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Compartment 14B

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Like an electrocuted fish.

2006-10-20 - 9:09 p.m.

When I was in university I had a job one summer doing fish ecology. It turned out to be a horrible job because of my basic incompatibility with my coworker, with whom I had to share a trailer in a tree nursery for week-long stretches. But that’s not what this entry is about.

One of the team’s tasks was to do a biomass estimate on a nearby creek. This involved using an electric current to shock all the fish within our study area into immobility so they could be weighed and their species determined. The electric device had a “tail” that trailed in the water behind you, and a “wand” with a big open loop on the end that you waved through the water. The stunned fish would drop out of their hiding places and you would scoop them up with the net. You had to wave the wand quickly enough that the current only hit the fish for that moment necessary to stun them. This was particularly true for the smaller fish, because if the fish was too small or the wand was waved too slowly, the fishes’ muscles could contract so violently from the electric current that their spines could snap and they, of course, would die*.

I thought of this – as much as I could coherently think of anything other than getting through it – while in the throes of labour contractions.

I don’t mean scare anyone; certainly not anyone who’s pregnant or planning to be pregnant. I don’t believe that my labour experience was like everyone’s. I’m sure there are those who have had babies and felt more pain than I, just as I’m sure there are many who have felt less. I’ve met them. They told me they never felt the pain was “unbearable” and I even know someone who took no medications and felt no pain at all. I wish this on everyone; may you have a quick and easy birth with a fast recovery.

For me though, labor was a very painful experience. I threw up from the pain. Labour contractions were pains in my back so excruciating that I could not imagine how my back was not on the verge of snapping like a dry twig. No, Grommet was not presenting facing the wrong way, which is commonly associated with back labour; as far as I know her presentation was ideal. All I know is that years ago I had a family doctor that informed me that the stinging I felt during a routine pap test meant that I had pain nerve endings in my cervix, and according to her only 25% of women have them. I have never researched the validity of this statistic, but her offhand, “You’re going to have a fun time in labour if you ever have kids.” haunted me throughout my pregnancy.

She was right. Labour sucked. I remember flashing on the advice to “breathe and focus on a picture or object to go to a happy place” in my head and thinking “oh fuck that!” I cannot imagine what it would have been like without the epidural which I finally accepted hours after the pain got ridiculous (and no, I haven’t “forgotten the pain” like I was told I would). I’d initially hoped not to have to have an epidural, but I would take one much sooner the next time. In the end I would have had to have one anyway for the emergency C-section I ended up with.

I have yet to write Grommet’s birth story. I still fully intend to one day, I just… I don’t know… haven’t yet. But when I do, I don’t want to dwell on the pain or the horrendous sucky-ness of the physical stuff, so I wanted to get that out of the way here.

Remember though, those of you reading this and contemplating being on the delivery table yourself someday: it was worth it. Even in the recovery room, after 24 hours of sheer sucky-ness, we were already talking about what we’d do differently “next time.”

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* I would not do this job now that I’m older and have more courage to stand up and say no to things that I don’t feel comfortable doing.

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