Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: 'Kenntnis' knowledge, Dumbledore's charge and seeking heaven's help
Before I had children, my knowledge of childbirth and parenting was strictly learned from study, or “wissenschaft” knowledge, the German word meaning “to know about something.”
During the course of my three pregnancies, I’ve stacked my nightstand high with books about childbirth and labor: natural vs. induced, the Bradley method, hypnobirthing, “What to Expect” and “Childbirth Without Fear,” just to name a select few.
I attended childbirth classes, called wise midwives and doctors, and peppered my aunts, sisters and mother with question after question about what it’s like. I interviewed health care professionals. I read hundreds of articles online. I prayed.
After studying it out in my mind, I decided I was not going to get an epidural. I was going to deliver my baby as naturally as possible, without any medication or intervention. I had learned from months of study that labor contractions might, quoting Albus Dumbledore, “cause me to forget what I am here for, create so much pain I am distracted or render me incapable in some other way.” I also made my husband promise, as did Dumbledore to Harry Potter, that no matter what I said or how painful it was (even if I scream “Kill me!”), he would not allow me get that evil epidural.
He agreed, but only after making me promise that we could have a “code word” that would overrule any crazy talk — and that meant “I’m serious. I really do want relief.” That word was “watermelon,” and I was 100 percent positive I would never utter it.
After nine months of educating myself as best I could, the big day arrived.
And all that wissenschaft knowledge went flying out the window.
My water broke at 5 a.m. and my contractions came — and stayed — 60 seconds apart. I have never in my life felt so well, terrible. Truly, I felt like I was dying. My husband drew a bath for me in the hospital and I remember submerging myself completely underwater during several unbelievably “intense” (oh, forget it, EXCRUCIATING) contractions and thinking, “I think I shall stay under here forever.”
But alas, I came up for air just as soon as another wave hit me, and after three hours of alternating between almost passing out or losing my lunch (I threw up so many times, eventually there was nothing left), I leaned over to my ghostly white, wide-eyed husband who was so sweetly trying to “help” (and not sure this was the “beautiful, natural” experience I had preached it would be) and whispered, “I’m done. Give me the epidural.”
“Nope,” he said weakly. “Um, you are a strong woman. Your body was made to do this. I believe in you. ..."
“WATERMELON!” I screamed.
Four peaceful hours and one blessed, blessed epidural later, my first boy was born.
Now, you might think, “You experienced it and now you knew for subsequent pregnancies to get an epidural.”
But no — now that I had experienced it, I knew what to expect. I wasn’t going into it with wissenschaft knowledge exclusively — I now had "kenntnis" knowledge, “to know by experience” as well.
So birth No. 2 went amazingly more smoothly. Because I was prepared, I was able to work with my body much more effectively. I was calm. I knew how to (and remember to) breathe. I mentally worked with the contractions instead of against them, and something amazing happened: I accomplished my dream of a completely natural, non-medicated, non-invasive childbirth. No epidural. No pitocin. No medication before, during or after.
And it was amazing.
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