I called my mother, who was planning to help me after the birth and said, "I'm not going to like this." She said that she understood (after six children, she knew) but that it wouldn't last forever. In the 1940s, Mom had always had to labor alone, strapped down in bed with no pain relief or personal support. For each delivery, she had been knocked unconscious by drugs and was handed the baby later by the obstetrician, as though it were a gift from him and not the fruit of her own labor. Thousands of women like her were never given a choice and didn't even know there were other ways to deliver.
The pain of labor was far greater than I thought it would be. (It's always worse after the membranes are ruptured, a point that doesn't seem to stop some obstetricians from doing it prematurely even when there's no need to.) I had seen hundreds of women in labor after five years of OB training. I had always focused on the women who didn't appear to have any discomfort, and I was so sure I would be one of them. But here I was—stuck. I felt as though I were in a box, and there was no way out except through. My intellect could not get me out of this—and I was determined to go through the process naturally. I already trusted the natural world more than the artificial man-made one. What I didn't appreciate then was the depth of my own programming into and cooperation with that same man-made world.
We called my obstetrician, a sensitive man with whom I had worked in the hospital for several years. He suggested that my husband and I go into the hospital. The only problem was that all I wanted to do was stay on the floor on my hands and knees. Moving anywhere seemed to me the most unnatural thing I could think of. It went against every instinct in my body.
I didn't have a bag packed for the hospital, so my husband ran around and put some underwear, a nightgown, and a toothbrush in a bag. Then he tried to get me dressed, out the door, and into the car. He nearly had to carry me. Left to my own instincts, I would never have left my position on my hands and knees on the floor.