What It’s ACTUALLY Like To Have A Baby, Including All The Gory Details Your Mother Wouldn’t Tell You

A couple of months ago, I transformed from this

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Two days before Mini Tex arrived.

 

into this

 

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You can’t see it from this angle but I have in essence created a Mini Tex, the only way you’d know for sure that my baby is related to me is if you watched him emerge from my junk.

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Sometimes I can’t even tell them apart.

What happened in between was kind of like when a butterfly emerges from a cocoon. That is if butterflies screamed at the top of their lungs and covered the space around them in blood like something out of a B grade horror movie.

Until Mini Tex actually came into the world, I had no idea how it was going to happen, I mean obviously I had a rough idea of which people were going to come out where but Moms and surprisingly the internet have a way of keeping the whole process hush hush. Something I discovered before Mini Tex’s arrival while researching online. My friend Sula also commented on this fact after she asked her mother to elaborate about having children. So strap on your helmet interwebs, I’m going to give you a crash course in the birthing process. SPOILER ALERT – It’s going to be terrifying and also possibly a little gross.

 

Early Labour

Babies like to inconvenience people. Hence they choose to start their entry into the world at inopportune times like 2 am. You can lie in bed during this time but good luck sleeping because contractions hurt, not bad enough to take your breath away but just enough so that you can’t have sweet sweet dreams about former Playboy bunnies or whatever it is you like to dream about.

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Don’t judge me, their ditzy mannerisms and way of deeming everything “Super fun!” bring me joy. (Photo Credit: fanpop.com)

This continues for a while. Like a long while. Such a long while in fact, that you decide that your baby’s arrival should inconvenience your partner too, so at 4 am you wake him up. At this point you’re both stoked because your baby is almost here! All you have to do is walk forever to get him out faster. So even though it’s the middle of the night, even though it’s minus twenty-five out, even though you’re both a little drunk on sleep deprivation, you start walking. And walking, and walking. For Pete’s sake where is this baby? Does he need you to march an actual marathon with kilometer markers and race officials before he will come out?

10 am – Still walking. The good news is your labor is progressing; the bad news is that means during every contraction you have to lean a little on your partner, also you aren’t getting very far very fast. Please note labour is not the time to do sightseeing.

11 am – You walk past the hospital where your partner proclaims that it’s time to see a doctor. Having seen the birthing “suites” you are reluctant to check into the hospital; it appears the people who designed the rooms have never visited an actual hotel and didn’t understand the meaning of the word “suite”. Just outside the doors, you realize you need to pee NOW. However your body needs to contract this baby out of you. It’s a dramatic fight to see whether your bladder sphincters triumph over your slow pace to the washroom. After dragging yourself up a flight of stairs you make it to the loo just in the nick of time.

12 pm – You arrive at the maternity ward where there are wheelchairs everywhere as if women just randomly lose the use of their legs and drop to the floor. After checking in the receptionist asks you if you can walk the five feet to the next window. Clearly she hasn’t looked at the steps on your Fitbit that day.

12:30 pm – You are directed to a room with another woman in it who is either dying or about to have her baby right then and there based on the pained groans coming from behind the curtain. Her husband runs frantically in and out of the room crying “Epidural! Epidural!”

Get ready my Unwashed public, you’re about to get the Coles Notes version of how labour progresses. Standing between you and your beautiful newborn is your cervix. You’d call it an asshole for keeping your baby from you but your cervix has kindly been holding the little bugger in for nine months, so you forgive it. In order for the baby to emerge, your cervix both has to thin out (efface) and dilate 10 cm (Make a hole 10 cm in diameter for the baby to come out of. Also, does that seem like a really small opening to anyone else? After all, you’re having a human baby not a ferret. )

The doctor comes in to check your roommate, it isn’t polite to eavesdrop but you and your partner do anyway because in all likelihood the father of the child is going to be running down the halls shouting for pain meds rather than in the room to catch the baby who is certain to come flying out any moment now if the woman’s cries are any indication.

