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Monthly Archives: July 2011

“Mommy’s In Charge”

“So this morning, Mommy is going to be in charge!”

(That is, instead of being the bum who lets the nurse do everything as Mommy denies the fact that just tomorrow, the nurse is out of here, Mommy’s flying solo with the two kids while Daddy’s at work, and Please, Ariel, Don’t Do Anything That Necessitates a Call to Poison Control or the Fire Department.)

The morning began filled with promise. The glorious July sun beamed into our home through wooden window blinds, and the house was brimming with the sort of potential that obviously means disaster looms menacingly on the horizon. I was feeling strong, inspired, and ready to take on two little girls. Ingrid the Nurse (AKA the Baby’s Parole Officer/Jail Warden) was still sleeping, which meant I would be free—at least for this one short hour—from any unsolicited discussion of her menopausal yearnings for sex (when “I ain’t got no mans!”), as well as her smelly breakfast delicacy of an orange covered in garlic and salt.

Lila’s little, warm three-year-old hand cradled itself into my palm as “the Baby,” who has not yet been deemed significant enough by anyone in our house to have earned name status, rested on my shoulder. Ingrid the Nurse was snoring away, dreaming of Trinidad and the thousands of dollars she could milk from other clueless mothers, whose children she would similarly dress in woolen earflap hats and snowsuits in one hundred degree weather. Daddy was in the shower. The house was oddly quiet, the way it is in horror movies right before someone is dismembered.

It was Mommy time.

In the kitchen, Lila was contentedly drinking her fifth Danimal yogurt drink, and the Baby was in my arms, shaking her head back and forth vigorously as she began to do that “I’m going to eat my hand, I’m going to EAT MY HAND! GIVE ME MY FUCKING MILK, BAR WENCH!” dance that newborns do when they’re hungry, so I popped out the boob and gave the girl what she wanted. The window blinds were open, but really, who cared? Once you’ve had a baby, privacy is merely a concept—a whisper of a suggestion that you can quickly silence through nonsensical rationalization (“Doesn’t everyone have nipples?”). The Baby nursed, Lila ate her breakfast, and I was even able to shovel down a bowl of cereal myself, only occasionally dousing the Baby in an errant oatmeal square. Well, hell’s bells! This was actually manageable! Bow down, cretins!

It was burping time—which is unarguably the most tedious task of newborn care because it’s both time-consuming and thankless (actually, that pretty much describes a lot of parenthood). Lila and I sang “I Like to Burp it Burp it” to the tune of “I Like to Move It Move It” and had a burping-dance-party in the kitchen. But the baby wasn’t feeling particularly cooperative and didn’t give us a burp after five minutes, so we did what any mother in her right mind would do: we dumped that kid in a swing and did our best to forget about her.

But this was no ordinary baby swing: this was the Ferrari of baby swings—the “Mamaroo”. For those of you who have not yet met the Mamaroo, it is a baby swing for royalty, into which I can plug an iPod so that the baby doesn’t have to groove away to inane shit that will inevitably make her brain even mushier than it was when she came into the world. Additionally, it has five motion settings that include “Car Ride,” “Tree Swing,” “Ocean Wave,” “Kangaroo,” and “Rockabye.” The premise of this glorious machine—or Neglectatron, as we like to call it— is that it can be the parent when you don’t want to be. It will rock your baby in all the right ways so that she drowses off into drunken oblivion while you do important things like check your email, write thank-you notes, and wonder when she will wake up again and then how much time you have until you can dump her in the Neglectatron again.

Having never used the Mamaroo before, Lila and I were excited for our test drive. I cheerfully turned that puppy on and let the Baby rock out on “Car Ride” mode. How fast could this bad boy go? I cranked the Mamaroo up—not turbo, mind you, because I’m no idiot, but let’s just say that it was on Nascar speed.

That was when the crying began.

In case you were wondering what the clinical definition of “clusterfuck” is, here you go: put Mommy in charge of two kids for the first time. Leave her alone for an hour. Watch the magic unfold!

I picked the Baby up, not yet shaken by her banshee-like screeches that suggested I had ripped off each of her toes off like little raisins and then carefully slipped each one into the blender. Could Daddy really not hear this in the bathroom upstairs? Was Ingrid really still snoring away?

Helpfully, Lila offered, “I think she’s mad.” Lila looked at the Baby again. “Really mad.”

Trying to remain calm, I said in my best cloying Mommy voice, “No, honey, she’s not mad, she’s just—”

Spontaneously-vomiting-out-of-her-nose-and-her-mouth-all-over-me-all-over-her-all-over-the-table-all-over-the-chairs-into-my-cereal-bowl-all-over-my-pajama-pants-all-over-her-clothes. Disgusting, soul-crushing vomit. Everywhere. All over hope, possibility, redemption, and happiness.

