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CHAPTER 1

HOW IT ALL BEGINS

“Congratulations! You're going to have a baby!” , your idiot doctor

While rummaging through boxes in preparation for an upcoming garage sale, I came across many things. Outdated clothing ( did I really pay for that Duran Duran t-shirt, not to mention the concert it came from?), an empty macaroni and cheese box (movers will pack anything), and approximately 3,000 Happy Meal toys (but Mooooo-ooooommm, we have to have the whole set of Dwarfs! Warriors! Bugs!). Nothing really slowed my progress however, until I stumbled upon my very dog eared, lived through three babies, cover-is-missing copy of the world recognized pregnancy bible, What To Expect When You’re Expecting.

I was gifted with this book when I became pregnant with my first child. As I had no vague idea what to expect, I read, re-read, and re-re-read every word. I consulted it through each phase of my pregnancy, each kick of my daughter, and each bite of food I placed on my tongue. By golly, I was going to do this right! Well, with each subsequent pregnancy, I consulted the Gospel of Gestation less and less frequently. Why? Simple. I came to realize it is a book of poetry. A flowery tome of pretty phrasing and watercolor images. If being pregnant and giving birth were like it describes in that book, MEN would even give it a try! So, for all of you currently pregnant, or attempting to be, I offer you the truth . . . every dry heaved, stretch marked, hormonal bit. For those of you who have been down this road already, feel free to laugh hysterically.

FIRST TRIMESTER

From the day you turn the stick blue, you will obsess. This is normal and expected. Finding out you are harboring a human being makes for some surreal moments in your psyche. You will plan every aspect of the child’s life from names to colleges, to names for your college-attending grandchildren. This does not make you anal. It simply reconfirms that you are human. It is our ability to daydream that sets us apart from the wolves and other animals that pass this time by scratching and chewing on their own butts.

You will also feel either sick as a dog or sleepy as Rip Van Winkle. If you are terribly textbook about it, you will feel both. Note: Morning sickness can happen at 7am, noon, even 11pm. (It is always morning somewhere.) Personally, I never threw up, but would lie by the toilet wishing that I would. Note #2: Do not plan any special dining during this trimester. While pregnant with my second child, my husband and I took a much anticipated trip to New Orleans. For years, YEARS, we had looked forward to going to this wonderful city. Mardi Gras, you ask? No. No. No. We wanted to EAT! Both compulsive cooking show addicts, we had compiled a list of restaurants we had to try. Long story short, we did visit them all, I would order some mouth watering entrée’, only to have my mouth begin salivating upon it being presented to me. And not in a good way. I spent more time in the toilets of New Orleans than the most drunken of Mardi Gras partier. And my husband gained a solid five pounds by eating not only his order, but mine. Could not let it go to waste now could he? It did not matter whether it was beignets on the boulevard or shrimp etouffe by Emeril. The only “kickin’ it up a notch” was done by the bile in my stomach. BAM!

You’ll feel the need to sleep all the time. Face it, your body is currently under construction and this takes its toll. After a long day of working, I would come home, get undressed and be sound asleep by 630pm. My poor husband felt like a widower, a strange widower who preferred to keep his deceased wife in bed next to him. I felt sorry for him until a co-worker informed me it was basketball season. No wonder he never complained! I was never awake to complain during the games! Schmuck.

Finally, you will find your trips to the bathroom becoming more and more frequent. It always struck me as odd that a baby the size of a pea could make me have to pee, but then again, it is good practice for the next six months. Buy stock in Charmin NOW. You only stand to make money as your pregnancy proceeds.

Bottom line? The only sure fire cure for this time, is time.

SECOND TRIMESTER

Generally speaking, the “feel-good” trimester, you will have your energy back and desire more than crackers and the cool side of a commode. Your relationship with the toilet shall continue, however, as you will need to pee every 10 seconds. If you have been a generic toilet paper user up to now, switch to Charmin. Anything less and you will begin to feel like you are using sandpaper.

Highlight of this trimester: You will finally feel your baby kick. Described by books as a hiccup or butterfly in your stomach, it is much more exciting. By the time your child decides to make a “move”, you have just about had it with being sick and tired. I think of it as payment for the previous five months.

Lowlight of this trimester: Month 4 when regular clothes no longer fit and maternity clothes look ridiculous. Tip: Just wear your husband’s shirts and any pair of pants containing elastic. This is probably one of the only moments in a woman’s life when she wants to be bigger. Towards the end of this trimester, when you are starting to really show, you will find that your stomach has become public property. Do not be alarmed. There is just something about a pregnant belly that invites people to “feel you up”. Besides, you look so cute in those darling maternity clothes with all the bows and puffy sleeves. I will simply never understand why the maternity designers of the world feel compelled to make us look like the children we will soon be dressing.