It turns out your fellow labourer is three centimetres dilated, just like you and a long way from having her baby. Score one for yoga breathing to reduce pain and relax your contracting muscles. You ask to go home so you can continue the world’s slowest walking tour of your city.

4:00 pm – You lie down to rest because you are not the Proclaimers walking five hundred miles and then five hundred more because you can’t fall down at the door at the end as directly after all that endless marching about, you have to push.

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That’s great that you guys want to keep going- I’m going to take a nap. (Photo Credit : citylab.com)

 

However, sleeping is a bad decision because between this bout of inactivity and the bath you take immediately afterwards, your baby takes the opportunity to turn and you have back labour.

7:00 pm – If given the choice between pushing another human being out of me and back labour, I would happily squeeze another person out of my lady garden. Back labour is painful, for the first and only time, yoga breathing fails you; there is nothing aside from loud sobbing which can contend with this pain.

Funny side note about back labour and marriage – One of the many aspects I found sexy about Tex was this sprinkling of salt by the temples in his dark coloured hair. The day after Mini Tex was born, I noticed a new patch of grey by his ear, it’s hard to say whether it was caused by watching me scream in agony while his son was coming into this world or watching me rock back and forth while sobbing because of back labour.

8:00 pm – After watching you rock back and forth sobbing for an hour, your partner insists that you return to the hospital. Existing is uncomfortable, breathing is uncomfortable, so walking back to the hospital is definitely out of the question. Also when I say “uncomfortable”, I actually mean excruciating.

9:00 pm – After all of that laboring, the doctor checks and deems that you are fully effaced but still only 3 cm dilated. Being fully effaced is a good thing but you don’t hear that part through your pain, all you hear is that you’re in the same place as ten hours ago and conclude this labor is going to continue forever. Then you think of the video from birthing class of the woman who had to have a C-section after her labor failed to progress. You dissolve into exhausted tears.

Baby birthing side note – While caesarian sections make for cuter infants right out of the womb; Mini Tex came out puffy eyed, bruised and looking like he’d been on the losing end of a baby bar fight. I don’t know what babies would come to fisticuffs over. Who gets dibs on the breast with the tastier milk first?

I digress, C-sections are actual SURGERIES. Meaning there are stitches and a much longer recovery process. Having had six stitches in my leg this past year which hurt like the dickens, I can’t imagine enduring a surgery and then caring for a small person while I recovered. Also you stay in the hospital for longer which is zero fun. Picture traveling on an uncomfortable bus for four days, that’s what the hospital is like; there is a lack of fun and it smells funny.

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If you add an IV to this image, the experience is identical, right down to the person next to you who gives WAAAAY too much information. (Yes I recognize the hypocrisy of this comment as I am in the process of sharing my birthing story with the greater electronic world.) (Photo Credit: yelp.com)

10:00 pm – Given that you’ve been up for twenty hours, are in pain and exhausted, you decide to try some morphine. There’s a catch though, morphine makes people puke so the doctors administer Gravol along with it.

There were a couple of reasons I decided that I didn’t want an epidural. The first is that pain evolved for a reason; people without pain receptors don’t live as long. Those little jabs are your body’s way of communicating what’s going on. Also, it’s my completely unfounded belief that epidurals mean more tearing. So in my mind, an epidural was like trading short term pain for long term recovery pain. Lastly and most importantly, I’m built small and metabolize pain medications poorly. Cold medication leaves me a stoned wobbly mess. This was why when I was given a normal adult dose of Gravol and morphine during my labor, my pupils shrunk to pinpoints and I passed out. It was so bad that Tex had to lift me into my preferred position during a contraction and then lay me back down after it was done so I didn’t topple off the bed.

12 am – You walk around the hospital, still wobbly from the Gravol and morphine. You swear off drugs, green fairies and rainbows for the rest of your life.

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Except for you my delicious morning friend. (Photo Credit : fakefoodwatch.com)

12:30 am – Having spent the past five months practicing squatting because it shortens labor and helps get the baby into position, you decide to squat.

12:31 am – You scream bloody murder for your partner to help get you out of a squat because it makes the contractions so intense you can’t bear it. There goes five months of doing the malasana yoga pose for zip.

