Battle Hymn of the Chimera Mother, Part III: Our Lady of the
By Becky Palapala
November 28, 2011
I do not feel sad or overwhelmed.
I do not feel “over the moon.”
My vagina feels like it has been mugged, beaten, and left for dead.
This is Ilihia. Four syllables, emphasis on the 3rd. Pronounce every letter, just like in Italian. Just like in Hawaiian.
Much of her Hawaiian family will call her Ilihia. But this is Minnesota. Minnesotans like their language quick, functional, and flavorless, just like their food, and if we didn’t pick a nickname for her, someone else would.
We chose “Lily”.
When, after 72 hours, she was finally born, I did not weep tears of joy like the moms on TLC.
Lily was born face-up and forehead first, requiring use of outside mechanical force.
“It’s bad” the doctor said to the midwife, referring to my shredded crotch.
The midwife declined to stitch me up, leaving it to the surgeon she’d called in to suction the baby out of me.
My temperature was 103 degrees.
Lily had a fever, too.
A rabble of NICU nurses and technicians hustled her off to pump her full of antibiotics, but I didn’t freak out. I didn’t cry out dramatically. There was no “Where’s my baby??? Where are they taking her???” like they do in the movies.
I sighed and said something like, “Thank God all that stuff is out of me.”
I said my baby looked like a unicorn.
I told my husband my vagina was smuggling hamburger.
“Oh! I get to see the baby yet tonight? I’m so tired.”
I started sobbing uncontrollably. “I miss my puppy! I wish she was here. Do you think she’s okay?”
I kept saying it. “I miss my puppy. I wish she was here,” then I’d sob some more. I said it just like that. “Was here.” Because that is how I talk when I have better things to do than try to impress people with the subjunctive.
I was talking about Sydney, our 10 month-old Blue Heeler mix, to whom I’ve developed a pathological attachment.
Since I have the emotional intelligence of a four year-old and was delirious on top of it all, I’d been pining for her, unexpectedly, off and on throughout my days-long labor. Heaving, whole-body sobs. Like a toddler sobs for her woobie.
At one point, I was overcome with violent chills. They don’t tell you about that part. I was refused warm blankets because they would “just make it worse.” My husband was advised to stop trying to warm me up with his body.
No puppies, no warm blankets, no hugs.
Just a needle in my spine and a puke bag to my mouth as the most terrible pain of my life threatened to turn me inside out and an unseen surgeon droned “It’s very important that you don’t. move.”
The things that happen to the body during labor and delivery would, under any other circumstances, be fodder for horror films and tortuous psychological thrillers.
Stephen King wishes he’d invented childbirth.
Though I have experienced it and lived through it, I still don’t quite believe it is possible or that I would go through it voluntarily, let alone survive it–especially psychologically.
Maybe I didn’t.
In fact, I marvel at the seeming unlikelihood that any sane woman hearing stories like mine would ever become pregnant on purpose, combined with the fact that, undoubtedly, something like 80% or more will, just like I did.
Folk wisdom (and some science) holds that women develop selective amnesia, forgetting the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of delivery. It’s supposed to be an evolutionary mechanism–a childbirth-specific dissociative disorder that sets in over a few months–designed to make women willing to reproduce more than once, a must for the preservation of the species.
I share the sad tale of my lady parts also because if anyone out there (especially me) has any lingering sense of me as a sexy young person, I want to make sure I remove this notion.
It’s important to confront this sort of thing head-on.
I’m somebody’s mother now, and we all know that being someone’s mother means large panties, floppy breasts, and a gnarled, cavernous vagina. I must come to grips with this. That my sexiness now lies in the abstract. The Madonna, not the whore. Something like Oedipal vs. Edible.
I was a good whore. A good-n-drunk, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed whore.
I feel like there’s some macabre mob, leering & smug, hoping to witness the precise moment of the whore’s demise.
The people who said “It will be good for you,” doing a piss-poor job of hiding how far from good enough they deemed me to be.
Staring like they think the Madonna might burst out of my chest, her pierced heart shining, showering down compassion on everything, leaving a shell of the old, broken, whorish me–my rotten attitude, my ill will, my malicious mischief, my offensive, tactless observations and hulking pride–in a pile on the ground. Like procreation is somehow the salve to my own pathetic dysfunction and the pathetic dysfunction I react to all around me.
As if all one needs, in fact, is love.
Waiting on a miracle.
Don’t hold your breath.
I’m going to try to keep one foot in the shit.
I’m not totally sure what that means.
So I imagine myself shuffling around the house, trying not to trip over my labia. Or losing my whole husband to the Carlsbad Cooter. Some of these physical realities, I cannot change. But I refuse to imagine becoming sentimental or soft or easily managed.
I also refuse to imagine buying size 11 pants forever.
