The reflection that stared back at me in the most unflattering hospital bathroom light could absolutely NOT be me (WHY do they do this? If I'm paying upwards of $700 a night for the privilege of my own hospital room, at least throw a mutha some halogen lighting.)
I wasn't staring at my face though. I hadn't yet noticed the lopsided, messy bun with a freaking scrunchie wrapped around it, or the fingerprint smudged glasses. All I saw was an old lady’s stomach. A disgusting wrinkled, darkened, deflated midsection. What the hell happened in there? My tummy looked like a helium balloon that had been left to sag and die. I had been sooo careful throughout my pregnancy. I fully expected to still look 4 months pregnant (hey, almost two years now and counting…ba dum dussh!) but nobody warned me this is what you actually look like after giving birth!
I wanted to cry. But I couldn't, because not even in my bathroom did I have a moment of privacy. I wasn't sure why my mother chose to come to the bathroom with me, but at the moment I could see her reflection behind me in the mirror. She was doing a joyful little jig.
"Oh WOW - you did so well! NO STRETCH MARKS! You have a bikini body!"
Uhhhh…a bikini body? Did she mistakenly take the oxycodone they left me for my pain? Was she seeing what I was seeing? Did she mean a 1920's-era bikini? So, a onesie, basically? I'm pretty sure there are some stretch marks, Mum. But more importantly, why would I EVER wear a bikini with an 80-year-old's wrinkled belly? And WHAT was up with this color-blocking?! The skin on my stomach was at least 5 shades darker than it had been a few hours ago!
After you give birth, you feel untouchable. Like you have achieved the most challenging of tasks, climbed the highest of mountains. As I was being wheeled from the delivery ward to the rooms, I felt like a victorious Rocky Balboa. My brain threw up her gangsta colors and shouted “I just added to the Earth’s population, bitches! What did YOU do today?!” But then, after seeing (and feeling…ohhhhh how I felt) the damage brought on by this most important boon I had just given the world, the euphoria disappeared. Suddenly, I just felt tired and alone.
I leaned on my mother and hobbled to bed. Ah, the elusive private room. I don’t know what I was expecting. A suite at the Four Seasons? We went through a lot to get it – as we checked in to Labor & Delivery, my Dad had to run down to the hospital office, credit card in hand, in order to put the request in. Then we followed up at least 6 times during the delivery process, in the hopes that the baby would come out in time to snag one of these coveted “first come, first served” chambers. Because it's not stressful enough actually giving birth. Can you imagine the poor babies who get blamed for not coming out in time to ensure their mothers a private room? All over the Upper East Side I'm sure there are women at lunch with their friends, discussing how much they've already sacrificed by, gasp, having to share a room in the hospital, sob! OK, ok, I'm obviously being facetious because had I not gotten the private room I would have been even more emotional about it that I already was. Pre-hospital I coached the family into their roles for making sure we got a room. Andy might have even sent the lady at that desk a Christmas card.
It was decidedly less warm and fuzzy than the delivery room (or did the epidural just wear off?) The bed seemed comfortable, but it had what looked like our dog Hudson's wee-wee pad tucked into it... Okay, less fabulous. Weren't we done with those embarrassing things during delivery? What else is possibly left to exit my body? I'm keeping everything else inside, thank you very much.
That effing catheter was painful enough to remove. Taking tiny little sips of water, I steeled myself not to pee anytime in the next few months...please?! In fact, we won’t be doing anything in the war zone, save for gingerly showering.
By 8 o’clock my parents and my in-laws had left, and Andy and I were alone with our little unnamed baby. “Andy Junior” wasn’t something I could see happening and Andy was not done with his valiant effort to convince me. We had reached an impasse. So Baby G he stayed, until we left the hospital two days later. He was so adorable and peaceful. He looked like a tiny, bruised boxer. Until he cried. We just looked at each other. I had no idea what to do. I never made it to Sheri’s breastfeeding class. Who’s going to lift him up? Change his diaper? NURSE!!!
The nurses were amazing. I got into the habit of pretending I was in too much pain to do anything for the baby myself, but in actuality I was just terrified of touching this fragile creature. They helped me nurse him, change his tiny little diaper, and swaddle him (in my eyes this was the equivalent of making an origami swan, but now I’m a pro). Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the relief that flooded Andy's face. Yes, there was someone who knew what they were doing, and of course, I was super necessary as I had to nurse, but what was he doing? Seeing as I had expert help, he assumed he was there for company, so he might as well relax and sleep. How could he possibly sleep with me throwing on these harsh fluorescent lights every 2 hours? I may have even turned them on and off a bunch of times just to try to wake him up. Mean of me? Perhaps. But I didn’t want to be alone and in charge!
The next day at 7 am the baby was finally sleeping, Andy headed home to shower and nap (Sleep?! Again?), and I finally took some time to relax. The sun cast it's soft rays over the room, and the hospital was quiet. My parents visited, bringing me love, tea, and pain au chocolat. For those few blessed hours, I could just be their little girl again.
We had successfully made it through the first night.
The calm before the storm.