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Thursday, February 14, 2013

5 Things Even Yo' Mama Won't Tell You After Giving Birth

After eating my placenta, maybe this wasn't so bad.
My husband had just taken out one of our bowls (not quite nice China, but our fairly expensive everyday wear) to eat some indiscernible concoction of leftovers that had been fermenting in the fridge, and I was feeling odd. I stood up with my pants around my ankles (this happened a lot) and walked toward the toilet––but before I got there, something gelatinous and bluish purple plopped out of my vag. I quickly reached out my palm, but hubs beat me to it and caught said Jello shot in the porcelain bowl.

That's right, my husband and I analyzed my postpartum blood clot together.

At the time, I didn't know if it was a clot or a vagabond piece of placenta that had jumped the train while the rest was being pulled out. I panicked. If you've never had something the size of a small chicken cutlet squeeze itself out of your vag––what would Chick-fil-a think?––then you won't understand the simultaneous terror and hilarity of the situation. And you've never been in the two weeks postpartum haze. There we were, poking it, analyzing it––hell, we even got out our phones and took pictures.

This is number 1 in the top ten list of "Things Even Yo' Mama Won't Tell You After Giving Birth."

1) You may have chicken cutlet-sized clots plop out of your vagina at random times. I called my gyno's office and she seemed unamused. Apparently "two other women had called with the same question." Her explanation was that since you're mostly immobile on the couch or bed for the first couple of weeks, the lochia in your uterus pools and collects at the top of your cervix until it forms these convenient clots––which of course plop out.

2) Your breasts may get hard, golf-ball-sized lumps when engorged. One morning, my left breast seemed to suddenly swell and get hard with what felt like a golf-ball-sized lump. Panic-stricken, I called my mom, who seemed confused and suggested I had a breast infection. Then, as I was talking to her, my nipple let out a stream of milk that projected about 12 inches onto my lap. Instantly, I felt better. I knew I had to get the milk out, but the baby was sleeping. I had a breast pump, but was scared shitless to even begin to figure out how to use it (running around the kitchen while cupping your spurting breast is not a good time to learn how to use a breast pump, by the way). Once I hooked myself up to the milk dialysis machine, things changed. I've been pumping every morning since. When engorged, don't panic––pump!

3) You will sweat like a whore in church. Or in my case, women aren't allowed in church until after 40 days. I used to think that was some misogynistic religious crap put together by men wearing funny penis-shaped hats; but, alas––I've sort of changed my position on that. Thing is, until 40 days postpartum, you're a complete mess: sweating, bleeding, emotional, sleepless, leaking, etc. While your hormones are regulating, you'll go through puberty and menopause, and back, several hundred times before even brushing your teeth––if that happens. Frumpy Mom is the least of your concerns––neither is going to church, if that's something you even did pre-pregnancy.

4) Your vagina will look like the crime scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta is slamming an adrenalin shot into Uma Thurman's chest while she's vomiting up blood and foaming at the mouth. Or the scene from one of the Poltergeist movies where the woman falls in the nasty swimming pool and ghouls pop up all around her. Resist the urge to even take a peek until well after six weeks postpartum. Sometimes it's best just to cover your eyes. This is one of those times.

5) You might swell up like the Michelin Tire Man. As with most things in my pregnancy, my swelling occurred at the opposite end of the process––just like my "pre-partum depression, "probably because I'm unique and individualistic like that––I had mild swelling during the third trimester, but about three days postpartum, my ankles swelled up to five-times the size of normal and I developed a splitting headache. Crazed, I called my gyno––I had her cell number at this point––and she assured me it was jut my body ridding itself of extra fluids and the 50-percent-extra blood supply I had during pregnancy. It took a full two weeks before I was in shoes again (but it didn't really matter because I was confined to my house for the next six weeks with the baby). Staying true to my antithetic, yet fabulously bloated and leaking self, I was "barefoot and un-pregnant."

Nothing Says, 'Happy Valentine's Day' Like Explosive Diarrhea

How did I begin my sexy Valentine's Day morning?

By the baby taking a warm piss right on my thigh and clean sheets. Now, if you know how rare it is for me to have clean sheets, much less have my thigh exposed, then you know this is a big deal. As I carried my little bundle of love to the sink, got the water warm enough––have you ever noticed how long it takes turning the knob 1.5 centimeters each way to get the perfect temperature?––and got out the little baby washcloths that seem to always get buried in the drawer under torn potholders, Scotch tape, and other shit that I didn't want to keep out and threw in a drawer, the baby managed to have explosive shit all over me and the counter top.