Leaping up four clothing sizes in the seeming blink of an eye–regardless of where one starts or finishes–is a major trauma to any woman in Western Civilization. Pregnancy is like going away on the world’s most dreadful vacation and returning to find that someone remodeled your house. Blindfolded.
Say whatever gassy things you like about rising above social expectations of body image and fighting the patriarchy and so on; I don’t fit in to my favorite jeans. Politics doesn’t even touch it.
My body is not my body anymore. My body was martyred and now there is this body. I am going to do whatever it takes to locate the voodoo that will bring my body back from the dead.
As for my lady parts, the nurses and midwives at the hospital had their own ideas about getting back into shape. They kept telling me to “start doing those kegels!”
They’d wink and smirk in the vilest way, leading me to believe that, somewhere out there, there were women, 12 hours postpartum, worrying about their cavernous vaginas and sexual capabilities.
I had better things to worry about, like fending off Nurse Helga and her posse of grizzled battle axes as they clawed at my breasts and my baby in an attempt to show me how to feed a newborn.
I met a LOT of nurses. All of them had different ideas about the best ways to nurse and what my problem was. It was not the equipment, which I’m proud to say was deemed “perfect”.
So the only problem was my incompetence.
To be fair, the baby’s incompetence was also an issue, but no one barked at her.
I’d rather have subpar or even disastrous (Dreadful? Calamitous? Tragic?) nipples than be bad at something.
(“The Calamitous Nipples”–potential band name? Post-punk.)
They didn’t let me figure it out. They just started reaching in there, grabbing at my boobs and shoving my baby’s head into my chest. I yelled at them to stop pressing on the back of my baby’s head and making her scream bloody murder into my tit.
“Please don’t. SHE DOESN’T LIKE THAT!!”
“She doesn’t know what she likes.”
I can’t stand strangers touching me. Where doesn’t even matter. For five days, people had done nothing but touch me. Somewhere, in my mind or in my chest or someplace, a rage or a panic–it’s tough to tell which–was flailing, straining, and beet-red, squashed under the weight of impossible exhaustion and a vague sense of other people’s expectations.
I don’t know how anyone manages to have a life-altering spiritual/emotional/parental awakening in this kind of environment. Maybe men. The dads. My husband did not struggle to be joyful.
Also, his ‘taint wasn’t obliterated.
I have to believe that women who say they were too overjoyed to care about the nightmarish childbearing experience are either lying in order to seem acceptably nurturing or have had their memories corrupted by the retroactive maternal fugue state that is alleged to dupe us into doing this to our minds and bodies over and over again.
Ultimately, my daughter’s birth story bears striking resemblances to my own. The external mechanical force, the infant’s touch-and-go health status, the impossibly long labor.
But my mother never warned me. Not really. She probably forgot.
My father likes to tell how, upon my birth, my mother looked up at him sweetly, cradling me in her arms after I was wrestled from death’s clutches by Doctor Joe and a pair of forceps:
“Oh, Honey…” she said.
“Yes, Dear?” my dad replied, leaning in to share an intimate bonding moment with his wife and new daughter.
“Let’s never, EVER do this again.”
Thank you for this. It’s refreshing to find a mother who has the balls (or the gnarly vagina) to be honest.
You’re welcome and thanks, Eiko. Glad you enjoyed.
I second what Eiko said. I think the selective amnesia is also a sort of collective amnesia where mothers convince other women that pregnancy and motherhood is nothing but sugar and spice and everything nice.
Also, enjoy this: Scarier than Stephen King
It was an awful write. Like, the experience of writing it was awful. I kept having to beat back this slimy little monster that was going, “Say ‘but it was all worth it!’ before someone thinks you don’t love your daughter! Say it! SAY IT!!!”
It’s fucked up that I feel compelled to say that. Like, I can’t say “I dislike having my vagina shredded and spending many days in incredible pain in the hospital” without qualifying it out of fear of being accused of being a bad mother?
What bizzarro planet is this? Of COURSE I dislike it.
Feminine apologetics are such bullshit.
I take some solace in knowing that my nether parts will never be as shredded as Michele Duggar’s. I don’t mean to be crude, but there is no way that woman isn’t utterly incontinent.
I started to mention the unfair burden, and I see you did in another reply somewhere. It’s so interesting to be able to consider your own biology. I mean I don’t think cats are contemplating gender kitten-bearing differences; they’re just executing the code. We’re deciphering the code and in some ways rewriting it.
This is my lame attempt to relate your post to mine. I’m so self-absorbed.
All writers are self-absorbed. It’s hardly worth feeling bad about.
That unfair burden is responsible for–at least in part–SO much of human individual and social behavior, we would not be recognizable as humans without it.
That’s where my mind starts to blow.
Like, the possibility that if men shared an equal burden in childbearing, there would be no such thing as art. That connection is there.
