Tall Thought 29: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

"I'm Having a Baby."

When I first found out I was pregnant, a panic set in. I couldn’t conceptualize the actual act of giving birth. I would say to myself, “How is this baby going to come out of me? I’m not physically able to do this.” Maybe my equipment is different than other ladies, but I just couldn’t visualize this working out. I also didn’t like the idea of my body becoming a rental space for another human. I would look at Chris and become enraged as he drank his bourbon. Why can’t you do the heavy lifting? I saw the whole ordeal as completely unfair.

Even though I was overjoyed about the new angel I was bringing into this world, I was constantly searching for birthing stories – to have some way to measure the pain. I would ask my Mom, “Is the pain comparable to breaking a bone?” … “Kind of, but not really”, she would respond. Needless to say, I could never get a straight answer out of her, or anyone else. Their response was always, “You’ll forget about the pain, as soon as you see your baby.” I wasn’t buying it. To add insult to injury, there was a lot of chatter about natural child birth. (By “chatter”, I mean my doctor and everyone else asking me if that was something I was interested in.) My retort was always, “I don’t even go to dinner sober – so NO.” Pass the epidural, please.

Stella was about a week late, and even though I didn’t want to go through childbirth – I certainly couldn’t take the state I was in for another day. So, my doctor suggested that I eat spicy food to expedite the process. “Ok”, I thought, “here we go with more voodoo.” But I love spicy food, so I took matters into my own hands. Chris procured the hottest chicken wings on Taylor Street and about 2 hours later: I was in labor.

We hopped in Chris’s souped-up Crown Vic (it went about 120 mph) and took Lower Wacker Drive to Northwestern Hospital. As soon as I stepped into the elevator, my water broke – and that’s when the contractions got really bad. Everyone was right: it is a pain you really couldn’t articulate. It renders you paralyzed and you go inside yourself, unable to even respond to questions.

As the nurses gather around to prep me for the process of childbirth, one of them had a question: “Haven’t I seen you modeling on The Oprah Show?” I mustered up the breath to reply with a yes, and she continued: “What’s Oprah like?!” In my head I was thinking that this was clearly NOT the time to talk about Oprah lady, because: I was in labor! But then that lovely woman gave me the magical epidural … and I gave her all my Oprah stories – and squeezed in a request for a vodka/soda and a parliament light.

After the epidural, it was all downhill from there. For the most part, it was pain free – and Stella was born a few hours later. For nine months, I was completely fixated on the fear of the pain of childbirth. So much so, that I’d completely missed the scariest part of the process: the moment when you leave the hospital and walk into your home with your new baby. The real fear was the terrifying realization that I was responsible for another human being: forever.

And Northwestern hospital doesn’t give you any drugs for that.