THIRD TRIMESTER

All that snoozing you did during the first trimester? Use it now. Sleep will begin to elude you as the baby inhabits a time zone directly opposite of yours. As you begin to drift off at 9pm, your baby will be waking up for some early morning Tae Bo and Bladder Soccer. And don’t even envision being comfortable in bed. Constrained by the many rules of “PG prone”, you cannot lie on your back because of the weight on the kidneys and spine. Besides, placing seven pounds on your kidneys only contributes to the Bladder Soccer game. You are supposed to lie on your left side. Period. Better for circulation, baby, yada, yada, yada. My husband felt it was his duty to awaken me everytime he found me sleeping in the wrong position. His heart was in the right place, but he is lucky he did not end up with his testicles in the wrong place.

Well, now that I have brought up the subject of testicles, let me say a few words about sex during pregnancy. YOU WILL NOT FEEL LIKE IT IN THE THIRD TRIMESTER. Any woman who says she does is a liar on the scale of Nixon. The last thing you will feel is sexy. Your body is large and awkward. A creature visibly moves to and fro in your distended abdomen, and your lingerie consists of your spouse’s t-shirts and some really hot maternity underwear. I always find it humorous when sex is recommended as a way of getting labor to start. Yeah right. Maybe because you will be laughing so hard at the thought of finding a position.

You will also begin to detest your tents, er, excuse me . . . maternity clothing. Your dreams alternate between holding your new baby and being a size 8 again. You will stand in your closet stroking pieces of clothing you have not worn in six months. Do yourself a favor. While there are those few sickening women who emerge from the hospital in their teeny blue jeans - and I personally believe they have made a pact with Satan - the reality is that your tummy will resemble a mound of bread dough that has just been punched down. Repeat after me and let this be your mantra: Elastic is my friend. Elastic is my friend.

You will grow tired of answering for the 8,000 time, “When are you due?” and as people continue to “reach out and touch” your big belly, you will find it harder and harder to resist the urge to reach out and grab their privates. You will begin to harbor resentment as you blame your entire condition on your spouse.

You will also begin “nesting”. Rationalized by doctors as an “instinctual need to prepare for the upcoming offspring”, it is really because you are trying to pass the time which is going by slower than a turtle walking through molasses in winter. By the final weeks of pregnancy, you will no longer worry about whether or how much it will hurt. You will simply want to hang an eviction notice from your distended belly button and get it over with.

~~~~~~

“Dear Lord, please deliver me from this labor!…..”, every woman since Eve.

What to Really Expect During Labor & Delivery

The beginnings of labor are actually hard to recognize, especially if it is your first time. Expect anything from a crampy feeling to back pressure to a sudden rush of water down your legs. If your water happens to break in the grocery store, be responsible. Grab whatever glass container you happen be near , pickles, apple juice, wine, drop it on the floor, and wait for the announcement. You'll be much less embarrassed by "Clean up on Aisle 9." over the loudspeakers than if you just walked away and then heard some old woman slip and cry out, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!".

As labor intensifies, contractions will become much more distinct. What does a contraction feel like? Well, imagine being plunged into freezing water, every muscle in your body tensing up, and then being slowly lowered into warm water, muscles relaxing. Repeat the process every 5 to 10 minutes. If your water has broken, just strap on a new Depends with each contraction. Your body will replace the water continuously until the tiny Elvis has “left the building.”

Once at the hospital, you will be greeted by a team of nurses who, although friendly, will be terribly matter-of-fact. While bearing down, also bear in mind that you are probably the 8th birth on their shift and they just want to get home to watch ER. While in the hospital, your husband’s primary responsibility will be to feed you ice chips and serve as a human dartboard for your very pointed tongue. After all, none of this would be happening if he hadn’t plied you with margaritas nine months ago. As you continue to dilate towards the magic number 10, your internal progress will be gauged by at least 25 different people and an audience of new residents. (I developed a whole new respect for hand puppets. To think poor Lambchop endured decades of this treatment and she was never even pregnant!) They prefer to do this WHEN you are having a contraction, a somewhat risky affair. A friend of mine actually kicked a nurse in the head during one such exam. Fear not. Most states have obscure laws protecting your right to apply your stockinged foot to the side of hospital worker's head, if said worker's hand happens to be a temporary part of your anatomy at the time of impact.

Most hospitals will have you hooked up to a monitor. “Hooked up” meaning they strap a belt around your middle that serves to check the baby’s heartrate, measure your contractions and insure that you are unable to find a comfortable position. (Cannot disturb the monitor, you know.) Your husband will become the biggest idiot you have ever had the honor of knowing. He will become the Monitor Quarterback, informing you of a beginning contraction. . . as if YOU might not notice it on your own! He will touch you when you do not wish to be touched. He will talk when all you want is silence. He will even have the audacity to breath . Idiot. From his point of view, he is watching Sybil give birth to his child. In between contractions, you will declare your love for him. During a contraction, you will speak in tongues and wish him leprosy. Take heart, the end is near.

Carol Burnett once described the pain of childbirth as, “Taking your lower lip and pulling it over your head.” She must have had an epidural. What To Expect... describes it as discomfort. If you are contemplating natural, drug free childbirth, take it from one who has been there. Have your husband stand five feet directly behind you. NOW take your bottom lip and pull it over your head and back over his. Have him hold it in place with his heels. That’s about right. To replicate the feeling of an intense contraction, have him perform Lord of the Dance for 45-60 seconds.

At 10 centimeters, you will be told to start pushing. A truth from the What To Expect book is that you will feel better when you are allowed to push. Yes, you will be attempting to squeeze a football out the eye of a needle, but somehow the pain will start to feel worth it. Personally, I pushed for 3 hours the first time around. First time babies are notorious for peeking out and hiding , peeking out and hiding. You will find yourself pushing so hard, it would not surprise you to see your own head pop out before the baby’s. When the baby finally arrives, you will be exhausted, jubilant, teary eyed and . . . exhausted. You will also be sporting hemorrhoids that resemble a head of cauliflower. No matter. For there is one thing from the book, I shall always agree with. You will forget all about the preceeding 9 months, and your husband standing on your lip, when they hand you that baby.

