Apr 062011

This is a re-post of something I wrote a few weeks after Vera was born. For some reason, the post didn’t properly make the transfer when I moved to WordPress. But given my belated push to share our experiences with childbirth and baby-raising, seems a good time to republish….

One of the things I enjoyed about pregnancy/childbirth was the way it brought me closer to other women who have been there before.  I particularly treasure talks with my mother, stepmother, and grandmother, who described their experiences in decades past.  But even random strangers are often extra-friendly in recognition of a shared bond of experience.  There’s a Club Mom out there that I never recognized, much less appreciated, until I become a member.
But if Club Mom is a sorority of sorts, I could do without its initiation by hazing.
The Club Mom variety of hazing may not involve extreme drunkenness.  However, there’s definitely sleep deprivation, humiliation by bodily functions, and a chance of finding yourself in a public place in an embarrassing get-up (if only because you’re too wrung out to care).
In other words, I always understood that sleep deprivation would be part of new motherhood; I just never realized there would be so many other challenges at the same time:
Pain: Turns out, you can tear in all sorts of places beyond the one they tell you about.  Some of those places have an astonishing number of nerve endings.  And the area is affected by activities you really can’t avoid, like sitting and walking. Thank heaven for Percocet!
Breastfeeding: A minefield and a subject for another post.  But even when all goes smoothly (not the case for me), it’s demanding and incredibly time-consuming.
Body Image: No amount of warning prepares you to look 5 months pregnant after the birth.  My feet are swollen to twice their normal size, my fingers are too swollen for my wedding ring, and my face now sports chipmunk cheeks (all problems I largely escaped during pregnancy itself).  Small things, but even after 9 months of pregnancy, it’s disturbing not to recognize yourself when you look in the mirror.
Baby Blues: Most women experience slight depression in the first week or two after birth.  Such a cute name for such crushing feelings of hopeless inadequacy.
Lack of Information: For me, this has been the greatest challenge of the whole experience.  Medically speaking, it feels like no one out there has our backs.  Which leaves everything up to me — cue night after night of hours-long Google sessions in the wee hours when I’m up with the baby.
Obviously, no one hands out an operating manual for newborns, but the lack of information goes much further than that.  In the hospital, we were never told results of the baby’s checkups.  She needed an ultrasound to confirm a heart murmur (which thankfully turns out to be both common and mostly benign), so one day they just wheeled her away for “further testing” without a word on what might be wrong or what they were looking for.  (Leaving behind two seriously freaked-out new parents.)  The hospital’s lactation consultant never visited, despite my extreme problems establishing breastfeeding.  No one even told me about my own injuries — it took more hours on Google to find out whether it was even possible to incur the injuries I thought I saw.  (Once I gathered the courage to pull out a mirror and take a look — eek!)  And a standard OB followup is 6 weeks after the birth, which means 6 whole weeks of wondering whether this bleeding or that pain is abnormal, and whether I should really feel like this.  This morning I called the OB nurse about a few symptoms that worry me.  Her answer?  “That’s within the range of normal experience so probably nothing.  Unless it’s serious.  In which case, call me again.”  Um … thanks?  It all makes sense now.
For those of you who have been here, what was your biggest surprise or biggest challenge? How did you survive the hazing?

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