Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)

While I was still pregnant with Owen, I thought, rather optimistically, that I would be able to brave the pain of childbirth without drugs. I made a “birth mix,” which seems kind of hilarious now. I thought that if I played lots of tunes, my adrenaline would carry me through labour or something. As it turned out, I didn’t want to listen to anything. I didn’t want to speak. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to do anything but … endure? survive?

Anyway, one of the songs I put on my birth mix was Janis Joplin’s “Try.” It was kind of a joke to myself. I remember debating whether I would think it funny when I was in labour. Probably not, as it turns out.

Someone asked me the other week whether I had a “good birth.” It’s a shame, but I still can’t answer that question in the affirmative. At the time, I equivocated, said I guess so. I still feel a bit guilty that I wanted (needed?) an epidural. Then, this wise woman said, “but your baby came out healthy?” and I had to acknowledge that yes – if that was the standard – if it wasn’t about my feelings of accomplishment – then I definitely had a good birth.

I guess I thought that if I had tried (just a little bit harder) that I might have managed to bear the pain, as if that were some kind of rite of passage or badge of honour. I didn’t try hard enough, I thought, healthy baby in my arms. I “failed.”


The person who’s been making me try harder lately is the boy himself. He sets me Herculean tasks.

“You make it snow,” he says, pointing to his lego house.

“I don’t know how to make it snow out of Lego,” say I.

“But you will try,” he says, shrugging his little hands.

I get an idea. Suddenly, small blue pieces of Lego are falling over the house.

“No, Mummy. You make better snow.”

I grab a kleenex, wave it over the structure. “Look Owen, it’s snowing.”

“That not snow. That a kleenex.” (Silly Mummy).


Another day, he asks me to draw a zebra. I admit, “I’m not sure I know how to draw a zebra.”

“But you will try.”

I start on the head, draw the back, get the legs done – a vaguely equine being is taking shape.

“That look like a donkey,” says my ever critical son.


Walking home from the park the other day, Owen asked me another, more delicate question.

“You make me a brother or a sister? Maybe, If I lucky?”

Many of his friends now have brothers or sisters, and he’s a bit jealous, I think.

“I don’t know if we can, honey. It would be nice, though, wouldn’t it?”

He nods. “But you will try,” he says, walking on.