After a "healing period" of 6 weeks, I finally ventured out to my old stomping ground...only to find that world kept turning even though my life had turned upside down!Read More
...or just plain terrified.
For many blissful years we lived with a separate but equal bathroom policy. We did everything in front of each other, except for that.
Let's face it. Women DO do Number Two (I cringe as I write this and I will also vehemently deny it once this post is up). I don't want to talk about it, but I fear I must because no one else does, and it was such a terribly unexpected part of my recovery. My doctor never mentioned this, neither did the birthing coach. So discuss it we must.
The only time we actually don't do it is post-delivery. And that's not because we don't have to, it's because we don't want to. Imagine you have just pushed out a baby - do you want to know what your body feels like afterwards?
I'll tell you.
Imagine taking a cheese grater to your nether regions, pulling out some innards, and perhaps taking on a few stitches along the way. Yes, it sounds bloody awful, I know. But everything down there is Bombs over Baghdad. It IS awful. You can also imagine that any sort of pressure down there after this is a fearsome, horrible thing.
We can barely bring ourselves to sit on the toilet, let alone DO anything there. I tentatively approached the bathroom only when my body desperately needed to go, perched gently on the seat and squeezed my eyes shut, praying my body wanted to keep it all in.
But that isn't the way we function, sadly. What goes in must come out. It took days. I needed those days just to re-learn how to pee.
When the function that shall not be named (POOP!!! POOP!!!) finally did need to make an appearance I thought I was dying. No I'm not being dramatic...DYING! I was in pain giving birth all over again. I felt light-headed and saw dark spots swimming before my eyes. I had visions of Andy finding me indecorously slumped on the marble floor, stretched out used-to-be-cute undies around my ankles with my loose track pants pooling at my feet. I don't even want to talk about the thought of popped stitches (shudder)!
I called to him. Okay, truth be told, I screamed for him to come and sit with me. He might have held my hand, perplexed at what was going on.
We have never been closer.
There is and was an easy solution to my hard, er, difficult, problem. The next day he came home and gently placed a tiny little bottle in front of me. Colace? What was this?
"The doctor had mentioned you might want to take this to...um...help."
What was this tiny little red capsule going to help me with? I couldn't imagine this bottle actually contained magic.
It worked. It was almost a...pleasure...to make the trip to the loo. I no longer feared that cold bathroom, or that hard seat. The embarrassment of having broken the golden rule of our marriage thus far remained (remains) but you know, it was time to break down barriers.
Now if you see me walking down the street please don't pause to chat; I don't want to look any of you in the eye. You know too much.
“Call her, you won’t regret it!” read the text message.
The “her” in question was Anu, a masseuse schooled in the art of post-partum massage. New moms all over the tri-state area swore by her for themselves and their infants.
This is going to be great! I enthused, envisioning myself blissfully floating on a comfy massage table while a white-coated professional soothed my aches away. My back and shoulders really needed some platonic lovin'.
On the day of, I excitedly opened the front door to be greeted by a squat, no-nonsense woman, sans folding massage table. She bustled in and immediately demanded to be shown to my pantry. Er, okay.
“Vhere is mush-tard oil?”
“What? I have olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil…truffle oil…?” I helpfully suggested.
“No. Mush-tard. Good for the strength” she exclaimed, pounding her chest with vigour.
Huh? Was she going to use it as a base to diffuse lavender essence? After much searching through the depths of my cabinets, we finally happened upon a small bottle of totally sealed mustard oil (Where did this oil come from? Who had brought it? We'll never know.)
Warming it for a few seconds in the microwave, she shot me a quick glance.
“Naked. On floor.”
Yeeeah, no. She must not know how this works. I slip off my robe and lie down on a comfortable surface, all undergarments intact. If I actually tried to get a massage without my nursing bra on, it would be madness! They might fall off me. And what is all this floor bull? Does she know how much a new mom's boobs hurt even lying facedown on a soft mattress?!
We negotiated. Bra? “No nuthing.” Lie down on the bed? “No, floor only.” A soothing essential oil blend? “No.” Right, she said that already.
There I stood shivering in the middle of the nursery, feeling like I had just lost the world's least fun strip-poker game. I suppose the fact that I managed to keep my undies on was a small victory.
Having prepared her materials, the masseuse turned to me. "Hot HIGH," she said, wriggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Oh! I was disarmed for a moment. A most unexpected compliment from this stony-faced matron?
No. A direction to blast the heat in the room.
I timidly lay down on our makeshift massage mat (a yoga mat lined with one of the old towels we use for Hudson), too scared to close my eyes (anytime someone's about to touch you and they take the time to ferociously push their sleeves up to their elbows, be worried.) She poured the oil into my belly-button, and I calmed. She MUST know what she's doing. The actual massage will be fabulous, right? I waited for the soothing magic her hands were sure to finally bring.
Tears sprung to my eyes. What the hell was this?! It was like she had a personal vendetta against my uterus and was determined to make it groan in pain. As her incredibly strong, calloused hands scraped their way across my body, I vowed she wouldn’t be allowed near my baby.
"Um, can you do it with less pressure? It's hurting me," I croaked.
Of course. Why did I even ask?
Sixty excruciating minutes later, the utterly non-sexual, female Christian Grey declared we were done. Why did she not look satisfied?