Or the idea that if men carried the babies, I wouldn’t always know where my husband’s belt/wallet/etc. was.
Though to be fair, he probably wouldn’t ask me because he would know.
Those kinds of things.
I told my husband my vagina was smuggling hamburger. hahaha Also: over my labia and Carlsbad Cooter. genius. Disgusting, hilarious genius.
My husband was advised to stop trying to warm me up with his body. – that’s actually a very sweet image, even if it may have been irritating at the time.
Man, I hope selective amnesia never applies to marriage…
I’m so sorry to hear you had people pawing at you. I didn’t experience that with the boys. My doula – my sweet, sweet doula Moonrise – was there and she was my champion and she didn’t let anybody fuck with me or my newborns and, because of that, I was actually able to experience the beauty and trainwreck of childbirth from my own perch, in my own way. (Bear in mind, this was my third delivery – I won’t even go into my first two except to nod my head and say, “Yep.”)
Of everything from that night – the night the boys were born – I’m most thankful for Moonrise. Even if she’d chosen to rename herself Moonrise.
Also, your baby is beautiful.
I can’t lie. I never tire of hearing this. Even though I know there is a reasonably good chance everyone is lying to me.
Oh no. I didn’t advise him to stop trying to warm me up. That was my nurse. The same nurse who said no warm blankets.
She was, incidentally, a little person, and perhaps for that reason, the most battle-axe-ish of all of them. Having had to assert her competence extra convincingly to be taken seriously, I presume. She was intimidating. Also, she climbed up on my bed to direct the nursing action. This, if I’m being honest, was disconcerting.
Also, she went to Berkley in the 60s. But she was not called Moonrise.
Holy Shit. Seriously Becky, having a little person climb onto your bed while enduring everything you were must have sent you into David Lynch territory. Disconcerting? I bet I would have screamed.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m childless (by choice) but hormones are just ridiculously powerful. When it was determined that I should have a hysterectomy at 42, my head was really looking forward to having the surgery and getting on with my life without feeling like shit so much of the time. The surgery was scheduled about 6 weeks out. And then pretty much out of no where, I became absolutely obsessed about getting another dog. A puppy. I needed a puppy, and I had a very specific puppy in mind. It would have to be a rescue. It would be light colored. It would grow up to be a big dog… about 80 lbs or so. It would be female and it would instantly fall in love with our older dog and help to prolong his life. So I started browsing PetFinder constantly. Anytime I had a spare moment at work, I’d pull up the website and check out any new postings within 150 miles. Within a week I found the perfect dog. She was at a shelter that was overcrowded, in a remote area and needed a home within a week, or else. She appeared to be a mix between a sheep dog and a golden retriever, or perhaps a golden & poodle mix. They said it was urgent that she get picked up that weekend. I picked up the phone and bullied my husband into agreeing with me that we had to have her. Then I called the shelter and left a message on their machine. They called me back the following day and said she was ours. In two days I would pick her up. I started thinking about names and put her picture as my wallpaper on my computer at work. And then the shelter called again. There’d been some sort of terrible mix-up. That dog had already been promised to someone else. She was already gone. They were an all volunteer staff and it was just a communication breakdown. I’m not exaggerating at all when I tell you that I lost my shit. My co-workers must have been absolutely baffled. I was inconsolable, sobbing, couldn’t breathe. Absolutely appalling, over the top and ridiculous. Like there would be no more puppies. In shelters. Ever. Now that I look back on it, it’s so obvious that I had some biological and hormonal impulse to nurture and mother something, but it honestly didn’t occur to me at the time.
Of course, within a week I’d found another sweet little blonde moppet from another rural shelter and had her in my lap that afternoon. This time I didn’t even bother to discuss it with my husband. I just left work in the middle of the day, drove straight to this weird little shelter in the middle of nowhere and brought her home.
My point being (heh) that I agree; hormones are some crazy shit.
Your baby and your dog are gorgeous.
It was slightly unbelievable with the nurse. She was my nurse during and in the immediate aftermath of my labor, too, so she was the one wheeling me up to the NICU to feed my baby at 1 a.m., when I was barely lucid. Come to think of it, I can’t guarantee she was real.
And though her being a little person was indeed surreal, the most unnerving thing about her was her commanding presence.
Like, I’m pretty sure she could have kicked my ass. She was like a drill sergeant.
All NO WARM BLANKETS and shit.
And, you know, we brought that dog home two short months after I found out I was pregnant.
I just couldn’t get to the nurturin’ soon enough, apparently. My official story is that I felt like if I didn’t get a dog immediately, I’d have to wait years after the baby was born, but I still recall the look on my husband’s face when I turned to him with crazy eyes and said “LOOK AT THIS CUTE PUPPY. SHE IS SPOTTY.”