2 am – You get moved to a delivery suite. Again don’t let the second word deceive you, unless this is some sort of private American hospital for millionaires, there is nothing swanky about this hospital room. By contrast, the staff are amazing. I’m not saying the labor nurse was an angel, but if she had pulled out a harp and sprouted wings, I wouldn’t have been surprised. The nurse spoke in soft soothing tones, anticipated all of my needs and was wonderful.

3 am – Not everyone’s water breaks in a grand and embarrassing splash in the middle of a grocery store. Some must have their water broken during labor. The doctor will apologize for the discomfort while they do this, I’m assuming because they’re under the impression that every other part of this process has been like a day at the spa.

4 AM – The heavenly nurse decides to leave her harp in the closet for the time being, but offers you something even better -gas. You remember from birthing class that if laughing gas is used for longer than an hour that you get a wicked bad hangover. You make a mental note to check the time and then realize that time and your ability to tell it, has lost all meaning.

5 AM – You’ve now been up for twenty-seven hours, niceties are no longer necessary, you yell at your caring husband when he doesn’t move his chair right away. You bellow at the doctor that you are ready to push. Perhaps it’s because you seem rude and unreasonable that the bad cop physician is called in.

When I was young, thin and believed that short shorts were appropriate attire in February, I ran marathons. My mother who has run the Boston marathon five times ran my races alongside me. She would yell when I walked, urging me back into a run then run circles around me singing and taunting me when I slowed my pace and once, my mother threatened to leave me in the middle of nowhere if I didn’t run faster. That last story may be a slight exaggeration, but only slight, all I remember were chasing her heels for five kilometers as I tried not to lose my ride back to the hotel. Anyways, it seems that all of this loud, determined coaching was preparation for the consultant who bellowed a baby out of me.

Nowadays doctors are taught empathy and to think about patients’ feelings. This woman must have been trained before this era. She was merciless. During every contraction she yelled “PUSH GIRL PUSH!” at the top of her lungs as if she was on a distant mountaintop, instructing me from afar. Her insistent instructions were contrasted against the soft, angelic tones of the labor nurse who whispered into my ear “You’re doing great Unwashed” in between the drill sergeant’s shouts. When this forceful woman wasn’t roaring instructions at me, she would critique my efforts to the resident who was sitting in the hot seat, silently waiting to catch Mini Tex; “she’s not using the full contraction, she could be pushing longer; she’s barely doing anything.”

This is the part that some women dread, that you’re told about beforehand. You poop in front of God and everyone. But it’s a bit like being the kid in line for a carnival ride. You’re just so damn excited and caught up in what’s about to occur that you mess your pants then keep going because – what the hell? It’s the tilt-a-whirl.

The part that is not mentioned is that all the signals for your bladder get kind of scrambled, so if it’s full, which it probably is, it will make pushing a baby out harder but more on that later.

So you keep pushing, and the bad cop doctor keeps shouting instructions and you can feel your baby’s head almost coming out of your kootch. You change positions, ostensibly to make pushing easier, but in reality because you’re more likely to be able to kick the vocal doctor-cop while sitting up. The bad cop tells you to feel your son’s head as a way to try and encourage you to keep pushing. This is a bit like someone saying at mile 25 of a marathon “Look! You’re almost there! You just have to run for fifteen more minutes!” Instead of being invigorated, you want to slap them and then lie down and die from exhaustion.

The only tidbit I could find which described the actual birthing process said that when the baby crowned (laymen’s terms for when the largest part of the baby comes out) it felt like someone taking a blow torch to your crotch. Having received a small terrible burn on my hand once, I kept waiting for the blowtorch. It didn’t arrive. I will admit that it hurt, and you definitely feel your skin stretching and tearing. If your husband is watching, he might be horrified. Those who didn’t grow up on a farm should likely stand near your head around about this time. Although that puts them in closer proximity to your mouth which at this point is emitting a lot of sound because you’re yelling so loudly that your voice will hurt for two days.True story.

But then you have a baby. Which is awesome for the twenty minutes you hold him for before you pass out from exhaustion.