“Stomach dark. Not good. I DO!”
What? Please...please don’t come near me again, especially not my stomach, I begged inwardly, too frightened to move in case one of her muscular arms shot out to hold me in place. I didn’t think I could handle being pummeled any further.
There was no point in arguing. I was to stay put until she was happy with my belly, the color of which was the very least of my problems with this particular body part. She disappeared into the kitchen for some time, no doubt perplexing my mother with her culinary requests for chickpea flour and yet more oil. Returning with a doughy mixture of the two, she proceeded to scrub my belly with this dough, pausing every so often wonder at the difference it was making to my skin color.
“See?” She proudly held up a darkened dough ball for me to examine. It was amazing. My stomach, which since the delivery had been a few shades darker than the rest of me, was returning to its normal skin tone!
This was wonderful…almost worth going through an hour of pain and discomfort! When she was satisfied she looked at me and queried, “Head?” before grabbing my skull in between her palms and vigourously rubbing our seemingly never-ending supply of mustard oil into it. I closed my eyes and tried to distract myself with quadratic equations (No, not solving them...wondering what they were, did I ever learn them in school? How come we were always told that we would need these math skills and I've never used them? Have you? Kiss my x, you liars).
Finally, reeking of fried food, greased up, and exhausted, we were finished. Remember that Kim Kardashian shoot that almost broke the internet? The one where she was drenched in oil? Yeah, she probably got that look from me. It was like, the same, except for the lack of makeup, a very rounded belly instead of toned abs, and in lieu of champagne we had breast-milk dripping everywhere. You're welcome, world (and Kim K).
I couldn’t wait to jump into the shower and wash this crap off me. I couldn't possibly get any less attractive; thank God Andy was at the office. My skin, the rag that used to be a decent pair of Victoria's Secrets, and my towel were all stained an unseemly shade of dirty yellow (dog pee on old snow kind of yellow). Sigh, it was not to be.
The masseuse glared at me disapprovingly.
“No. No bath.”
What?! Apparently one is supposed to let the oil's "strength" sink into the skin for an undetermined period of time. At this rate I’d never be able to scrub the stench off me. Hmm, this might be the best ever form of birth control. As I reluctantly put on my robe, wondering if I should just stand on the yoga mat for 20 minutes until I could shower, since I couldn't bear to contaminate any other surface of my apartment, the door opened and in walked Andy.
Hit by the heat of the room and the mustardy fumes, he took in the strange tableau before him and whispered a bemused "Hello" to the masseuse.
She held his gaze and declared slowly,
“I. Do. You. Now.”
"HEY! So did you have the baby yet...or not?"
Errrr.....Not the question anyone wants to hear. Especially not as it's shouted from across the street. I looked at him in embarrassment and horror. He looked at me in horror and embarrassment. My mind went blank. Responding with a smile and a "Yes, 3 months ago, actually," would make me feel waaay worse, so I said nothing. There was no saving the situation. So we just kept staring at each other until he tried to dig himself out of the hole he'd created.
"Err...I mean, of course! Of course you had the baby! I didn't see you when you turned around, that's all!"
Where's a convenient pothole when you need one? I needed to disappear, stat! I looked down at my turd-brown puffer coat, referred to affectionately (or maybe derisively) by my husband as my "dog-walking coat," which really means it's only aesthetically fit for walking a dog, in the dead of night, far away from the well-lit buildings all over the Upper East Side.
I was on dog-related business that late afternoon. Hudson's poo got stuck to his swishy tail the night before and I had to give him a bath at 10pm. So I thought I'd better give him a short cat-like haircut before I had to spend another cold winter's evening hunched over the bathtub, being sprayed with loose, flying dog shit every time he shook out his fur. That brings us to this fateful day, when I was picking him up from his grooming appointment, innocently wearing my dog-walking coat. Notice how I've spent a lot of time subliminally blaming this coat for the whole are-you-still-pregnant-or-what comment.
Because that's really what it had to be. An unflattering cut.
What's worse is the guy who made the comment was one of the owners of the establishment.
"Jeez, she probably wants to kill me!" he half-joked to his partner, who was behind the counter, a safe distance away. He looked pretty amused but said nothing. Smart.
"You know, my wife's pregnant," said the perpetrator, as if that was to make it better. "You're kinda chubby but don't worry, so is my wife," is what I heard.
Ah...I can't wait until he has sympathy cravings and packs on the man-pounds.
How many times have you seen someone and whispered to the person next to you, "Is she pregnant?! I can't tell whether to say congratulations or just ignore it!"
And now it was actually happening. To me.
The three things I've learnt from this skin-melting experience:
It's NEVER okay to ask this question!
I need a new coat. For this I need to lose weight so I can fit into my regular size. You see my conundrum.
Hudson is throwing major shade at me from the corner of my bed (where he's taken up residence since the incident. Not sure if he's silently protesting with me, or if he's pissed he looks like a pussy. Cat.)
In other news, when I went for my pedicure today, the nail technician leaned forward as I was in the midst of unzipping my coat (yes, same stupid coat!) and ogled my stomach while rubbing it (tummy, not coat). All her Korean cronies started Oohing. I think the time for rubbing my belly ended a few months ago, when the baby CAME OUT. Now it's just molestation.
Perverts. Or should I be kind of flattered?