I knew the second I looked at him I would encounter zero resistance. He was genuinely frightened.
I want to make a horror flick called “The Carlsbad Cooter”.
I won’t ask for a cut if you give me a bit part.
But not, like, those bits.
Will there be a pre-dawn bat flight?
There will. And it will be awesome. So, so awesome.
I think it should be a documentary about the local teen pregnancy rates. 🙂
I’m really glad I don’t have a vagina/ovaries/etc.
Also, your daughter is beautiful. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m definitely not lying to you. I mean look at that little face! She’s adorable.
Ilihia is a beautiful name too. Is it Italian or Hawaiin?
But I only got lucky pronouncing it for the first time because I guessed and pronounced it like Italian.
Most of the time, I’m pretty okay with having the vagina and ovaries and etc. But more than once in the course of this baby making thing, I’ve felt resentment–real, honest-to-God, blistering contempt–at the lopsided nature of overall investment in childbearing between the sexes.
Where’s the Occupy Movement for THAT shit?
i had one of those labors, actually two out of three gave me a hard time. I think there can be some lingering trauma from intense endless pain for days on end, but it only last a few months. I think i asked, at one point, to be shot. However, i could really relate to when you said “Thank god that stuff is out of me.” all the pain just leaves!!I laughed when you said “I was a good whore. A good-n-drunk, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed whore.” Now that we are mothers, we are mrs Robinson, instead of Elaine. whatever that means.
It’s interesting to think of it that way.
Maybe women don’t understate the pain of labor & delivery months later, maybe they overstated it to begin with because they were traumatized.
Of course, when you’re talking about “how bad was it?” it begs the question, “compared to what?”
In either case, for some reason, women’s descriptions of the overall hardships involved tend to soften over time.
We paint all our memories different colors over time, of course. I think Richard touches on that in his latest piece. It depends on the outcome, I think. General mood at time of recollection, temperament, how things “turn out,” etc.
Hey. I’ll take Mrs. Robinson.
It’s Mrs. Brady and/or Ms. Crawford that I’m trying to look out for.
Childbirth (and afterbirth) is totally gross.
I mean, the miracle of childbirth is wonderful – but the actual process is horrible. I was at my god daughters birth and my god, I saw things I wished I never had.
Congrats Becky, she’s a beautiful little girl with a lovely, lovely name.
And, Uh. yeah. I made the mistake of glancing at my placenta as the surgeon heaved it onto a surgical pad and handed it off.
People fry those things up and eat them, you know.
Here’s how I remember it, but I was only the copilot. I’m glad you took good notes.
Wow. There are some brilliant lines in there. Definitely my favourite piece of writing on the subject of childbirth.
I’m sorry to say it, but I’m really really really glad that I can’t get pregnant; not until science begins to stalk Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. I could never handle something like genital destruction (another good band name?). My wife has basically made it clear that if she ever gets pregnant, she’s going to murder me, and I totally understand that sentiment.
Good for her.
Though I should warn you, I have friends, a couple, who swore they’d never have kids, not in a million years.
Then they got pregnant on accident–a little boy.
Then they got pregnant on accident again–two little boys.
My girlfriend sent her husband off to have his junk snipped for fear there’d be three next time.
So, you know, not to put you off sex, but if you’re having enough of it, the odds do nothing but grow.
It’s true, Becky. She’s a cutie all right.
Edible, though not in the way referred to above.
I remember those violent, wracking chills I got after the spinal block. It was nightmarish. They gave me blankets. They in fact did not help. But in all the early photos of me holding Giovanni, I have a bunch of blankets on my head like I’m auditioning for a role in a Christmas pageant.
Giovanni was breech and nine pounds, and despite a medieval effort at “turning” him, he wouldn’t budge–and therefore couldn’t “drop” because his head was stuck–so they had to do a C-section. At the time I believed this was a big, awful, horrible deal. I was all devastated and shit that I was going to be prohibited from pushing the baby out of my vagina, straining so hard that the blood vessels in my eyeballs would pop and I might poop myself on the table, apparently. I attribute this to hormones.
In retrospect, I consider my C-section to be one of the most fortunate happenings in the history of the world.
It was gross in its own right, too. Strapped to a table like Dead Man Walking, with a screen pulled down so I couldn’t see or feel the rest of my dead-meat, spinal-blocked body; I couldn’t even feel myself breathe. I was like a disconnected head. I didn’t sob for my puppy, but I repeatedly asked for Valium in my IV, and when they wouldn’t give it to me I started that violent shaking. David still has PTSD about seeing my intestines on a metal table.
I wouldn’t recommend the post-C-section F.U.P.A. (fat upper pussy area) to my worst enemy.