 

Afterwards

Remember the spoiler alert that it was going to be gross? And the part about the bloody butterfly and everything looking like a B horror movie? We’re totally at that part. You might want to stop reading. Or at least put down your sandwich.

Birthing is a messy business. I feel badly for the custodial staff of the hospital, because despite my attempts to clean up, after I used the bathroom, it looked like the set of “The Shining”. There was blood EVERYWHERE. The poor sod would have needed three mops to deal with that floor.

Also recall my statement about the wiring from your brain to your bladder being scrambled? Basically there’s so much going on in that area that your brain is all “Bladder, shut the hell up, we’ve got bigger issues than the need to evacuate your contents” this lack of communication continues even after you’ve had the baby. Luckily the nurse who took care of me in the maternity wing knew this. She carefully explained this fact, then turned on a faucet full blast, told me to sing in to help me relax and basically did everything short of sticking my hand in a bowl of hot water while showing a slideshow of Niagara Falls.

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“What does this make you think of?” (Photo Credit : youtube.com)

 

Have you ever gotten a paper cut? On a joint? It’s super painful and keeps opening up right? That’s exactly what peeing after having a baby is like. Only there are a thousand paper cuts. On your kootch. And some jerk keeps smearing hot sauce on them.

This sounds awful but urinating is a picnic compared to your first bowel movement after having a baby. Nic Sheff, author and drug addict, described in his book “Tweak” having to pick pieces of granite-like stool out of his butt after going on a month long meth bender. This experience seems preferable and significantly less painful than pooping after having a baby, an event which happens multiple days after the birth. My advice? Take the stool softener they give you at the hospital, and then steal your neighbour’s supply of stool softener too, consider it their comeuppance for not having read The Great Unwashed’s cautionary tale of birthing before creating a person.

So that’s a true life birth story. If I had a larger audience I would expect the birth rate to drop significantly but as it is, I think I’ve probably just traumatized my uncles and grandfather. Sorry, but I did warn you to stop reading multiple times.

Also, I should probably add that even though my doctor missed her calling as the furious head of a military operative, I only pushed for forty-five minutes. The average amount  of time is two and a half hours. The take home point here is that if you want to get the job done, choose a physician with anger management issues who really wants their coffee break NOW.

This post is dedicated to Sula who asked all of the best questions and was appropriately horrified by my responses.

 

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That Time I Made A Murder-Suicide Pact

My life was ending. As far as I was concerned, everything good was moving four hours away, so in my car-less life there were only two reasonable options; kill or be killed. Luckily Sula felt the same way. And so, without vocalizing our intent, a murder suicide pact was made. The night before my best friend moved away forever, we decided that the best way to mark this occasion was to drink ourselves to death.

In lieu of beer pong, we took a shot for each happy memory, throwing alcohol down our throats in an attempt to obliterate the knowledge that spontaneously popping over after work, after church, before bed, just because, would never again be an option.

The evening started with wine. Toasting all the nights we had spent eating, “like peasants” as Sula’s brother would joke, with just one light on. We drank because never again would I keep a stash of my favourite vino in Sula’s fridge because I was there so often. Pouring out the last our bottles; red for Sula, white for me, we celebrated all of the hours spent sitting in our pyjamas working diligently on our respective projects.

I poured stolen Baileys onto ice cubes to commemorate when Sula learned how to crochet left handed in order to teach me the beloved pastime. We tossed back a second mug of that delicious, creamy liquor while reminiscing about my inability to line dance and the Friday nights that we walked down the street to the local bar to take lessons after dinner.

With a bit of spray and a satisfying crack, cans of cider were opened and consumed as Sula and I talked of all the weekend when we spent first the morning at the Farmer’s Market and later paddleboarding or cross country skiing at the local provincial park in the afternoon. It was at that point that we decided to take our goodbye party on the road. Specifically down the street to that same bar where I used to crash into strangers while attempting to learn the electric slide.

At the bar, while slugging back beer, we sat on top of a picnic table and stared up at the night sky trying to brainstorm ways we could continue our craft nights, sewing tutorials, dance lessons and hiking trips. In the place of a solution, we ordered more beer.