Now, the average reflex would be to immediately drop said shit monger on the ground and bemoan the life of a frumpy Mom who likely wouldn't see a climax like this in months––but no, what did this mommy do? I pet his head, cooed at him, and otherwise glorified him for allowing me to revel in this sacred act. I saw it as an act of endearment.

I guess that says I'm pretty shitty. Or at least that I'm into some nasty ass shit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fetal Survival Rates Week to Week

When I was 16 weeks pregnant, I suffered a massive hemorrhage and was diagnosed with placental abruption. My gyno, being the chronically negative fatalist (and therefore also attributing the issue to my obesity and/or other myriad issues which had convenient diagnosis codes) told me "not to sneeze" in order to keep my half-baked little guy alive. How, oh how, did I pass the time? By obsessing over fetal survival rates, what else? I scoured the internet for any and all scientific and statistical data to keep myself from rocking back and forth in the corner of a cryogenic freezer with a cork between my legs. Turns out, my gyno's scare tactics were completely rash, and actually did more in the way of frazzling my already frayed nerves. Doctors don't know it all––and can be total assholes by not knowing it all––while pretending to know it all, and being assholes while pretending to know it all.

While this might seem morbid and a bit alarmist, I found this fetal survival rate chart and kept it open on my computer screen at all times––I was so glued to my couch I think it started to merge with the epidermal layer of my ass skin––so it wasn't too much trouble to scrutinize it at all hours of the day and night.

Actually, it brought me a sick level of comfort. I pressed my face up against my computer screen sometimes like it was the glass case around Zoltar, hoping I could change my fortune. I bore my eyes into the tiny little percentages, squinting until the zeros looked like eights and the fives looked like sixes (you get the idea); I was a like a jilted waitress half considering getting my pen out to draw in some barely perceptible lines to boost the numbers on a bad tip.

And then when I tired of looking at the numbers (said no high-risk pregnant woman, ever) I imagined his emaciated, raw chicken-looking arm dangling from some beeping and hissing high-tech contraption in the shape of an oversize hot-dog bun––something like those iron lung machines where only the person's head is sticking out of the other end. I couldn't help but think, Please God, if I can only get him to this point, that'll be just fine.

But then there was an even darker side: devoid of photos of babies at this gestational age, I became obsessed with Google images. I trolled the images for a glimpse of what my 17, 20, 23.5, 24-week fetus looked like––even if those images were of miscarried babies or scientific studies. In a way, I was mentally preparing myself for the worst––the, At least I'll know what to expect in the worst-case-scenario so I can think I have control over my experience, kind of reasoning––the same way I looked at images of brain tumors before my brother went in for brain surgery.

Amellia Taylor was born two weeks before the legal abortion limit weighing only 10 oz!
At the just the length of a pen, Baby Amellia gave me hope.
As soon as I hit 21w5.5 days, I was shivering with hope that I had at least a 0-10% chance of having a baby that could, by some miracle, be kept alive by a NASA-type concoction. I scoured the internet for examples of babies who had survived before 24 weeks––even though there were very few cases, I found that Baby Amellia Taylor was born two weeks before the legal abortion limit and survived! After being told my chances for conceiving would be "like winning the lottery," I was more comfortable than most with believing in miracles.

I also found this great website, which details what your baby would look like/weigh/act like at each respective week (if born prematurely).

Here are some milestones to aim for:

24 weeks: Official age of viability––doctors will resuscitate micro-preemies born after this point. Babies at this stage are about a pound and will need extensive respiratory support, but survival rates tip the scales at over 50 percent.

27-28 weeks: Babies at this stage have an amazing chance of survival, especially if the mama happens to get a steroid shot to develop the lungs. This was a biggie for me because one of my best friends was born at 28 weeks. Even though she jokes that her first baby pics were less than desirable, she is fabulous in every way and doesn't have any long term effects.

30 weeks: HELLO 30 weeks! Getting out of the 20s is brutal as hell. Babies at this stage start to get brain grooves.

34 weeks: My gyno told me that they wouldn't stop spontaneous labor at this point. Hell yeah! Since I had been told that I would likely deliver early, I even cut the tags off and washed every little baby outfit/washcloth/blanket, only to re-wash them again because I ended up sitting on my ass until 40w3d.

The Post-Partum Vagina: AKA 'The Saggy Hammock'

I started out with good intentions. I'll just look at the edges, I thought. 

It had been four weeks––a full month!––since I was stitched up, and I thought it might possibly be safe to take a quick look (the same sideways glance you fling at a four-car-pileup on the highway as you're driving by; just long enough to check for fatalities, hanging fenders, crumple-zone collapses, not long enough to make out what the drivers were wearing). That look.
Boy, was I wrong.

