while I sat in a bathtub.
I think that last example typifies how my sister was during my pregnancy and labor. When I was pregnant with Danny, Beth was uber supportive. She is by nature, but during this time she outdid herself, even though she was dealing with her own issues pertaining to pregnancy. I won't go into details, but at the time she and her husband were grappling with some serious decisions regarding whether they should/could/would get pregnant. Despite my sister's stress over these issues, Beth was nothing less than ecstatic for me and my impending motherhood.
Which is why I asked her if she would accompany me to the hospital and, along with Bil, be my labor coach. In my Bradley method class, the teacher had suggested that you have an additional person helping, along with your husband. She suggested a woman, someone who could be nurturing and sensitive, and someone who could assist if Bil needed a break.
Bil and I went home and discussed our options. I had many friends who would have assented to my request, but the only person who I would be totally comfortable with was my sister. I wasn't embarrassed to make such a big request of her. I knew she would not hesitate to say yes, and more importantly, that her yes would be totally sincere. I wasn't worried about how I would look or act in front of her, and I knew she wouldn't judge me if I opted for an epidural or happened to do something embarrassing, like say, scream obscenities at Bil.
Well, Beth not only said yes, but she insisted on reading my Bradley method book so she would be totally prepared. She was really excited.
Maybe a little too excited.
After the 87th time she called to ask if I had lost my mucous plug, I started to worry a bit. Would Beth's exuberance prove to be too much while I was laboring? I wasn't sure, but as my mom would also be in the labor room, I figured she could run interference if need be.
It turned out, my concerns were absolutely unfounded; Beth was a super star. Most of the nurses assumed she was my doula, she was that good. She took charge and assured me I was doing fine. She helped me get in different positions and encouraged me to breathe. She made sure I relaxed every muscle, drank enough fluids and concentrated on the fact that I would soon have a tiny baby to cuddle.
Though I normally don't much appreciate being bossed around, it turns out that during labor, that is exactly what I need. I was too absorbed in trying to deal with the pain to think about much else, and this is where Beth took charge. What I never fully realized about my sister is that she is amazingly confident in the face of crisis. She doesn't tend to panic, like I do.
I have told Beth that I never would have made it through that labor without her. She dismisses that modestly and says I would have been fine.
But, she's wrong.
The labor with Danny was really difficult; nothing went well, and my midwife (not the midwife I wanted, but one in the practice who was on duty) was no help at all. She refused to give me any drugs, even the antibiotics that I should have gotten since my water had broken over 12 hours before. She gave no advice on how to make the labor progress and didn't catch that I had a fever until my sister pointed out how I was shaking uncontrollably. The worst of her sins, however, was judging me for how I was reacting to pain. This from the midwife who had never experienced the pain of childbirth for herself.
The worst part was that at one point, I started to panic. Really panic, in a way I have never done before or since. I couldn't focus and I was truly frightened. I had been in labor for over 18 hours and was trying so hard to keep myself together. The midwife insisted I couldn't have an epidural, and I was starting to feel as if I were losing my mind.
Beth was the one to keep me together. She got close to my face and assured me everything was going to be fine. She made me breathe and relax, and I really believe she saved me from having a panic attack.
My sister has always been there for me. Always. Through a bad breakup that I was sure was crushing my heart, through a mild bout with depression, and in all the fun, happy, and mundane times in between.
This experience with giving birth to Danny was special, though, and it changed the way I saw my sister. It was the first time that I had ever seen Beth in such a stressful situation where she put everything on hold and focused on someone's needs so intently and completely. I never realized how amazing she is under immense pressure, and I had no idea she had such a gift with working with people in pain. I don't think I had ever been in such a vulnerable position with someone before, at least as an adult, but she took complete care of me, and for that I will forever be grateful.
I have always known she was there for me, but this act of selfless service meant more to me than I can ever express. And now, there is never a doubt in my mind at how far she is willing to go for someone she loves. I really admire that about her.
To this day, I have so wanted to do something special in return for her. I wanted to make some gesture that would express how much it meant to me to have her there. And I have never been able to figure out what would work, what could possibly compare to the sacrifice she made for me.
I know a blog post isn't much, but it's a start, right?
For more posts on firsts, see the Spin Cycle.