Tag Archives: motherhood

Waiting To Forget

When I entered my final trimester of my first pregnancy, I craved every detail of my friends’ birthing experiences. Some shared their stories frame by frame. But I heard from many moms that they didn’t remember much and that I, too, would forget the hardest parts of labor. I was told that the pain would fade, and I’d hold onto the positives: the excitement of beginning contractions, my newborn in my arms. I do remember those wondrous moments. But I also remember the feeling that I’d never get through, the exhaustion with no end in sight, the panic that I’d turn out to be a medical miracle: the only woman in history whose labor lasted forever.

This was nearly 24 years ago, and I’m still waiting to forget.

My first labor lasted forty hours, and I worked with two labor nurses, both extraordinary. My first nurse brought me through endless contractions while my cervix stubbornly remained three centimeters dilated. A doctor examined me around 12 hours into my labor, and I remember his voice: “You’ll feel some pressure.” I answered, “Go right ahead. You could drive a tractor in, and I wouldn’t feel a thing.” To my complete surprise, the doctor, my husband and my labor nurse all laughed. I hadn’t meant to be funny; I was speaking a simple truth.

I remember exactly what my contractions felt like. The tightening in my outer thighs, radiating to my inner thighs. Then, like a vise, clamping my entire pelvis in a slow-motion internal stretching. Stress to pain to something beyond impossible.

I remember when my first nurse left with the change of shift. I lay in a haze, and realized I was feeling a new set of hands. I was spent, wracked, beyond speech. My second nurse recognized I was in an alternate space, unreachable by the spoken word, so she placed her hands on me. Eyes closed, panting quietly, I thought: “These are the hands of a healer.”

Thirty-eight hours into my labor, I remember gripping my husband’s hands – large hands, with hair on the back – and thinking I had never known such comfort. I remember the moment when the head crowned, thinking through a shock-wave of pain: “It feels like a burning bowling ball.”

When my baby was born, they nestled him in my arms. His eyes were wide, and we stared at each other. He stopped crying immediately, his warmth mingling with mine. Tears filled my eyes — not from pain, not from exhaustion, but from wonder.

For years, I waited to forget the hardest parts. Finally the obvious hit me: I’d never forget because I didn’t want to. Sure it was tough; it’s called “labor” for good reason. But labor was a crucial part of my journey. I’ll never forget because remembering is woven into my fabric. It’s with me, in me, here to stay. Exactly where it belongs.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is an author, blogger and mother of three grown children.  Amy wrote her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of training. Tightwire was written as a voice against the stigma of therapy, and to demonstrate the human capacity to heal. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+, gender equality and a Rolling Stones concert. She also collaborates with educators who include her books in their curriculum.

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

2 Comments

Filed under family, motherhood, parenthood

Perfect Moms, Pebbles and Pinafores

During my first five years of parenthood, we lived in a lovely part of San Francisco, filled with perfect moms. Every Saturday morning, they arrived at the neighborhood park looking…well…perfect. Their hair was colored and styled; their outfits were runway-ready; their make-up was impeccable. Their dapper sons and coiffed daughters gummed their Zwieback Crackers in style, regal in their state-of-the-art strollers. Even their bottles sported bells and whistles beyond my wildest dreams. I watched one mom put down a blanket, push a button, and the blanket inflated for a spa-caliber diaper change.

I always showed up in my most comfy sweats, with my brown/gray hair au naturale, no make-up. Usually my one-year-old son pushed his own stroller, with his bag of clean diapers and snacks in the seat. This particular park was his favorite, because the ground was entirely sand, so he could run, fall and jump up unhurt. Best of all, mixed into the sand were thousands of pebbles. He spent hours happily digging for these precious stones, and sorting them into piles. He liked me to sit with him as he constructed each architectural wonder.

So there I sat, more scruffy by the minute, with my son parading pebbles for me to admire. I glanced at the other moms. They chatted, sipping water or coffee, legs crossed on the benches. I loved hanging out with my son; at the same time, I longed to meet other new parents. But that clearly wasn’t going to happen here. While I floundered with naps, sippy-cups and diaper rash, they remained perfect.

One foggy Saturday, a two-year-old girl approached shyly, clueless that she was about to change all of our lives. She wore a pink pinafore, white lace and patent leather shoes. She walked over slowly, and offered her fist to my son. He reached out and she dropped a pebble into his hand. They played for 2 hours.

Next time, the same girl scampered over. I glanced at her mother, who smiled coolly from the bench. Within an hour, three more kids joined the pebble brigade, while their mothers remained on the bench. The children all brought their pebbles for me to admire, then moved on to my son who supervised the sorting into proper piles. They played together beautifully, with the intense concentration of toddlers immersed in a project. I was pleased when my boy’s new friends turned to me for help — an untied shoe lace — a pinafore bow which needed to be retied – a boy’s Batman cape which somehow entangled in a girl’s ponytail and they were stuck together.

Finally, I got up, dusting myself off. My son ran to his stroller to claim his snack, and the pinafore girl jumped into my arms for a hug. At that point, the entire posse of perfect mothers approached. I hesitated, they hesitated, and suddenly it hit me: they didn’t know how to break into my circle any more than I knew how to break into theirs. I introduced myself, awkwardly shaking hands around the pink-bowed/white-laced/pig-tailed bundle in my arms. My son politely offered his pretzels and apple slices to his new friends, and then to their mothers as well. One girl gave him a home-baked oatmeal cookie while another boy offered a carrot. All at once, their snacks turned into a buffet. The picnic table overflowed with juice boxes, cheese sticks, crackers, banana slices. A stunning mom in 2-inch heels ordered pizza, and our buffet became a party.

The following Saturday, to my surprise, every perfect mom dropped down in the sand. Pizza-Mom asked where I had bought my athletic shoes, because her heels didn’t work well in the park. They asked how I played so comfortably with the kids, and I asked how they managed to look so bloody perfect. We all laughed, and our neighborhood community formed on the spot. Hairstyles and haute couture didn’t matter one whit. We were new parents, together, embarking on the most enriching, challenging, terrifying, uplifting journey of our lives.

We met every weekend morning for years. We broke into smaller groups of closer friends, but still remained a supportive community. Over time, we scattered and lost track of each other. I’ll always be thankful to those perfect moms, and to the neighborhood park where I learned that pebbles, pretzels and ponytails trump haute couture every time.

___

Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist, blogger and mother of three grown children. Amy wrote her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of training. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+, gender equality and a Rolling Stones concert. She also collaborates with educators who include her books in their curriculum. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

Leave a comment

Filed under community, motherhood, parenting