Lila pushed her chair away from the table with the force of an Olympian. “GROSS, Baby! Daddy? Can I watch Sesame Street?” Lila ran out of the kitchen, without even looking back.

With shame, I looked down into my lap, where the Baby weeps in my curdled-milk-covered arms, her little face crinkled into a crimson walnut of anger, resentment, and despondency. If walnuts could talk, mine would have said, “You heartless, selfish monster! How dare you abandon me in my Mamaroo without a burp! And then put me on that fast setting? Didn’t you see the ‘shaken baby’ movie at the hospital?! I AM CALLING CHILD SERVICES THE SECOND I LEARN HOW TO USE A PHONE!”

With sadness in my heart, and a sadder baby in my arms, my heavy feet dragging against the bright veneer of the day’s dearly-departed possibility, I lumbered up the stairs, back to the baby’s “real” Mommy: Nurse Ingrid.

I hung my head in shame, but somehow still mustered up the energy to make a literary reference to Of Mice and Men. Under my breath, I muttered to Ingrid, “I done a bad thing, George.” Sure, I didn’t kill a woman in a barn by stroking her hair too forcefully, but all the same, it had been a bad thing that I had done.

I had made the Mamaroo into a Puke-a-roo.

Ingrid rolled over in bed and wiped the sleep from her eyes as she asked, “You breakin’ my baby? Don’t be doin’ that! What you do now, Mama?”

“I think she exploded.”

“Don’t you be sayin’ that! Come here, Baby! Lemme see what Mama did to you!”

Ingrid’s sure hands take the Baby from mine, and as I turn around to see how the Baby is doing, both Baby and Ingrid refuse to make eye contact with me. They are a team, and Mommy is on the outs. For a brief second, the Baby glances at me, and her bloodshot cross-eyed face says it all, “Mommy? NOT COOL.”

And with that, it’s time to take Lila to camp.

I walk away from the Baby feeling horrible and depressed and woefully inept to the bedroom to get Lila, where she is watching Sesame Street, contentedly oblivious to all of Mommy’s moral failings. As I take her off the bed, I am reminded of a line from “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” a book that Lila happens to be obsessed with at the moment. (A strange side effect of parenting is that you begin to read personal moral significance into children’s stories; this is because your brain is aching to analyze something—anything— so it won’t atrophy from lack of use.) Anyway, the book is the story of a mouse teacher and his mouse pupil, Lilly. Lilly becomes angry with Mr. Slinger when he doesn’t let Lilly show her purse to her class. On her way home—after mocking Mr. Slinger and slandering his venerable rodent reputation—Lilly looks in her bag and finds a note from her teacher that reads: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.”

And it’s this message that lingers in my head today, perhaps sitting quietly in my brain all the time when my abilities as a parent come up short; after all, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. As for today, it may be a difficult day. But tomorrow? Tomorrow will be better.

Thank you, Mr. Slinger.

 

“Return to Normalcy”

These are the horrible, dark secrets that no one will ever tell you about after you have the baby, when you are supposed to “return to normalcy”—a campaign that obviously worked out swimmingly for Warren G. Harding, whose presidency no one cares about nor remembers. Now that you’ve been home from the hospital all of a week, everyone is delighted that you’re “doing so great.” However, there are some slight hiccups that may impact your sustained recovery.

1) Fact: Your uterus has just been brutalized by an eight-pound alien spelunking down your birth canal like a disillusioned thirty-year-old former lawyer who is trying to recapture his youth through rock climbing in Belize. In case you had any uncertainty about this upsetting reality, that delusion is quickly shattered by the repeated “checks” that the doctors do after you have a baby, which involve a random person coming into your hospital room ever hour to mush the doughy abomination that you once called your stomach. The feeling that you are actually a huge wad of milky-colored lard is merely a lovely side effect of this treatment. At these checks, the doctors will knead the sad relic of your adorable preggo belly in attempt to “juice” all the excess blood out of you so that you don’t clot up and die. The intention is nice. The practice is right up there with leeches sucking blood out of you to cure your “hysteria”.

As a result of this brutalization, it is necessary to treat your uterus and vagina to something special to apologize to them for all the shit you’ve put them through. I’d like to now introduce you to: “Underwear Mille-feuille.” Traditionally, the French mille-feuille is a delectable “thousand-layer” pastry of vanilla, puff pastry, whipped cream, and fondant; yours will be slightly different.