~~~~~

"That which does not kill you, will make you stronger."

SURVIVING THE FIRST 8 WEEKS

Most moms agree that they used the What To Expect book as their “bible” during their first pregnancies, as good “toilet reading” during their second, and as a fine doorstop during the third and subsequent go rounds. While there is a sequel to the book, What to Expect The First Year, I shall address what is most universal and most ignored in this and any advice book on the shelves. It is called Surviving The First 8 Weeks, or what I refer to as THE BLACK HOLE.

There you are, happily ensconced in your hospital room, enjoying the room service, control of the TV, the ability to send the new baby back to the nursery and your own comfy donut ring. Suddenly, as you are luxuriating in yet another sitz bath, the door to the bathroom is flung open by your doctor, informing you that it is check out time. WHAT?!?! You have to leave this oasis? Yes, the baby is healthy, your stitches are secure and most importantly, your insurance only covers “drive thru type” deliveries. Before you know it, you and baby are being wheeled to the exit and deposited on the curb with a jungle of half dead flowers, wilting balloons and a free sample of every formula known to exist on planet Earth. Oh yes, your donut ring is balanced on top of a pile of hospital maxi pads.

Arriving home with your new bundle, you will feel like the most incompetent person to ever walk the planet. Scratch that. You will feel like the second most incompetent person, your husband being the first. Who, in their right mind, thought it was a good idea to allow you two to not only give birth, but to bring the child home?!?!? From the first cry, you will enter the Black Hole at warp speed. Your whole life will now be focused on the single act of making the crying stop. You will bounce, jiggle, sway, snuggle, and cry with the baby when nothing seems to work. You will sing. It does not matter if you are not a gifted vocalist. You will sing jingle bells, commercial jingles, and your old college fight song. You will even sing the ingredients off a box of cereal. Soon you will find a tune that seems to quiet your darling child.

If you choose to nurse your new baby, please place your seatbacks and tray tables in their full and upright positions as you prepare to descend into hell. If you are Catholic, you will surely believe this is penance for ANY past, present or future transgressions. There is no pretty way to say it. It hurts and it will continue to hurt until your nipples toughen up like shoe leather (approximately 7 - 10 days). My toes would literally curl so tight when my first daughter would latch on, I could have bent steel.

Sleep will become a foggy, murky memory as you begin to operate on three minutes of it a day. You will feel as though you are IN a murky fog. Babies eat around the clock, and unfortunately, the clocks of many of them are still working in the time zone directly opposite yours. Day will be night, night will be day. This was the modus operandi of all three of my daughters. I became an expert on every infomercial and home shopping club on TV, while attempting to pass the time during nursing at midnight, 2am, 4am, 445am . . . During the day, when the child actually naps for a decent period of time, do NOT do laundry, pay bills, clean. LIE DOWN! You won’t actually sleep, mind you, because your brain knows the baby will begin to wail at the precise moment you drop off, but LIE DOWN anyway.

