Birth Stories Dimly lit photo of a blonde-haired woman in profile, with her baby in the background

Published on April 22nd, 2024 | by Megan Mizanty


All of the Hidden Almosts

After returning from the hospital, I started to understand what had happened.

In the moment, though, it was all about the endgame. I was nearly 41 weeks, bursting at the seams, and I had to deliver. I knew something was wrong when the doctor said—not humorously—“Let’s get this baby out.” 

I had been lying on the bed for hours. After receiving the epidural, I started shaking uncontrollably (this sometimes happens after an epidural; I wasn’t aware of this side effect until experiencing it). In a short period of time, my body temperature shot up five degrees. Teeth chattering, hands like earthquakes, they administered pitocin, a substance to speed up contractions. Once again, I hadn’t known it at the time: my water had broken, and amniotic fluid was leaking.

Let’s get this baby out.

Everything worked out fine. I gave birth to our daughter, a healthy baby girl, and I arrived home stunned at how much blood could come out of a new parent and be considered normal (was it normal? When is it too much? Should I call a doctor?). In a haze, I shared the exuberant news with loved ones online. I couldn’t fathom leaving my home the next day to get my daughter to a doctor’s appointment (let alone walk up the stairs). Most women’s postpartum appointments, however, don’t happen until 4-6 weeks after labor. 

As months passed, other friends and family had children. 

Once you cross the line to the other side of delivery, people share more about their own birth experiences. A shared candid language (vaginal tearing? The ring of fire? And the dreaded: did you poop during a push?). All graphic and gritty details were welcome. I became curious—no, hungry—to know how their experiences were different from mine: shorter or longer, induced or random day, C-section or vaginal, as planned or significantly different from their birthplans. 

And to be frank: everyone’s birth story was not what they expected. 

One of my cousins needed an emergency blood transfusion. My dearest college friend developed Bell’s Palsy—a facial paralysis—temporarily on one side of her face. A childhood friend had an emergency C-section. A former colleague developed placenta previa and nearly flatlined after the placenta was cut. Most recently, a friend had to be promptly re-admitted to the hospital, days after labor, with pre-
eclampsia, hypertension, and pneumonia.

Here’s the thing: all of these new parents shared none of this during the birth announcement. A healthy baby boy? A darling baby girl? A glowing new parent smiling into the camera? That’s what we typically see. That’s what you’ve probably read. 

Medical staff in green scrubs lift a baby from a patient's abdomen in an operating room
Photo by Amit Gaur on Unsplash

I didn’t share what happened to me unless someone asked. After all, everything was okay now. Who wants to hear about the “almosts”? I had a healthy baby. I didn’t die. I was lucky. 

All of these people mentioned have access to the best medical providers in the United States. They are citizens with full insurance, a support network of loved ones, and access to postpartum care. Not all pregnant Americans have this, though. The black maternal death rate is abhorrent in the United States, with two to three times higher chance of death during labor and delivery, as well six weeks postpartum (when most fatal complications occur). 

Politicians who gloss over pregnancy, seeing it as a mere stepping stone to a baby, are not framing the full picture. After giving birth, it was clear that no one (no one) should experience the stages of pregnancy or the incontrovertible risk of labor unless they have decided to accept everything that could happen. Unless they’ve measured the risks and decided it was worth the wild unknown. And with so many medical providers shuttering doors in states, access to quality childbirth centers are less.  

Birth can be the most empowering, miraculous day of someone’s life; it can also be the most traumatic and dangerous one. 

For the next person you know who delivered a baby, ask them how it went.
How it really went.

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About the Author

Megan Mizanty is an an interdisciplinary artist and educator. She’s currently a writer and editor for thINKing Dance in Philadelphia.

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