However, all said and done, I think I definitely had the easy way out. My lady bits were pain and mutilation free. Since they have to be used, for urination as well as other activities, more often that the imprecise area of my lower abdomen that was sliced into for the C-section, it all turned out to be a good deal in the end.
I wish you all the best in getting the hamburger back in the store. You’ll be too sexy for your cat, your hat, and whatnot again pretty soon, I’m certain of it.
I remember this.
I didn’t mention it in the piece, but over the course of those 3 days, I was induced–twice–in an effort to regulate my contractions and speed things along.
Pitocin causes all kinds of bloating and swelling all over the place.
There were a couple of times where I nearly called it off and just demanded the C-section, but I kept worrying about recovery time and having a big scar. I should have been thinking more long-term, but I am nothing if not impatient and vain.
I sort of wish I had gotten the c-section, and I think if I hadn’t gotten her on that last push, I would have had one on doctor’s orders. But alas, no. It was ‘taint blowout for me.
My lady parts appreciate the well-wishes. It’s been nearly 3 months now, so things are starting to shape up.
You and I have talked before or at least I’ve shared with you my thoughts on selective amnesia. It’s vital to the survival of the species. But it’s pretty fucked up. As I was pregnant with and delivering my daughter, I was so pissed at my brain. I felt betrayed by it, duped. The whole “fool me once…” thing. Then she was born and I fell in love with her and me and my brain have made our peace. There’s absolutely no way in hell I’ll be fooled a third time, though. Modern medicine is making sure of that.
After both kids I lost all the pregnancy weight and then some. I still could never fit into my old clothes – the pants at least. My body was simply shaped differently.
I had an extremely difficult time figuring out how to be a woman separate from being a mother. The psychological trauma of the ravaging my body took was only part of it but no small part. My husband could and did tell me I was beautiful and that everything was A-ok “down there” but I knew different.
I forgot about the chills. Those were horrible. See? Stupid, tricky brain. No baby for you!
Holy crap, Lily is ridiculously gorgeous. Not in the generic way *all* babies are cute (except the roughly 1 in 40 or so that are downright ugly). She is straight up, frickin beautiful. And no, you’ll never tire of hearing it.
Well, that’s just it. That’s the remodeling.
The scale says I’m 5 lbs lighter than I was when I was at my heaviest pre-pregnancy, sometime in 2001 when I drank a LOT of full-calorie beer, sat on my ass, and played tons of video games.
Pregnancy creates some kind of dark matter body mass. Like, you can’t see it, you can’t measure it, but it is nevertheless there, acting like it should be something you can see and measure.
Twilight Zone-type shit.
She really is adorable, congratulations. My given name is Eustacia, but everyone always just called me Stacie. Now I wish they’d stuck with Eustacia, though as a kid I would have been mortified.
I like Eustacia. It suits you.
I think “episiotomy” is unnerving because it doesn’t sound like what it is. Even a little bit.
Also, episiotomy is literally the worst word in the English language.
i thank the holy jeebus above every single day that my cooter decided at an early age to reject the idea of having chillens. every. single. day.
The fat lady ain’t sung yet, Girl.
You know, one thing I have learned, though, is that I was right.
People with kids only want you to have kids so that they have someone with whom to commiserate.
There’s plenty of joy in kids and babies and so on, but that’s not the part they’re wishing upon you when they wish babies upon you.
i love other people’s babies. LOVE. THEM. and they love me back. via endless, and slightly creepy, staring.
other people’s babies are great because you get to give them back when they start being assholes. and they make funny noises and they grunt and drool and they giggle at the most inopportune times and they’re like your favorite drunk uncle carl with out as much animosity.
but man, oh man, i do NOT need one of my own. they know how to fuck shit up and i can do that all on my own, thankyouverymuch. with much less poop and vomit. sort of.
Wasn’t Cooter a Dukes of Hazzard character? I can’t get this yokel voice out of my head saying, “Crazy Cooter!” Anyway, that phrase has a whole new meaning for me now.
Big congrats to the Palapalas, and to you for creating a piece distinctly Beckian in tone, humor and pathos.
yes, yes he was. and when i thank the holy jeebus every day for this, i totally do it in a yokel voice. pretending i have some strategically placed teeth missing.
Yeah. He was a Dukes of Hazzard character.
Presumably his naming predates the raunchier use of the word.
Or maybe not.
i’m going with “not” on this one.
I’d like to recognize Congressman Cooter from the 4th district of the great state of Georgia.
We live in a weird ass country.
daner! it’s the toothless part of the south. i expect nothing less. : )
He’s a pundit!
I always knew all pundits were cooters, but I didn’t know Cooter was a pundit.
So Becky, have you been petting the dog with your foot? I’m plotting a trip out to California to steal Walter the adorable from those babycentric Listi’s.
I have NOT been petting the dog with my foot, thank you very much.
