Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Mother's Wisdom

I'm definitely nesting now. I'm doing laundry every day, even if I don't have enough to make a whole load, and packing up my hospital bag and feeling a restless energy that should be put to use cleaning my house but often isn't (nesting does not negate the pointless feeling that comes when you realize your toddler will just grind more cheerios into the floor when you're done cleaning anyway). So now that I've told myself for the third time in fifteen minutes that I am not going to climb in the tub with a bottle of Soft Scrub and a brush, since I just showered and would like to stay clean for a while, I am going to make a list of things I've learned about childbirth, in case anyone actually reads this thing and maybe they've never been through this before and would appreciate my wisdom.

The lists that tell you to bring make up to the hospital for pictures are stupid. Sweaty hair, burst blood vessels, and a tear-streaked face are not going to magically transform into your everyday visage with the addition of lipstick and mascara. And they shouldn't. Your immediately-after-giving-birth photos should look like you just gave birth, not like you just showed up to meet the baby you're adopting.

The books and articles and websites about childbirth that tell you to steal the "handy" mesh panties from the hospital are stupid too. They all say to take the panties so that you can wear them for the first few days after delivery, so that if your pad leaks you won't stain your own underwear. Well, first of all, any underwear you wear within a week of giving birth will be stretched out beyond recognition anyway, stained or not, and you'll have to throw it away. But, second of all, think about it! If your pad leaks and you're wearing mesh fishnet panties (which are so stretchy they don't hold the pad against you anyway) you will ruin whatever is next in line for the blood to get to. This could be your clothes, or your bedding, or even your car if said clothes are thin enough. This is why I NEVER wear the mesh panties. Nope, not even the first day. I do, however, wear disposable underwear, in the form of adult diapers. No, not the diaper looking kind they sell on fetish websites (so I hear), but the padded paper underwear kind (like Pull-Ups but without the Minnie Mouse graphics). That way I can sleep well knowing that there's no way I'm going to ruin my sheets, and I can go out knowing I'm not going to be the last to realize a large red blotch blossoming on the back of my pants, and I can go more than an hour without running to the bathroom with an airline-pillow sized maxi pad in my fist. Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking there's no way you could possibly wear an adult diaper, because you have dignity. Well. . .

You have no dignity. Once you've had strangers who may be part of the nursing staff but who really knows because you're in no position to be checking IDs checking you for dilation, and peed into an upside down plastic toddler cowboy hat every hour all night just to have your kidney output measured, pushed out a baby with none of the fears of public pooping that you'd previously had, and then asked just about anyone capable of pronouncing "La Leche" about nipple pain and the football hold (or alternately about engorgement and cold cabbage leaves), your dignity is gone. Before this happens, you can't imagine such a thing, but it's true. Kind of the way you swear you'll never let your husband see you less than presentable but then you get the flu and he not only sees you sick but knows what color you vomit after chicken soup. Like that.

Breast feeding hurts. Not as much as childbirth, or even as much as stubbing your toe, should you stub your toe for ten minutes on each side every two hours, but what the experts refer to as "sore nipples" is more like tearful pain. Don't get me wrong; I've done it for a year with each of my kids so far and fully intend to do it for a year with the third. But when they tell you that breast feeding doesn't hurt unless you're doing it wrong, they're bullshitting you. For the first month or two it will hurt. Nipples chap and sometimes crack (like if you suddenly were to start washing your hands a hundred times every day), and babies have stronger suction than squids (I assume; I have no proof), and it hurts. But it gets better, and it gets easier (if it hurts too much, buy a nipple shield; you can get them online or at drug stores), and by the baby's two month check-up most nursing mothers wouldn't trade it for the world. Just, don't listen to experts who will tell you that it shouldn't hurt, or that nipple shields are only for people with inverted nipples. Those people are wrong. Period. End of story. And it only hurts for the first few weeks. After that your nipples toughen up (in pain tolerance, not in texture- don't worry) and you could slam the damn things in a car door without getting hurt.

Men who say they wish they could share your pain are lying. Grab them by the nuts during just one contraction and see for yourself. They will, however, attempt to share your hospital issue pudding cups. Bastards.

Steal from the hospital. Everything except the fishnet underwear. Take the Vaseline and the diapers and the wipes and pads and bottle of hand sanitizer and stupid little leaky bum pads (they call them chucks, can you believe it?!). Take it all, because they will bill you for it anyway and they actually expect it. Leave the onesies and the sheets, but take all the "disposable" stuff. In fact, I never buy diapers before having the baby. I figure if I buy size 1 they'll be too big and if I buy size Newborn I'll pop out a ten pound baby, so I just steal from the hospital and then send my husband to Walmart before I run out.

Hospitals are loud. And bright. And babies have no sense of time. You'll likely either give birth in the middle of the night, or during the day after a long night of labor. An airline sleep mask and a pair of earplugs are wonderful things to pack. You'll still hear it when the baby next to you starts crying but if you're lucky you won't hear it when the baby down the hall starts crying, and then sets off all the others in chorus.

Contractions hurt like a bitch. Some women can breathe their way through them and use focal points and whatnot, but they still hurt. There's no reason to go to the hospital for a tightening feeling, or cramping, or pressure. When you feel like screaming and gutting yourself with a fishing knife, that's when you should go to the hospital. Very very few women don't realize they need to go to the hospital. Even those women on "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" usually think their appendix is bursting or something. It's different for every woman, and for every birth, but it does hurt, and those of us who get epidurals don't do it because of a tightening, or cramping, or pressure. And once you've been through it just once, even if you had a relatively painless experience (emphasis on the word relatively), you too will laugh at the women who go to the hospital with indigestion.

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