I’ve long thought Lindsey Mead a beautiful, thoughtful writer, as she illustrates here in her personal story of the birth of her daughter, Grace. Lindsey continues the series of visiting writers here at True STORIES. discussing the times they were most scared:
“Matt!” I stared at him, panicked. I was wearing a loose hospital Johnny, which was open in the back, and sitting on a big blue birthing ball. “We can’t do this. No way. We aren’t ready to have a baby.” I pushed sweaty hair out of my face and shook my head.
“Linds.” Matt stood in front of me, holding my hands. He looked bewildered. “What, precisely, is your plan?”
I had been in labor 32 hours and was 8 centimeters dilated. Grace’s birth was about fear and resistance. It was about my gritting my teeth and stubbornly laying in for the stay. Part of the resistance was that she was posterior, but it was also about my own utter lack of preparation to be a mother. I was in battle against myself: I was holding on, not ready to embrace a new life (mine, not hers) and identity. I was not ready to face the end of a phase of my life, the multiple deaths that are contained in birth. The inexorable force of a baby descending the birth canal went to war against my own quite powerful subconscious. I was in labor for over 36 hours and at 9+ centimeters for 3 hours.
I cried and I screamed and I begged to be put out of my misery: I distinctly recall asking my midwife, completely seriously, to put a bullet in my head and just cut the baby out. The pain was both incendiary and incandescent. It was a crucible through which I had to pass, the heat so extreme that I was rendered molten. It was an animal experience, a raw, passionate, and terrifying introduction to a ferocity I had never imagined I possessed.
I delivered Grace myself. At my midwife’s instruction, I reached down and put my thumbs under her armpits and pulled her onto my own chest. I am more grateful than I can express for photographs of this moment, because my own memories of it are jumbled, refracted through a prism of emotion I did not understand.
I thought I had been afraid as I labored. But that paled compared to the overwhelming fear that swamped me in the next weeks.
It took me many months to climb out of the darkness that descended suddenly and undeniably after Grace’s birth. I have never been as afraid as I was in those dark, early-winter weeks: afraid that she would never stop crying, afraid that I had made a huge mistake, afraid that I would never figure out how to love this baby girl.
Of course, I did. My love for my daughter, who is now ten, is as all-encompassing and as certain as the sky. But I can never forget the terrible, toxic fear of those first few weeks. Having made it through that bleak time with Grace’s hand in mine, I’m pretty sure I will never be that scared again.