That dog still sits firmly at the center of my universe. Right alongside the baby, who is only slightly more at the center.
We tell Lily that Sydney is her sister, not her puppy.
She might end up being kind of a weird kid.
“For five days, people had done nothing but touch me” = perhaps the most horrifying of all sentiments expressed in this piece, in my mind.
It really was relentless.
Even in my sleep, they would come in, take my temp, take my blood pressure, adjust fetal monitors, etc. Just general futzing. And it’s not like they warn you or ask, “is this okay or should I come back later?” They just march in and start grabbing, pulling, lifting, etc.
I LOVE THIS SO HARD: Also, his ‘taint wasn’t obliterated.
I can’t lie. As I wrote it, I thought to myself, “THIS is truth.”
Hardly the meaning of life, but we all have to start somewhere.
The phrase “Carlsbad Cooter” had me laughing out loud.
While i typically don’t engage total strangers in conversations about their nipples, when you called them incompetent, was that a name the hospital folks used? My wife and i use that term to describe her attempt at breastfeeding, along with “lazy ass nipple syndrome.”
After seeing wifey’s gigantic, grody, placenta, with the first and only baby, i have been rather selfish with my fluids. Never again.
Your baby is beautiful. Congrats to your whole immediate posse.
In fact, my equipment was deemed “perfect” by a kindly nurse, but I’d have rather had lazy-ass nipple syndrome than have to chalk up my difficulties to lack of expertise, competence, or native talent. Just a personality tic. Against all reason, I wanted–worse, expected–to be a breastfeeding savant. A prodigy. I wanted glory, man. Admiration.
What the heck for? Who knows? Because I can’t stand not being good at things. It stings me.
You seem a little overimpressed with your vagina and its capabilities and a lack of understanding how well the body can heal, particularly the smegma lined vagina.
You seem to be overly impressed with your vagina and not the miracle that passes through it, not to mention the smegma-lined environment it resides in that may allow it to heal without results of it (your vagina) being slutty.
Do I? Huh.
Guess I’ll just have to live with that.
We sensitive-like husbands always drift into convincing ourselves that we feel your pain and fully understand, but it helps to be reminded that we actually don’t. You know, it’s a start.
Lately, I’ve gone to the dog, too. We’ve got a new puppy and the first week with him in the home was more like the first week with a newborn than I expected, despite warnings. Same upheaval to the routine, same close encounters with poop at ungodly hours, same need to explain not to eat chewed gum found on the sidewalk and same overwhelming presence of something intrinsically good.
Anyway, your ending is lovelier than I imagine you want to admit.
And I for one have never known you to be overly impressed (or overimpressed for that matter) with anything.
Go, Chimera, Go.
And I hadn’t meant it as an indictment. Just a statement of fact. It is, I have to imagine, easier to be joyful under any circumstances if your genitals don’t have stitches in them, or need stitches in them.
I mean, Truth.
My husband was wonderful and supportive and did a good job of getting me everything I wanted (that the doctors would let me have, anyway). He slept on terrible chairbeds and executed my every last psychotic, strange, tearful, and/or irrational order.
He definitely had his own cross to bear.
But at the end of the day, I do claim overall bragging/bitching rights on account of the blood and 6 weeks of sitz baths and stuff.
Thank you, Nat. I take great (but not too great, of course) pride in my total lack of overt enthusiasm for anything.
Except Rufus Wainwright. I’m totally over-impressed with him.
Ah. And re: The Dog.
I’ve had a number of puppies in my life, and yet when we got Syd, I was totally caught off guard by how very utterly you cannot let an 11 week-old puppy out of your sight.
Worse than a newborn in that when you set them down, they don’t stay put, and worse than the most mischievous toddler, if for no other reason than that they move so much faster.
And no diapers for puppies. I mean, I’m sure they make them, but we didn’t have any.
Okay, she is so ridiculously cute, Becky. And I’m not a “baby person” in the least. So this means it’s absolutely true.
I’m glad you wrote this! Nothing annoyed me more when pregnant and/or in the delivery room than hearing everyone’s starshine-and-rainbows gushing about child birth. At the time, it made me think something was wrong with me, but now I know it’s just that everyone lies. Except you. Also, I kept very, very meticulous notes about the horrors of the delivery room so I couldn’t be duped into doing it ever again. It worked for a whole seven years.
The lie is not as interesting as the truth. I don’t know why anyone would lie. Probably because most women are not inclined to talk openly about their vaginas.
In fact, I’m not, either. Or I never used to be. But childbirth has robbed me of whatever dignity or shame I had.