Initially we believed that our attempt had been unsuccessful, until we woke up the next morning with the most killer hangover in history. Sula and I spent the day running back and forth to the bathroom or dry heaving into the sink when the other person beat us to the coveted porcelain spot. Despite our painful heads and certainty that the end was near, at six o’clock Sula packed up her belongings and drove off forever. I couldn’t have pictured a more appropriate send off.

This post is dedicated to Sula who is once again heading off into the frigid north. Good luck lady, I’m glad that you graduated from crouching in the woods with bears at night to walking the tundra during the day. And even more glad for the giant anti-polar bear rifle you carry.

The Art of Parenting

I am the first of my friends to replicate myself. Being in this coveted and feces covered position has gifted me with the high task of bestowing advice and my own carefully gathered nuggets of wisdom to said people. The most commonly posed question is; what is being a Mom like? My response is that ultimately parenting is a mix of three feelings; uncertainty, guilt and a sense of inadequacy.

Uncertainty

You have never done this before, so you are filled with questions. How often should a baby eat? Which way does the diaper go on? I’m covered in derivatives of breastmilk- obviously the other way. Am I reading to him enough? When do I start reading to him? Why isn’t my baby looking at the book? Everyone talks about this being SO HARD, is it because I’m supposed to learn Sanskrit and teach it to my infant?

Guilt

When you can’t answer the questions, you are filled with guilt. This is your little person, who has half of your genes, for whom you are the entire world. They depend entirely on you and you can’t even figure out how many books to read them a day. All you know is thirteen isn’t the answer because the one day you read over a dozen books, your baby screamed for two hours after being so thoroughly overstimulated. Also all the other Moms are learning sign language not Sanskrit. Duh. How is Sanskrit supposed to help the baby communicate earlier and develop their brain so they can get into a good university and be successful at life? Your baby is failing already because of your lack of knowledge. Also the library book you took out on Sanskrit and didn’t read is two months overdue.

A Sense of Inadequacy

All of that guilt snowballs together to create a roaring sense of inadequacy which grabs hold and shakes you awake at night, leading you to conclude that you are most definitely not up to this task. You’re not sure who is up to the feeding, changing, playing, Sanskrit Sign Language teaching task but it’s certainly not you.

The Take Home Message

So parenting is soldiering on, in that face of those three basic emotions. You hug and kiss your baby knowing full well that someone else could do a far better job. Luckily they don’t let babies pick who they go home with after their born, so your small person is stuck with you.

Cowboy Quotables: The Parenting Edition

Although parenting Mini Tex is becoming easier, and for all those who I scared with my description of nursing, allow me to assure you, that element is becoming significantly more enjoyable and comfortable. However there were still a couple of weeks where it was quite painful. While my mother was visiting, my breasts became engorged and took on a pebbled, rock like appearance and feel. I approached Tex with my arms extended, expecting him to hug me, as my mother was RIGHT THERE and said “feel my boobs, they’re like stones”. Instead of wrapping me in a hug to appreciate my rocky mammaries, Tex reaches out and honks my boobs right in front of my mother.

“Tex!” I exclaimed. “You weren’t supposed to do that; you were supposed to hug me!” Luckily my mom found the whole scene amusing and dissolved into laughter. “You asked me to feel them” he responded “Was I supposed to rub my nipples against you to determine their firmness?” He then demonstrated by rubbing his chest against mine. “Yes the test is sensitive but is it specific?”

The nursing related antics didn’t stop there, of course. Throughout the first month of Mini Tex’s life, his Dad and I would trade off having the same nightmare- that Mini Tex was in the bed and encased in blankets despite the fact that Mini Tex had never slept in the bed with us. One night my breasts were particularly large and painful to the point that I couldn’t stand to have fabric against them. Tex woke up panicked and thrashing “Mini Tex is in the bed!” he yelled throwing covers this way and that, accidently brushing one of my painful boobs in the process which were so engorged that they were the size of our son’s head. “No he isn’t” I tried to calmly assure my husband. Still flailing madly trying to find his son in a sea of covers Tex brushed one of my boobs again, “I can feel his head” Tex cried now in a full scale panic. I winced as Tex grabbed my swollen mammary and tried to extricate it from the covers. “That’s my boob” I replied, trying to stay calm as my husband slowly exited his dreamy state.

