I Want the Epidural

Birthing a child is painful. Birthing a teenager is more so.

I believe in natural childbirth. I do not personally find the avoidance of pain worth the risks (no matter how remote) of an epidural. I also believe that the process typically has fewer complications and a swifter and smoother outcome when the mother stays directly involved and can feel what is going on.

I’m ready for an epidural now though. I no longer wish to feel the pain of raising a teenager. I still believe the outcome is better if the mother stays involved, but I want the relief of pain avoidance. I want a block between me and her harsh words. I want to withdraw.

Yesterday was the last day of school. My husband opened the boys’ bedroom door that morning and cheerfully announced as much. On impulse, forgetting months of experience, I attempted the same with our daughter.

She didn’t blow up at me. At least, she didn’t until I forgot to close the door as I walked away. Then she angrily and loudly yelled, “Will you please shut the door MOTHER?!” Her incredulity at my thoughtlessness was remarkable and I found myself shutting the door with too much force and then fighting back tears as I stumbled into the boys’ room to wish them a good morning.

See, that door haunts me. It is always closed. I would love to take it off the hinges. It’s not that I reject the notion of her having privacy. It’s that she has to have that privacy 24-7. The door is never open if she is in her room. In fact, the door to any room that can be shut off from the rest of the house will be closed if she is in there.

The door is a physical representation of the emotional distance she has put between herself and the rest of the family. I recognize that this is a fairly normal part of passing through the teenage years. That doesn’t mean I accept it easily.

She tried to indignantly claim from behind the door that morning that she was naked except for her underwear. That, she believed, was sufficient justification for the door being closed, despite the fact that she was still wrapped in her sheets. Despite the fact that she regularly walks the house in nothing but her underwear. It was not accepted as valid justification. Nor was her tone or attitude acceptable, as her father attempted to explain to her.

I did not leave the door open out of spite. It was not a passive aggressive response to it always being closed. It was not deliberate. It’s just hard to remember that while no other door is routinely used, that one must be. When our bedroom door opens in the morning, it stays open until we retire again that night. The same is true for the boys’ door. I think that by my action, I was greeting her and then subconsciously inviting her to join the family.

“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” my husband said when I expressed my frustration. “But it will pass.”

It’s getting harder to resist the spinal block that is available if I just withdraw and don’t interact with her. Such withdrawal is probably just a fantasy anyway since we live in the same house. And she’s not always so difficult. Sometimes, the contractions ease and I have a blissful bit of time that is so peaceful and magical, a time that is perhaps magnified in its perfection because of the memory of pain. But then the next wave hits and I’m thrown back into the chaos of surviving, forgetting the peace in between.

I’ve learned to accept the mild pain reliever injected in my IV at various times as I struggle with this process. When I entered the boys’ room after shutting her door, the pain on my face must have been clear. The continued shouting from the next room definitely was. My middle child sat up in his bed and with complete sincerity and a soft,gentle tone, said, “I love you Mommy.” He then reached over the edge of the top bunk and embraced me, holding on until I was ready to let go.

There are great pains in raising children. But there are great joys too. I can’t responsibly avoid the pain so I will have to hope instead that the joys can anesthetize me enough to still consider it all worth while.

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