The Truth About Being a Mother – OR What Hallmark Will Never Put on a Card

A few things come to mind when I ponder the concept, “Mother’s Day.” Namely, “day”, why not “week” or “month.” Seriously, was “Mother’s Week” even in the running? Teachers and secretaries get a whole week for Pete’s sake, why not the Mothers? Actually, how about making Mother’s Day a truly compensatory celebration – say an hour of holiday appreciation for each hour of labor per child? Let’s see. 47 for my first, 3 hours 20 minutes for my second, and let’s say 9 and a half for my third child. That makes my proposed Mother’s Day holiday about 60 hours long. Now, that is an idea that could really take off – especially if a representative from Hallmark hears about it.

Actually, I would like to offer a whole new line of Hallmark Mother’s Day card opportunities. I mean, where is the “Happy Varicose Vein” Mother’s Day card? Or, “You Look Great in Baby Poop!” Or even, “Don’t Worry, He’ll Sleep Through The Night… Someday.” I could go on and on. Because the one thing that being a mom has given me, is a whole lot of information about motherhood that most people just really don’t want to hear.

For example, there are just enough women out there who have fabulous pregnancies to make all women think that they too will enjoy being pregnant. I was not one of them. I was sick, and miserable, and very round. I was pregnant with my second child at the same time Brook Shields was pregnant with her first child, and my third child’s gestation matched that of little Shilo Jolie Pitt. When you are 5’2”, those are not women whose pregnancies you want to be comparing yourself to. Trust me.

Also, they don’t call it “labor” for nothing. And you don’t get an epidural before actually going into labor, so you will feel at least some of it. Oh, and they don’t always work. Some women get the nice little perk of a “partial-epidural” which is where you can feel everything in say your abdomen, but not your legs, or perhaps the left side, but not the right. Neither of those experiences will make you like your anesthesiologist very much.

Oh, and back labor. Yeah, just skip that one if you can.

And whoever came up with a human pregnancy being 9 months long is even more mathematically challenged than me. A baby is full term at 40 weeks. 40 weeks? That’s 10 months. And by the time you get there, you will be counting every minute, let me tell you.

After the baby is born, forget that notion that breast-feeding will make the weight just fall off of you. Yet again, there are just enough women that experience this phenomenon to get a girl’s hopes up. Three times I breast fed through mastitis, thrush, torn nipples, you name it. And three times I kept waiting for the weight to just fall off. I’m still waiting all these years later. And to add insult to this injury? My own mother said, “Oh really? My pregnancy weight just came off. I had to eat ice cream and all kinds of things just to maintain.” Oh puuulleese.

My first pregnancy was very much in keeping with my personality. You know, controlled. I made Lillith Frasier look bohemian and carefree. And yet, I had this idea, that I could have what I like to call, “The Rice Paddy Mama” experience. My birth plan was full of words like “Tranquil” and “Peaceful.” I had my birthing ball and my Jacuzzi tub. I was going to labor in the lavender-infused peaceful confines of my home while thinking of just how glorious it would be to hold my sweetly sleeping infant in my arms. And when the time came, we would drive to the hospital where a short time later I would look like I was posing for a Madonna and Child portrait. That birth plan didn’t really turn out to be very realistic.

It isn’t really my fault that I had such unreasonable expectations. Seriously, when you are a control freak, things pretty much work the way you want them to – usually. Plus, my husband and I had sat through all 4 films in our Lamaze class and we knew what to expect labor would look like. We had seen it. Those Lamaze teachers wouldn’t lie to us. Right? Hmm, considering the first woman sat in a rocking chair and the only way you could tell she was having a contraction was that her husband would murmur, “Oh, that was a big one” every once in a while. And the sample of a “hard” labor had the woman hoo-hoo-hee-heeing for 12 hours and every once in a while murmuring, “Oh that hurts. Honey, rub my back.” I figured I would do okay. Plus, I’m tough; I’ve backpacked across Europe wearing the same socks for months, I can do anything for 12 hours.