Something tells me Titian knew a thing or two about the postpartum vagina when he painted Venus With a Mirror. It takes two fatass cherubs holding a fierce garland and patting Venus' shoulder just for her to consider looking in the damn mirror. Unfortunately, my cherubs were catching a quick Happy Meal at McDonald's at the time, so I was on my own.

After clearing the (ahem) bramble bush enough to find the actual skin, I was rewarded with something resembling my old vagina, only girlfriend aged like Shel Silverstein's Giving Tree––and the boy walks (not squeezes his 14-inch skull) from the stump in the end anyway. The equivalent of Joan Rivers un-tucking her plastic surgeries from behind her ears and holding her jowls up with her knees––wait, not that bad––but definitely loose. Beyond the actual stretched out opening, there was something else lurking in the wild darkness. Let's just say I was freaked, and squatted in various positions with my trusty hand mirror until I kind of made out what I was looking at.
It was my vaginal wall, only I could see it.

The saggy hammock

It had prolapsed––not to be confused with relapsed, which I'm sure could be cured much easier via one of the garden-variety 12-step programs out there. There was wall saggage down from the top of the "hole." I did a perfunctory search on Google––when is this not a great idea?––and learned that it could be a cystocele, a condition where the bladder can be torn or injured during childbirth (especially with long labors and big babies––yes!) and actually begin to herniate into the vagina. Even better, women who have lower estrogen because of menopause or, in my case, breastfeeding can have the issue for longer. One website even described it as a "saggy hammock" that someone had sat in for too long––hell yes! Because I always wanted my vagina to resemble an obese person's drooping ass-sling.

Oh, you just have a "sad vagina," said the gynecologist.

Right. It was more like my vagina had chased 85 Xanax with a bottle of vodka and fell asleep in a bath tub with her limbs dangling off the edge while listening to those damn Sarah McClachlan songs on the commercials with the poor abused puppies. My vagina needed a good shrink––in more ways than one––and I was left wondering if anti-psychotics and shock therapy would even be up to the task. The gyno insisted that two more weeks would considerably help the situation. Unless my adrenal glands were planning to shoot rainbows and Care Bears from their asses, I couldn't see how my "sad" friend could perk up without vaginal rejuvenation surgery or some other ironically sadistic procedure meant for the male gaze (even though the only male to gaze at my ladyparts lately has been my infant son––on his way out).

Six weeks postpartum is the new black

Let me tell you, I waited two long weeks. Actually, they were a blur because I had a little man dangling from my raw nipples. But I finally got up the courage to hold the hand mirror fully extended at the 10-and-2 driving position. Hmmm, not as bad as it was––it was even decidedly OK looking. Amazing. Have I mentioned how amazing women's bodies are?

Frumpiness: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

It didn't matter that my soggy nipples were sticking to my ill-fitting nursing bra at all hours of the day and night, or that I had answered the door on numerous occasions with half of my tit hanging out of my shirt. It didn't matter that my vag had seceded from it's respective geographic location, that brushing my teeth had become a mid-afternoon treat (or snack, depending on how long it had been), or even that the three variants of my black-on-black-on-black "lounge maternity wear" was still just as snug as it was in the third trimester––six weeks after delivering. 


I still entertained the notion that if I snorted ground espresso up my nose and managed to put the baby's diaper on before his onesie, that I was a postpartum rock star.

As I stared at my husband sleeping on the couch with 'fro'd out hair, a stained black t-shirt and shorts with broken elastic ties and inside-out pockets––just frozen in time like a Cezanne still-life of aging fruit––I had that restless-leg feeling of spontaneous rage tingling up to my blood-shot eyeballs and the explosive urge to fold burp cloths while hurling insults his way. I became one of the jilted spouses of a serial hoarder discovering her husband's secret stash of cat hair. My frustration became a physical enactment of drunk charades, and my husband literally rolled off the couch and gurgled while coming-to with me standing over him.

Yes, everyone: Frump is contagious. 
Part of me wants to motorboat these women and succumb to the frump.

It's one of those nasty UTIs that you think you've treated––but discover after three rounds of cephlaxin antibiotics, 100% cranberry juice (that shit is nasty, btw), and chugging hospital-grade jugs of water for weeks––that your husband has it, and has been giving it back to you, and you back to him, over and over again. There's no cure other than complete and utter separation––or the crisp, smack yo' mama cold of someone emptying an ice chest over your head.
It wasn't until my mom told me that I smelled like sour milk that I reflected on my inability to remember my deodorant and/or even have time to wipe my own ass most days and my propensity for using dry shampoo on my roots until the next shampoo––wait, when was my last shower?––that I took this frump shit seriously.

Baby boys can piss in their own mouths––who knew?

...And that lasted until the baby took a shit on me while I was changing him. Did you know babies can piss in their own mouths? You learn something new every day!