(Mother’s Day is just around the corner so here’s a funny, yet informative piece for expecting and parenting mommies everywhere.)
This is the stack of books that towered on my nightstand during my first pregnancy. Each night I would read something like “this week your baby is growing eyelashes,” or “your baby is the size of a grapefruit,” or “watch out for swollen ankles!” Informative, but the real warnings started rolling in from my girlfriends, “don’t take nice pajamas to the hospital, you’ll bleed all over them,” and “the billing department at the hospital has no shame,” and “take your own pads, the hospital ones are the thickness of a mattress.” But even my girlfriends didn’t share some things (until I brought them up) so I’m going to share them with you with hopes that you’ll appreciate the information, even if it doesn’t happen to you.
Orgasm = Response from Baby – Soon after you can feel the baby moving, you may experience the craziest mind zinger you could imagine. One minute you’re on top of the most mind-blowing, satisfying, fulfilling orgasm ever, and the next you’re feeling the baby do a somersault. Nothing like your mind zipping from a place of selfish pleasure back to the reality that you’re about to be a mother! This can happen as a result of an orgasm achieved by masturbation or sex. Why, you ask? Well, the rhythmic contractions of an orgasm are similar to the rhythmic contractions of labor so the uterus could be tightening down on baby, causing it to move to adjust to the change. Also, in the refractory period (after orgasm), lots of a hormone called oxytocin is released, which can also cause the baby to respond. Oxytocin is the “love hormone” or bonding hormone that makes some of us want to cuddle after sex. It is also the hormone responsible for bonding between mother and just-born baby and, in part, why kangaroo care is often promoted in hospitals. There’s a scientific reason why orgasms can make babies respond, but it doesn’t make it any less surprising when it happens.
Orgasm = Major Leakage (if you’re nursing) – Oxytocin is released during orgasm, but so is prolactin. The release of prolactin after orgasm is meant to counteract the effects of dopamine, which is responsible for sexual arousal. Prolactin is also what stimulates milk production and “let down.” So seconds after an orgasm, you may feel that tell-tale tingly feeling of let down and, if you do, be prepared for major milk leakage.
My Knees Are in My Ears and You’re Talking About What? – My husband loved our midwives as much as I did. My midwife stayed in the room through every last minute of the 3.5 hours I was pushing. As the contractions fizzled out, I’d take a rest. At one point, I woke up to my husband joking about “vajazzaling” with the midwife. Seriously?
Holy Blood Clots, Batman! – Expect big and small blood clots, discharges of various kinds, and a war scene in your toilet for at least a week after delivery. If you pushed for any significant amount of time, expect your vagina and/or vulva to be swollen. You might be so swollen, in fact, that sitting and scooting across the bed or couch are simply not possible. Tip: roll over onto your hip and slide out of bed on your hip, not butt. Trust me.
What the Hell, Uterus?!? – Just when you thought your uterus was done being on center stage, she reappears for an encore performance. If you nurse, expect some pretty significant uterine cramping in the beginning. Despite the discomfort, you actually want this to happen. These contractions help the uterus to shrink back down, helping you get your abdomen back after its squishy phase immediately following delivery. And by squishy, I mean like a bowl of rising dough in both appearance and texture.
Baby is Here, Check Your Selfishness at the Door – I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to the movies as often and that the time spent on my hair and makeup would be substantially less, but I did not expect to fall apart the first time I couldn’t do something fun because I’m now a mother. Let me set the stage: It’s two or three weeks after delivery, I’m still sore, and I’m nursing. I can’t go anywhere, and I really don’t want to go anywhere, but everyone else, husband and family in town, want to go to the Rays home opener. If you knew my husband, you’d know this day is more fun to him than his own birthday. I was trying to be a big girl so I told them to go on and have fun. As they donned their lucky jerseys, I started crying. A lot. My husband was great; he just let me cry and said that he’d stay home with me if it would help. It wouldn’t help; it would just make me feel guilty. This hot mess moment was my realization that my life had forever changed. I would make sacrifices, much more meaningful than missing a baseball game, and have to deal with the fact that I asked for this. It is VERY hard sometimes to be selfless in order to meet the needs of your children. And dare I say it? Ok, yes I will, since we are being honest here: sometimes your own selfishness will turn to resentment of your partner or children. That isn’t a pretty thing to say out loud or feel, but it is the truth. Don’t worry – you’re still a great mom.
Your Husband/Partner Isn’t Made of Steel – I never expected to come home from an evening meeting to find my baby AND husband with bloodshot, tearful eyes, set in faces that looked of pure exhaustion. Our little one was about three months old and had received vaccinations that day. They made her so irritable and feverish that she screamed one of those high-pitched, endless, blood-curdling screams for the entire 2-3 hours I was gone. He didn’t know what to do but he didn’t reach out to me for help because he wanted me to have “me time” without worrying about what was going on at home. I took one look at them, gave my husband a hug, and took the baby from him. He had to go sit alone in a room for a while to collect himself. If the above-mentioned moment was my “a-ha!” moment, this was his. We now have an agreement that we will not leave one another alone on the evening of a vaccination.
Speaking of Vaccinations – If you don’t like vaccinating your kids, so be it. Just do your research. Don’t persist on some ideology not supported by science. But on the other hand, trust your gut and stick up for yourself. And here’s a real tough lesson we learned: opt out of the Band-Aids. Getting them off your little one’s tender skin is almost as traumatizing as the shot itself.
Hunting for Day Care SUCKS – If you actually care how and with whom your child is spending his/her day, you already know that finding a day care that you can feel good about just plain sucks. Do not settle for less than a perfect fit. In fact, start searching months before your kid arrives. Not to make you feel any more guilty, but ages 0-5 are the most important years of a person’s life. Show me a psychopath and I’ll show you a person who didn’t get his/her developmental/psychosocial/physical/nutritional/attachment needs met when they were ages 0-5.
The Hardest Job in the World – Contrary to popular belief, being a stay-at-home mom is NOT the hardest job in the world: being a working mom is. Not only do you have all the same responsibilities of a SAHM, you also have to balance that with your career. One of my friends shared this tidbit with me and it still resonates with me today: A working mom always feels inadequate at one thing or the other. She meant that no matter how hard you try or how good your situation is, there will always be times when you feel inadequate at work or at home. Case in point: a really important deadline at work versus a sick child at home – which do you choose? Sure, you find a way to stay with the sick kid since your partner is out of town and your nearest family member is eight states away, but that feeling of inadequacy at work creeps in and makes you feel like sh*t. I was a Peace Corps volunteer and those two years were WAY easier than parenting. “Peace Corps: the toughest job you’ll ever love” … my ass!
#2 – I don’t mean pooping here. Although I do recommend you keep a stool softener on hand for just after birth. You don’t want a hard poop ruining your day. What I mean by #2 is that I’m expecting #2 in a couple months (another girl). Even though parenting is tough and stretches me beyond the person I ever knew I could be, or would have to be, I’ve willingly signed up for a second round. In my opinion, being good parent is the greatest contribution that I can make to this world. The world needs more good people and that’s something I know I can deliver on. I’ve always been very driven and never quite known why. It all makes sense now: all of the education, experiences, and life lessons – they weren’t for me, they were for her, and they were pieced together strategically so she could be raised by exactly the mother she needs. Somehow, that stately Master’s degree on my wall pales in comparison to when my daughter shows concern for another human being. This is how I measure my success now and I love it.
So with all that said … Happy Mother’s Day! (Now would someone please send me a survival guide for raising girls who are 2.5 years apart, particularly between the ages of 11-18?)