When I was having my first baby, I read in all the natural childbirth books and heard from all the doulas and prenatal yoga teachers and childbirth educators and so on that it was important to eat during labor. Nuts were often mentioned as an example of a good, nutritious labor snack, so, wanting to do things right, I packed a baggie of almonds in my labor bag.
Somewhere in the middle of my three-day labor, my doula dug the almonds out. "You have to eat something," she said. I shook my head in a nauseous, confused haze. "Just one almond." She held it up between her index finger and thumb. "Eat just this one almond. Please. You can do it."
I wanted to be a good student - my doula also being my prenatal yoga instructor - so I ate my one almond, and it was awful. It was dry and papery, falling apart between my teeth and crumbling over my tongue in the most unappetizing way. I wanted to spit it out, but I didn't want my doula to reprimand me, so I swallowed as quickly as I could and did not eat another.
Later, I saw my doula eating cashews from her own snack stash. The cashews looked beautifully plump and oily, the exact antithesis to my awful papery almonds. It was suddenly obvious: cashews are the Perfect Labor Snack I cursed my stupidity: why had I not brought cashews instead of almonds? Maybe my doula saw my envious look, because she offered to share. But I would rather have died than take her snack away from her, so I just shook my head and tried to forget it. Next time, I thought, I will bring cashews.
Over the three-plus years that passed before I had my second baby - the baby in my arms right now - I often reminded myself of the almond debacle. Remember, I told myself, to have cashews ready for when you are in labor. They are the Perfect Labor Snack. Accordingly, about four weeks before my due date, I bought a container of cashews and hid them in my labor bag, which was finally for me after over two years of service to other women. I couldn't wait to eat my cashews during the coming labor, the second labor that would correct all the errors of the first.
This time, labor was not three days, but seven hours. About four hours in, my midwife said, "You should eat something," and I directed my husband to the hidden cashew stash. He gave me two or three cashews, and I chewed, waiting for Perfect Labor Snack ecstasy to hit me. But there was no ecstasy. The cashews were awful. They were dry and papery, and they fell apart under my teeth and crumbled over my tongue. I swallowed them as quickly as I could and did not eat any more for the duration of the labor.