Your personal beauty regimen will suffer during this period as well. Showers will be hard to come by and mascara just won’t matter. Your clothing, if nursing, will all contain circular “let down” stains, and nursing or bottle, your shoulder will be permanently adorned with a cloth diaper, rag or towel which leaves you smelling like Regurg del la Renta. You won’t care. Your outings will be limited to emergency runs to the Wal Mart for more diapers and wipers.

Then as your bundle nears the two month mark, something amazing will happen. It won’t all happen at once, but over the course of a few days, it dawns on you . . . the child is napping at the same time, for the same length of time each day! The baby responds to your smile with one of it’s own! Night time feedings become well spaced, affording you up to three hours of slumber in between! You find you can work in a shower, the laundry AND some mascara! You will even break out the stroller and hit the mall for a stroll among the living! Congratulations! You have emerged from the Black Hole and are now ready to get down to the task of actually raising that little darling. But then, that is a book unto itself! Keep reading....

~~~~~~

"Nothing inspires controversy faster than a leaky boob."

Got Milk?

Ever notice how one word can mean something totally different to different people? Like IDIOT. Some people consider it a word to identify a person of great stupidity. I on the other hand, think of it as a term of endearment for my husband. NUN. Most would tell you it refers to a female member of a religious order. My two year old would tell you it is what’s left after she eats all the Goldfish and the box is empty. And then there is NURSE. Defined by Webster’s as, “a person trained for the care of the sick or injured”. Defined by me as, “the act of allowing one’s breasts to stretch to grotesque proportions, on a regular basis, and sticking them in the mouth of an infant whose sole purpose in life is to suck them dry, only to have them fill back up again two hours later, ruining every shirt you possess, until one day the child stops and they swell no more, thus resulting in a rather sad, deflated version of . . .”. I’m rambling aren’t I? Sorry.

To nurse or not to nurse, that is a question that every new mother faces. Unfortunately, while we are making our decision, we are also faced with pamphlets, books, doctors, leagues, groups, and friends trying to push us in one direction or another. There is a ton of propaganda out there for both sides. Personally, I say to heck with everyone else. It is ultimately between you, your boobs and your baby and you should do what feels and works best for you. I chose to nurse mine. A decision I have never regretted, except every night when I get out of the bathtub and stand in front of the mirror, pushing them back up where they used to live near my neck and then watching them fall back down to their new home near my navel. . .I’m rambling again. I do apologize.

What gets me about nursing though, is OTHER people’s reactions. Generationally, my mother didn’t understand why I would want to. She bottle fed me and I turned out fine, right? (This is from same lady whose generation snuck whiskey into baby bottles for teething. Sure, it made the pain go away! A little Jack and Pablum could make rheumatism feel better!) Single friends were visibly curious, then disgusted as they watched let down stains slowly spread across my chest while waiting for the baby to wake up. Even my husband occasionally flinched when I would nurse. Oh wait. That’s probably because I would squirt him from across the room with the unoccupied breast. Never mind.

Inevitably, at some point during your nursing . . . many points if you plan on having any semblance of a life . . . you will face the controversy of NURSING IN PUBLIC! There you are, walking calmly through the mall, enjoying being out in the real world, and the tiny bundle in the stroller erupts like Vesuvius. You recognize the cry as one of hunger. Your breasts recognize the cry (yes, your breasts have ears) and immediately begin to flow. I defy anyone to try to tell a hungry infant OR a pair of milk happy orbs, to be patient. So, I would pull out the blanket, cover up the proceedings and sit quietly on a bench. The looks I would receive ranged from understanding smiles (other moms) to curiosity (teenage boys) to downright disapproval (Reverend Falwell. I mean what was I hiding under that flannel cabana??? Tinky Winky, I feel your pain.). One person was so intrigued, they sat down next to me and stared. I asked if I could see their ticket. What? Well, surely if you are going to watch the show, you paid admission at the door, didn’t you? They quickly departed.

Yes, I suppose it is possible to run around and find a bathroom, fitting room, or rack of clothes to hide in, but I guess I will never understand the “boob phobia” that is out there. Honestly, have those people who think there is something sexual about the nursing breast, ever SEEN one? I can think of nothing farther from a turn-on! (And I am including Reverend Falwell!) And if a person is so offended by it being done, WHY ARE THEY WATCHING?

Whether you follow the bible or subscribe to Darwin, one thing is the same, breasts were put here for this purpose. A woman gives birth and they fill up with milk, thus enabling her to feed her offspring, if this is the method she so chooses. So, if nursing is a choice you make, be tolerant, remember it is a natural, beautiful thing, and that “Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder”. But if that person ever sits down next to you in the mall to watch? You have my permission to change it to “MILK is in the eye of the beholder.” Ready, aim, fire!

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