Princess: Childbirth in hindsight

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

So what’s up, Aspen?

What have I missed? As you guys like to say, I have not been past the roundabout for weeks and weeks, only I’m coming from the other direction.

I know I’ve missed all the snow, and now I’m missing all the sun, those mild days on Highland Bowl when your cheeks get flushed and you have to tie your jacket around your waist and take off your helmet and you can wear sunglasses instead of goggles. When I’m cleared by my doctor to get back on the hill in three more weeks, I know I’ll appreciate every step and every breath no matter how badly it burns, and it will burn after being out of commission for so long.

I have never in my life been this indisposed. My right leg is still numb below the knee and is prone to collapse when I put all my weight on it just so. Since Levi was born, I have fallen down the stairs and up the stairs. I have fallen on my ass and into a snowbank. No one really knows what’s wrong with my leg, but they suspect I injured a nerve during labor. Something to do with having an epidural in for almost 14 hours — the very thing that was supposed to alleviate my pain has left me stuck with it, this leg that doesn’t want to work right.

You might say I’m not exactly happy with the world of Western medicine right now, and believe me, I was its biggest advocate before the birth of my son.

“Why is it that these women think they know more than the medical doctors do?” I’d protest. “They think just because they read some article on the Internet that they know more than someone who was trained for the better part of a decade?”

But now I understand.

I understand the need for a birth plan and why so many of my friends wanted so desperately to try for natural childbirth. I also understand why they were so traumatized when things didn’t quite work out that way.

“Why would you not want pain control?” was another one of my favorite lines. “Do you go to the dentist and tell him you want natural drilling?”

God, I was so self-righteous. And I was so wrong.

Here’s the thing: The only time I ever get hurt or get sick or have any kind of medical problem is when I go to a hospital or see a doctor. I can honestly say that over the course of my life, I have had much bigger issues with side effects from drugs than I have from whatever was ailing me in the first place.

The most success I’ve had with healing is when I’ve taken the time and the effort to learn how to heal myself. I’ve had better results with nutritional healing than with any other kind of medication. Fish-oil supplements and power greens have done more for me than any doctor ever could. Yoga has been my physical therapy, my massage therapy and my psychologist. A weeklong juice cleanse has cleared up my acne, eliminated bloating and left me clear-headed and full of energy and strength. The chiropractor does more for me than any orthopedic surgeon can.

So it was shocking — if not horrifying — when I put all my faith into so-called modern medicine and surrendered to it. I felt like I’d relied so heavily on medical intervention to get pregnant with assisted reproductive technology (ironically referred to as ART) that it was hypocritical of me to suddenly want to do things the natural way.

So when my doctor told me they wanted to induce labor a week before my due date because of my age, my gut told me to resist. When I’d read about what inducing labor entailed (on the Internet, natch), I protested. But in the end, I decided I wasn’t qualified to make that decision. What if something went wrong?

So I did what I was told, and I learned one thing: My intuition was right. Inducing labor was incredibly painful, and one complication led to another. The pain medication that was supposed to provide me with relief did just the opposite, resulting in this mysterious injury.

“Stretched nerves take time to heal,” I was told. “There’s really nothing we can do for you. It’ll come back eventually.”

“If I can’t snowboard in three weeks’ time, heads are going to roll,” I told the doctor.

He laughed nervously. Liability is a big deal in his profession. He can never be too careful or say too much. I’m sure I signed a document acknowledging the risks, but I was in too much pain to take the time to read it.

Don’t get me wrong — I loved my doctors, the midwives were amazing, and I have a totally new level of respect for nurses; they’re a special breed.

But I also learned that I should always listen to my intuition. If ever it’s going to be sharpened, it’s with motherhood. Had I gone into labor naturally, I think things would have been different. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

But I also realize that at some point I have to let it go. I’ve whined to anyone who will listen, looking for someone who would pat me on the back or hug me or give me some sympathy. Instead, the expressions on the doctors’ faces sort of freeze over, ready to crack and crumble like broken glass. Their eyes say everything that their lips won’t. “Shut up, you ungrateful little brat,” their expressions say. “If you only knew. But you don’t know. You don’t know squat.”

I guess the only swelling that matters now is in my heart — and that hurts so good.

The Princess realizes she is in desperate need of new material and asks you to bear with her for a few more weeks. Send your love to