I never understand it when childbirth is heralded as some sort of sparkling rainbow hippie earth mother miracle. It is often a horrifically painful, terrifying process, and the gift of a healthy child at the end of it all doesn’t negate the fact that labor can completely suck. It might be sour grapes because I had such a nightmarish experience, and failed at vaginal delivery, but I think it’s really weird when women are proud of their successful birthing process. Like they won at birthing. Like they have birthing skills. Like a lucky roll of the biological dice wasn’t the real reason they were able to have an easy labor. I’m not proud that I have green eyes, after all.
When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that having a “birth plan” was the dumbest thing ever. My doctor insisted I write one up and take copies to the hospital, as if by writing down how I wanted it to go, I could make it come true. I should have written: “My Birth Plan is to get this gigantic child out of my body somehow, by whatever means necessary. I plan to panic, cry, and growl like a trapped animal while I fantasize about hurling my entire body at the corner wall every time my contractions peak from the excessive pitocin the nurses have given me without an epidural, until I have an emergency C-section after 36 hours of hard, pointless labor. And the doctor making me write this bullshit Birth Plan will be out of town for the weekend.” That one would have been right on.
The stuff above about your poor hamburger-ized lady parts makes me cringe in sympathy. Holy crap. The horror. A 7-inch incision across my upper junk to wrestle the 9.5 lb. boy out was no picnic, and gave me later complications that resulted in a hysterectomy, and STILL, with all that in mind, I’m really glad the vag escaped unscathed. I will take a C-section over a perineal apocalypse (nice tag!) any day of the week. That sounds absolutely brutal. I would send your lady parts a hug, but that seems kind of kinky and would make us both uncomfortable, so let me just send you some speedy healing vibes instead.
“Leaping up four clothing sizes in the seeming blink of an eye–regardless of where one starts or finishes–is a major trauma to any woman in Western Civilization. Pregnancy is like going away on the world’s most dreadful vacation and returning to find that someone remodeled your house. Blindfolded.
Say whatever gassy things you like about rising above social expectations of body image and fighting the patriarchy and so on; I don’t fit in to my favorite jeans. Politics doesn’t even touch it.”
YES. Yes! Amen, sister. I would love to magically shudder off all of my pre-baby body dysmorphia, but the fact remains that my son is 5 years old and I still wear 4 sizes higher than I did before I got knocked up. It is not cool, I don’t love my new “voluptuous curves” and giant, awkward tits, and I never will. I will never be okay with what the blindfolded remodeler did to my trim little size 5 house while I was on the 9 month vacation, that hormone-addled sonofabitch. (And God bless my husband for pretending to find the new post-baby decor attractive. I married a very smart man.)
If life was fair, something equally traumatic would happen to the bodies of men every time they father a child. But at least they get to share the emotional trauma of parenting with us (if they’re doing it right). I find a little comfort in that. (:
I knew the Chimera Mother wouldn’t let me down. I love this one so hard, Becky. I laughed and thought “Exactly!” the whole time I read this. Thanks for writing it.
Of course you know!
We are one in our neuroses, Tawni.
We’re the Wonder Twins of Whackadoo.
I have to give the c-section ladies props, though. I mean, Gina was apparently disemboweled. Do they do that to everyone? That’s pretty hard core.
And even if they didn’t disembowel you, I’ve heard the recovery is harrowing.
Ah, the birth plan. I have a girlfriend who is all over the birthplan. She’s got an iPod playlist for her labor and all kinds of stuff like that.
The midwives, in my last couple months of appointments, kept asking about my birthplan. My reply was always the same: “Drugs.”
*cock head* “No?”
“Okay, we’ll play it by ear.”
Wonder Twins of Whackadoo! I love that. Wonder Twin powers activate! Form of… a whale with body issues! Shape of… an icy stare!
My guts have lain next to me, too. My huge son displaced everything. He was really hard to get out, and they had to shake me all over the table. When the doctor (Dr. Lisa Masterson, from that television show ‘The Doctors’… I heart L.A.) finally wrestled him out of me, she exclaimed, “Good lord in heaven!” because he was nearly 10 pounds, 23 inches long, and looked like a 3 month old. I’m scared of babies, so on the bright side, I was really relieved to have a big one that seemed so hard to break.
The abdominal/intestinal adhesions from that surgery led to the hysterectomy five years later, so I guess I wouldn’t recommend scheduling an unnecessary C-section. (http://www.clearpassage.com/pain/c-section.php) But wow, I still shudder for your girl junk. It’s such a delicate place for ripping, tearing, and stitches. Ouch, ouch, ouch. You poor lady. My sympathy: you haz it.
You had the smartest birth plan ever. I tried to go natural, and the pitocin-induced involuntary pushing swelled my cervix right into surgery. Because I am an idiot. An idiot, I tell you. My advice for pregnant women now is drugs. As many drugs as they will give you. And get the epidural as soon as you can. It turns out they’re not giving out awards for bravery at the hospital, darn it.
It turns out they’re not giving out awards for bravery at the hospital, darn it.