Having jumped out of the bed to confirm that Mini Tex was in fact asleep in his Moses basket next to the bed, Tex was somewhat calmer but still on edge. “Why would you have your boobs in the bed like that?” The words “because the cupboard seemed like an inconvenient place” seemed mean given how frantic my husband was, so I just apologized.

Aside from the occasional nightmare, Tex is loving parenthood; he plays with Mini Tex, singing songs and saying rhymes although my funny cowboy puts his own spin on the words. “This little piggy went to the market and this little piggy stayed home. This little piggy was very long so he was an urologist.” I find Tex’s versions of nursery rhymes almost as amusing as his thoughts on breast milk.

One night while I was cooking, Tex set the table. “What would you like to drink?” he asked. “Milk” I replied mid stir. “What kind? Human or cow?” Tex asked, then after a moment he paused, “Probably cow, I think the other would be akin to eating your toenails.”

Going Out For Vaginas With Satan

I have a new phone. It’s a fancy phone. I resisted this change for the longest time; finally my sister leaned on me so hard that I cracked. Previously I had a phone which couldn’t be killed. You could drop it from hundreds of feet, throw it in a lake, embed it in concrete, run over it with a truck; nothing could dent it or prevent it from placing and receiving calls. When it would fall out of my purse at someone’s house, I would pick it up and say “I’m so sorry, is your floor dented?”

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It’s the electronic equivalent of Cher, it just keeps going. Ten years from now I’ll probably see my phone, covered in sequins, performing in Vegas.

When my old phone rang, the ringer was so loud that the dead turned over. Mark Twain once appeared on our doorstep asking if the ringer had a lower setting. The only downside to this device was that it neither took photos nor accepted them. A definite drawback when one has a child.

So at the behest of my family, I got a smart phone. As far as I know it can do everything; it takes photos, sends photos, looks up how many times Cher has staged a comeback tour, and reminds me when Mini Tex has a doctor’s appointment. My new phone actually made me a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich for lunch the other day. However, it’s extremely fragile. If I was to drop it from fifty feet up, it would explode into thousands of tiny, brilliant pieces. If I leave it near the bath it will sing a burbly swan song.

Funny enough owning a fragile piece of equipment doesn’t bother me. But I must admit that even though my new phone can instruct me how to walk to Hong Kong in seven thousand hours or less, I’m having trouble communicating with it.

For starters, my old phone had T9 texting. A feature that I only just learned how to use two years ago. Previously my texts were curt, succinct messages. Then I learned the magic of pressing just a combination of letters rather than hitting seven four times to get one “S”. I used this function with varying degrees of success. Because T9 texting ensured that I always created a word, if I got most of the words in a message correct, I would just send it. This often created a bit of confusion.

Message to Tex: I sat that we were out of milk but I made offer wayward.

Or sometimes I would forget how to change a word that had the same sequence of numbers as another word for example “nope” and “more” were the same combination of numbers, leading to conversations like this.

Message from Sula “Have you seen Meredith recently?”

Message from Unwashed “More.”

Message from Sula “?? Could you elaborate?”

I bought a Samsung Galaxy which has this wonderful function called “Swipe”. Basically it means that you brush your finger across the letters rather than tapping each one individually. The only downside is that the phone has to guess what you are trying to say sometimes if one only gets close-ish to a letter. Thus my name becomes “Satan” and fajitas become “vaginas”. Which is awkward when you are texting someone whom you’ve just met, wanting to invite them to lunch and offering up nefarious activity with the lord of the underworld instead. “See anyone” becomes “Sr. Antoine” and most memorably, after I tried to text my mother to wait for further instructions, I instead asked her to wait for fisher inductions.

Happily, no matter the amount of uncertainty my texts create, my family will always forgive me when I follow a message of dubious content with a photo of Mini Tex.