“Come on, Mom,” I heard my daughter, Joy, say as I swam past her in the pool one summer, “swim UNDER the water.”
Joy is a fish and cannot conceive of anyone actually enjoying anything short of complete submersion. Once again, however, I gave my standard reply: “I don’t want to get my hair wet.” With that, Joy gave me one of her classic “parents are so stupid” looks and swam away.
Oh well, I thought, easier to deal with an angry child than with hair that takes hours to dry. I was proceeding to do my breast strokes when suddenly something caught my eye – PREGNANT WOMAN AT TEN O’CLOCK. This is a “weakness” of mine (ask my kids). If there is a woman within a one block radius of me who looks even remotely pregnant, I feel compelled to talk to her. Only once have I made the mistake of asking the question “Are you pregnant?!” to a non-pregnant woman. The look she gave me made any sort of verbal reply unnecessary.
But there was no mistaking the condition of this woman. She was ripe, ready to pop, about to pass the proverbial watermelon.
“When’s your baby due?” I asked as she floated by on her noodle (new-fangled plastic floatation device).
“In about two weeks,” she said with a smile. No outright “get out of my face” look, I thought, on with the inquisition.
“Where are you having the baby?”
“Boulder Community Hospital.”
“Doctor or midwife?”
“Are you taking any classes?”
“Just the classes they give at the hospital.”
“Have you read any childbirth books?”
“Just the pamphlets they pass out in the classes.”
“So if you’re taking a class, I guess that means you’re going to be having natural childbirth.”
“Well, they said not to be attached to any particular way of giving birth.”
Now, I am not a homebirth snob, but part of me felt like hitting this woman over the head with her noodle and screaming “WAKE UP WOMAN! Don’t you have a mind of your own?! This is one of the most important events in your life. Doesn’t that merit doing a little bit of independent research?!”
Instead, however, I wished her well and swam away. I’m always eager to share my knowledge of birth with anyone who asks, but this woman wasn’t asking, and these days, I’m not into proselytizing.
Suddenly I felt the “urge to submerge.” To hell with my hair, I thought, I’m going under. Instantly I was surrounded by cool, blue water. I swam along the bottom of the pool and delighted in the sensation of water flowing through my long hair. I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed underwater swimming as a child, but now it was all coming back to me. I surfaced to find Joy watching me.
“Mom, you got your hair wet!” she cried. My simple act, she knew, would now enable me to go into her world for a while. For the rest of the afternoon we had underwater tea parties, swam through each other’s legs, and just played. Going under water had made all the difference in the world.
That night I thought about the pregnant woman at the pool and realized why her answers had bothered me. Just as I had been staying on the surface of the water initially, she, I knew, would be staying on the surface of birth. She would not be getting her hair wet, so to speak. She would fight birth with every ounce of her being. And if that wasn’t enough, the medical profession would be there to give her a “little” Demerol to stay “on top” of the contractions. This woman would not be submerging, and therefore, would not be finding her own power. Later she would talk about the “horrible pains” and the “blessed Demerol,” never realizing that her resistance to the birth, and not the birth itself, had caused her so much pain.