Well that’s exactly it.
Whatever you’re going through, while it’s the veritable endofthemotherfuckingworld for you, for them, it’s just another day at work.
This sort of adds to the Stephen King aspect. Like when John Lithgow sees the creature eating the wing of the plane but no one else can see it.
But I think that was Twilight Zone.
Speaking of drugs, the one experience I would not mind having again was when they gave me a morphine and antihistamine cocktail to help me sleep on the 2nd night.
That was niiiiice.
Also: I have been pronouncing Ilihia correctly in my head. Yay! And she is ridiculously, almost unreasonably beautiful with such smart eyes. I have to stare at every picture of your Lily in total adoration. She completely mushes me out.
Here’s an odd thing.
For some reason, I feel mildly uncomfortable when people tell me how cute/pretty/alert/smart-looking Lily is.
The same way I get uncomfortable if people compliment me, personally.
Maybe it’s because I feel shame about momentarily feeling, like, proud of myself for having an attractive child.
It’s not like I designed her. I mean, it’s not like I have pretty baby skillz. It’s weird.
Stephen King wishes he’d invented childbirth. Put that on ten-thousand t-shirts and ship ’em to me in Venice. Your daughter’s college is paid for.
I love how Ilihia looks like she’s throwing a punch in that second photo. Nope, she’s not your daughter.
I had an interesting rendez-vous with a Blue Heeler on the Navajo Reservation. I totally get it.
I’m here to tell you Kegel exercises are bullshit. Your cunt will be magnificent. Also, I was skinnier post-baby. Sexier too. Chin up, sister. By the time that baby is cruising around on all fours you’ll be singing “Like A Virgin.”
I had a Nurse Helga too. If I’m not mistaken, that was her actual name.
You give me hope, Lisa.
Also, Mad Max’s dog was a Blue Heeler. This is the go-to companion of the post-apocalyptic world. They are special.
A woman finally tells the truth! Hope they don’t string you up for doing so—don’t you know that giving birth is supposed to be beautiful, with violins playing in the background, and us females finally feeling fulfilled? They say that women forget the pain of childbirth—I didn’t. But somehow I found the grit to go through TWO of them. And you know what? I’m so glad I did. Judging by those incredible photos on your site of Lily you will too—so do those Keagles!
By “they” I presume you mean the angry mommies. The angry mommies are out there.
The angry mommies band together to compensate for the deep and profound insecurities and misgivings they feel about their own maternal skills and wag their bourgeois-manicured fingers at anyone who dares to raise–or even think about–their child in a manner of their own choosing.
No. They haven’t gotten to me yet. Lucky for them. 😀
“Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding”
― Betty White
I always cringe at stories like yours. For me birth was a breeze, one tiny tear. It was the 2 years of post-partum depression that almost killed me.
Sorry about your vagina – too bad it isn’t like Storm Large’s.
Plus, saying it like it is – is important. These stories need to be told to teenagers, scare them and gross them out. Fuck all you want: Use a condom, birth control and DON’T get pregnant.
This should be a public service announcement.
I’m surprised more mothers aren’t more honest with their daughters about this sort of thing. I suppose they worry about making their girls afraid of their bodies or afraid of men or something, but frankly, our bodies are capable of some pretty terrifying (even if impressive) things.
Your baby is beautiful and I can tell she’s gonna be just like you from the second picture of her. She looks like she about to punch someone out.
You know, in France when you have a baby, a physical therapist comes in and tends to your vagina after the delivery. She puts this vibrating wand (yes, there are other words for things like that) in your vagina and has you contract around it until everything works it way back to normal. The French like nice vaginas. I had a friend who had a baby in Germany and she said they put a sand bag on her belly immediately after delivery to help push her back into her size 6 pants. They seem to care about bellies in Germany. In the U.S. you get a free diaper bag with a packet of formula and a bottle so you can get the baby off the breast as quickly as possible. I guess they care about Similac and Gerber here more than they care about our vaginas.
Well, to be frank, if anyone had tried to stick anything in my vagina after delivery, I probably would have mauled them.
As best I could, anyway, the way I was shuffle-waddling around. A person could probably escape fairly easily.
I am glad to say I was not given such a diaper bag and didn’t know that some people are. Breastfeeding was definitely encouraged at the hospital I went to–enough so that, were I a mother planning on formula feeding, I would have felt uncomfortable saying so.
We were told, though, to take anything we wanted from her little hospital bassinet. We scored a couple packs of Pampers, some wipes, and 4 of those receiving blankets they use. I have yet to find receiving blankets that work as well as the hospital ones for swaddling.
Also made off with with some ice packs specially-made for the crotch/asscrack area, should we run into any such injuries around the house, and some spectacularly oversized maxipads, in case I get 4 or 5 periods at once.