When I was pregnant the first time, I was young and, well, dumb. I was very excited about the whole idea of growing life in my body and what that meant to me as a woman. I was prepared for birth and was determined to do things as naturally as possible. What I wasn't prepared for was my marriage evaporating completely one month before my daughter was born. You wanna talk stress? It's a wonder she wasn't premature. I cried a lot. I prayed for her to come so I could be distracted from the pain in my heart. Well the blessed day came soon enough and with relatively few interventions (some laughing gas and an episiotomy), my nine pound, three ounce daughter made her way into this mortal coil. And having a newborn DID serve as a distraction, but it brought with it all the usual stuff that you hear moms complain about in addition to being a single parent. Luckily for me, I had moved in with my parents and younger siblings and had immense support.
The second time around was much different. I was even more prepared for this pregnancy and birth gig and as a bonus, had a willing partner there to hold my hand. The pregnancy was not overly pleasant in terms of my health (I suffered from terrible allergies and prenatal rhinitis), but I planned and dreamed about my perfect home birth, selected wonderful midwives and happily knit tiny things. Then the bomb dropped. The baby was breech and if it didn't turn around, it would be c-section city. It was recommended to me, after trying everything in the book to turn it around including two very painful external versions, that I book a c-section and be done with it. Hell, NO was my response to that. I stuck to my guns, convinced she would turn herself around at the last moment. Sadly that never happened and about 29 interventions later I was delivered of a seven pound, four ounce baby girl. My early bonding with her is sketchy in my memory. I remember being in recovery and the midwife asking if I wanted to nurse her. Whacked out on a pile of drugs (and entirely distracted by the fact that I was parched and no one would give me a drink of water) I agreed and she brought the baby to me. The baby and I looked at each other like "yeah right". The next few weeks were incredibly difficult for me as I tried to heal, not only from the c-section incision, but the additional six inch tear the surgeon had accidentally put in my uterus during the delivery, AND look after a newborn infant at the same time when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball (had I been able to) and cry for my mother. I try not to think too much about that because my daughter was born healthy and is now a thriving five year old.
It was recommended to me that I have a c-section for any subsequent babies due to the tear. It placed me at risk for a uterine rupture, but there again I stood my ground. I know my body and how it heals and I felt that I had to at least try another natural delivery, if for no other reason than to alleviate some of the trauma I had felt from the c-section. On the midwives' recommendation, my husband and I consulted with an obstetrician who gave us the go ahead to try, but suggested we have a safety plan in place, ie. epidural. Physically, the pregnancy itself was uneventful and I felt very beautiful. Turns out the old wives' tales are right - you ARE way more beautiful when you are carrying a boy, if only in your own mind! Finding out I was carrying a boy was a bit of a surprise as I expected another girl, but eventually I wrapped my head around it and tried to think of a name. This pregnancy brought some additional surprises for me, such as intense rage and antenatal depression. I had already been seeing a therapist to deal with the whole c-section trauma thing, so I was glad I had her to rely on for extra support.
This being my third pregnancy, I thought that there wasn't anything I couldn't handle and was pleased to be able to "relax" (ha) this time around because I was a seasoned mother. This was going to be easy, I thought. But nature fooled me yet again and my son was born with bilateral clubfoot (you can read his journey here). Now in addition to sleep deprivation, late night feedings and dirty diapers, I had weekly trips to the hospital for casts to deal with. Easy? HA!
What I have taken away from this, and perhaps I am just a tad slow on the uptake, is that pregnancy (and ultimately life) is totally unpredictable. You can plan everything down the nth degree, but there will still be things that come up and surprise you. If you are pregnant, my suggestion would be to dedicate a portion of your planning to "expecting the unexpected" and what your reaction might be to whatever comes your way. It will enhance your experience and help you bond more quickly with your baby.
P.S. My nine pound son was born the regular way, but with the assistance of an epidural. I had decided that third time around had earned me the right to be a wuss. I'm glad I went that route and it helped me make decisions about his deformity in a clear way and not a drug-induced fog and loads of pain.