My sister is in a hospital bed in San Francisco, battling through her 20th hour of labor. She is with her husband and a midwife, and long ago gave up her oath to not receive an epidural. She's had two, as of last count. I can't, of course, imagine what her pain is like. I know what everyone says, you forget it, it's all worth it in the end, etc., but at the moment, I doubt my sister cares what the common wisdom has to say on this subject.
I'm scared, because I don't understand what is happening to her. My mother tells me that "everyone does this," but not everyone does. I didn't, and I won't. There are complicated emotions surrounding this birth for me. I can't stop thinking about Mease, but I also think about myself: the cold fact that my window of opportunity for pregnancy and birth has shut. I will never experience what she is now, which on the face of it is just grand--who wants such misery, such animal torture?--on the other hand, I will never hold my baby, my flesh and blood, and know that mysterious bond that new mothers feel with their infant. Mease and I will be separated by experience: I will never know or understand what she is going through, what she will experience over the next several months. I fear that this will separate us a little, as my divorce placed a barrier of (bitter) experience between us. She couldn't fathom what it felt like to watch a marriage dissolve, and nothing I tried to explain to her really made sense. Of course, her new life will be mostly a positive. Perhaps what will link us is this one commonality: she will know in a few short weeks what it feels like to have absolutely no control over any aspect of her life.
When her child reaches the age of six, THEN she and I will have a lot to talk about. That's when my kid came along. I missed Mosca's babyhood, and landed right in the middle of her Pokemon obsession. Since then, it's been six years of parenthood, and learning how to share her with many other interested parties, not the least of whom is her biological mother. I have learned over these six years that giving birth does not make one a parent; even missing the first six years has not mattered all that much to my relationship with Mosca. I've listened to endless stories spanning the first to the seventh grade; I've been patient when I wanted to explode; I've coaxed her to eat a million times; I've held her when she's hurt herself on the monkey bars; I've hung out with her in the mountains and cracked open hundred of acorns for no particular reason; I've had many, many, many heartfelt discussions with my husband about the best way to impose discipline when the need arises; I've anguished about how to best guide her to become a responsible, loving, compassionate and kind adult. She is well on her way. It has not been easy.
Mease and I will, shortly, have a new bond: that intense feeling of loving someone so much that you can't bear to even begin to express it, because it runs so deep that it changes your DNA. No matter how much pain she is in now, the cliche will prove its grounding in truth:
It will all be worth it in the end.