While I was pregnant with my first son, I immersed myself in every baby book, blog or banter that I could. But despite my many hours of diligent research, nothing prepared me for what actually went down in the delivery room.
I’m a fairly laid-back person, so a birth plan wasn’t on my radar. I had a great doctor and knew I didn’t want to feel anything from the waist down when the time came, so to me, that was a pretty solid birth plan. No one mentioned that I should perhaps consider the people that would be present during my labor, or that I should most definitely set some ground rules before allowing anyone to enter the birthing premises. This proved to be a fail on my part.
Let me explain…
My husband and I don’t exactly come from what one would consider “normal” families. There are many strange vines in our family trees, and though most of them are perfectly charming in their uniqueness, when they’re all gathered into the same tiny room things get a bit awkward. Really, really awkward.
But alas, we alerted the troops the second we arrived at the hospital.
My dad was the first one to show up — before the Pitocin and mind-numbing contractions crippled my ability to be social. My mother passed away when I was very young, so for most of my life I was raised by this single, Southern, military man. He is tattooed and intolerant of anyone that brings shame upon the American flag, and his voice carries farther than Morgan Freeman’s. Thankfully, he also comes with a stunning sense of humor, and his conversational skills rival those of Jimmy Fallon.
Shortly after my doctor cranked up the Pitocin, my father-in-law and his wife showed up. His wife, whom my husband and I had the utmost affection for, happens to be his fourth wife, and she is also the second woman that he married after getting divorced from my husband’s mom in a very bitter battle. It had been nearly 10 years since my husband’s parents had spoken, and even longer than that since they had anything decent to say to one another. But the arrival of a sweet little baby is a beautiful gift that should be shared with everyone, and events like that have the uncanny ability to bring people together, right?
My mother-in-law was next on the roster to enter the thunder dome, followed shortly thereafter by my father-in-law’s parents, both of whom want nothing to do with one another. By the time they arrived, my Pitocin had been quadrupled and I had yet to receive my epidural. My mother-in-law wasn’t exactly thrilled that her ex-husband beat her to the main event, but she was friendly nonetheless. She is a designer, so amid the small talk between her and her ex-in-laws there was some uncomfortable questioning over what exactly a designer does (um, designs, obviously). She sought refuge next to my dad, who at this point is wishing that the hospital housed a pub.
Soon after, my socially awkward friend and her even more socially awkward brother joined the party, and my grandparents, who were clueless to the many tensions happening in the room, followed behind. And last but not least, my sister-in-law arrived a few minutes later with her 12-year-old son, because of course. Once the whole gang was present, our families proceeded with what looked like a tennis match of back and forth underhanded one-upping while my dad smiled awkwardly, and my husband tried to ease the angst of this whole debacle.
To make matters worse, amid this island of misfit families and somewhere around 7 centimeters I still hadn’t been given my epidural. Every minute or so my entire body would contort itself into a sweaty, trembling ball until I blacked out due to the tormenting pain of Pitocin contractions. During these contractions our families would watch the monitor and make statements like “Oh, that was a good one!” and “Yikes, that must have hurt.”
When the nurse finally herded our families out so that she could check my dilation, she asked if I had had enough of them yet. To which I responded, “Please, for the love of all that is holy, get them the f*** out of here!” My mother-in-law ignored this, and stuck around through my epidural and until I reached the point of pushing before she was politely escorted out.
After the 12 most awkward hours of my life, our son was finally born. Our families oohed and aahed and seemed hypnotized by his fuzzy little head. Though they temporarily united with his arrival, the damage had already been done.
That day my husband and I took away a very valuable lesson that we carried with us during the birth of our second son, which we executed with the stealth of Jason Bourne. When my contractions really kicked in, I went to the hospital alone while my husband stayed with our first son. He stayed at home until it was almost time to push, and at that time we called my dad to babysit while we executed the delivery of our second son without a six-ring circus surrounding us.
Boundaries are important, folks.
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