Uhuh. Not that tough, it turns out. After 38 hours, I was no longer thinking of my baby in such glowing terms and I easily decided to let him take his chances with the long-term side effects of the epidural. Suddenly, my squeamishness over being catheterized seemed ludicrous. Back labor can make a woman consider all kinds of options.

Fast forward to the good part. My son was finally born, and then everyone finally left. And then I had several unsuccessful attempts to use the potty. Apparently, the catheter really wasn’t my best friend. My delivery nurse was a sweet Southern lady and her words have stayed with me all these years. “Honey, as a mama you are going to have to get used to doing some pretty icky things.” She was right. But you know, peeing in the shower is so far down on the icky-scale that I don’t even count it anymore.

Shift change brought yet another nurse. (By this time I had had nearly every one employed by the hospital.) My new nurse was a good Minnesotan woman. All business, she popped in my thermometer, took my blood pressure, and rolled me over all in one fell swoop. “Now, yeah, dear, I’m just going to check your stitches. I see on your chart you had to have an episiotomy, you poor dear, you.”

For the record men, these are words you should thank your lucky stars you will never hear.

And then my nurse utters the one sound you just really don’t want to hear when you are on your side with your hiney hanging out. “Oh dear.”

“I’ll just pop on down and get you some ice, now. Yeah?”

“Um, what’s wrong?” I managed to squeak out.

“Oh, you just have some hemorrhoids down here. Did you have a long labor, yeah? Did you have to push very long, yeah?”

“Um, I think I pushed for like 3.5 hours, but I’m not really sure. When you say hemorrhoids, what do they look like?

“Oh, I’d say they’re grape sized. Hmm, yeah, grapes. Yeah, that’s what they look like.”

“Oh. Do you mean like Thompson Seedless or more like Welch’s Concord grapes?”

“Oh, these would be more along the lines of Thompson Seedless, yeah. Now, you just hold still and I’ll go get you an ice pack, now.”

When I decided that I could possibly think about doing that all over again and got pregnant with our daughter, I told myself, “I am signing up for the epidural upon admittance.” But, wouldn’t you know it, I barely made it to a room before she made her appearance. Yet another birth plan shot to hell. So nowadays, I tell all the pregnant women I know to NOT make a birth plan, because you are just ensuring that whatever you are hoping for, you are NOT going to get.

And that episiotomy? It makes me a bit of a star at my new OB-GYN. “Hey Mildred, get in here and check out the transverse episiotomy scar. Can you believe the size of that thing?” Great, now my chi-chis are notorious and I’ve never even been in a film.

Perhaps the worst part of being pregnant was teaching high schoolers at the same time. You just really don’t want your students making the connection between your burgeoning waistline and unprotected sex. Really. But they do, and then they start to ask questions.

“Oh, you’re having a baby. Are babies as wonderful as they look? I want a baby too,” a student confided after school one day.

Now, English teachers are responsible for lots of things. In addition to teaching the 10 comma rules, and the difference between “affect” and “effect,” I felt I had a moral responsibility to take this teachable moment and do something with it. And since this was my second pregnancy, I had lots of ammunition to unload upon this young lady.

But first, I felt like I needed to tackle the obvious. “Suzy-Q, is there a chance you might be having a baby? Are you pregnant?” “Well, I don’t think so.” “Hmm, so that means you are sexually active? Have you talked with your parents about using some form of birth control?” “Well, I’m kindof embarrassed to tell them. And I didn’t think I wanted to have sex, but you know, my boyfriend is just so cute and well, the sex is just so good.”

Well, now I knew I had a major problem on my hands because teachers are mandatory reporters and there is no way my student was having sex with a peer if she was saying the sex was “just so good.” She had to be dating a predatory 30 year-old or something. “Ah, Suzy, remind me who you are dating?” “Oh, Bobby Johnson. You know, he’s on the hockey team.” Great, so while she was not dating someone twice her age, she was dating someone with fewer brain cells than original teeth. I began to pray that he’d taken one too many pucks to the groin and was incapable of impregnating my student.

So I thought for a moment and I said to little miss Suzy, “You know, I can’t think of any joy greater for me than my son and now this baby. But I feel like I need to be honest with you. Suzy, have you ever heard of hemorrhoids?”