Once you are transferred out of labor and delivery, you’re off to your recovery room. First order of business: you and the nurse, in the bathroom. She demands that you sit down and show her what you can do. While this sounds like a repulsive yet believable premise for porn, nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, the nurse is not hot. In all likelihood, she is a bitter old woman who is the human embodiment of what a sad vagina would be if a sad vagina were a person. Second of all, this old chick wants to see you pee. Then, she wants to show you how to put on your underwear. In a lot of ways, it’s kind of like going to the bathroom with my three-year-old.

However, now it’s treat time! For your Underwear Mille-feuille, the nurse lays out a sumptuous vaginal buffet of ingredients on your bathroom counter: a tube of cream, disposable underpants, hemorrhoidal wipes, ice packs, and the largest sanitary napkins known to man. Your nurse is now the chef, whipping up a fabulous concoction for your ailing crotch. You are merely sous-chef, learning from the master.

Step one: Put on one pair of disposable underpants. Fortunately for you, you lost your pride and dignity with your placenta, so your self-respect won’t actually pose a problem in terms of actually wearing said disposable undies. In fact, once you slip those bad boys on, you won’t want to take them off! Feel free to steal as many of these from the hospital as possible—you won’t regret it. You are now the proud owner of (many) of the saddest granny-panties in the world. And the most comfortable! This is merely the amuse-bouche of what’s to come for your lucky crotch today.

Step two: Find the world’s largest sanitary napkin. If it can cover a dining room table for twelve, well then, you’ve got the right sized one. Maneuver that behemoth into your underwear. You may need to talk her down to get her in there and/or call in reinforcements from the SWAT team. Possibly, you may need to rent a U-Haul.

Step three: See that ice pack on the counter that you thought was for a quarterback who’d been tackled and may or may not have been permanently paralyzed? That’s for your vagina! Slip that puppy right on top of the sanitary napkin. If you actually have the vaguest sense that you’ll be able to pull your underwear up, better get another ice pack.

Step four: With your genital kitchen prepped, it’s “TUKS” time! Yes, you will, without shame, delicately layer hemorrhoidal wipes on top of your ice pack in your underwear. The first hundred layers of your sumptuous mille-feuille have begun!

Step five: What mille-feuille would be complete without that meticulous attention that makes this delicacy such a treat? Get out your hydrocortisone cream, ladies—it’s fondant time! With the love and devotion of a pastry chef, you will squeeze little rose fleurettes of hydrocortisone cream onto each of the TUKS you have placed on the ice pack that is on the sanitary napkin in your disposable undies. Bonus points if you can write: “Happy birthday, Vagina!”

Step six: Pull up underwear. Try to walk. Good luck with that.

2) Fact Two: Now that you have just had an eight pound-six ounce baby, compared to how you have looked recently, you are now a smokin’ hottie! Sure, you’ve got your huge stomach. Sure, you still have what appears to be a six month remainder belly, and people at Shoprite will ask you—without hesitation— “Did you have the baby yet?”

In spite of all of this, though, you may feel the sexiest you’ve ever felt in your entire life. You will look in the mirror and marvel at your hotness—underwear mille-feuille and all while Husband watches on in what is clearly adoration and lust (though it can easily be mistaken for repulsion and a desire for a vasectomy). Forget the fact that your three-year-old has repeatedly quoted Madagascar 2 to you upon seeing you—you know, the part where Moto-Moto, the enormous player-hippo says to Gloria the hippo, “I like ‘em big. I like ‘em chunky. You huge!” Because no matter what they say, you are a stone-cold fox now, Mama. Don’t let anyone take that from you.

3) Fact Three: Unfortunately, despite your stone-cold-foxitude, there is some devastating news on the horizon. Let’s say, for instance, that you are a narcissist who decided that since you are so freaking hot now, it would be a marvelous idea to go to Weight Watchers a mere five days after having your baby, in spite of your doctor’s explicit recommendation that you should not embark on any weight-loss program until you are six weeks postpartum. Not that anyone would do something this unspeakably stupid. But let’s just say.

After sitting through the meeting in which another woman actually says out loud to a group of strangers that she “wakes up dreaming of mayonnaise,” you smugly grin to yourself. Surely you’ll be down at least ten pounds! Maybe fifteen? Mentally, you begin to calculate: 8.6 pound baby + 1-2 pound placenta + water weight + will to lose weight = 25-45 pounds. Minimum.

The moment of glory has come: you pop on that Weight Watchers scale, ready to showcase your sexiness for the world. Eat your heart out, Jennifer Hudson! (Point count: 13.)

DEAR GOD: how is it that the numbers show you have only lost 6 pounds since childbirth? Wasn’t that enormo-baby that shoved its way out of your hoo-ha 8 pound six ounces? You may have had a math tutor your whole life, but you ain’t gotta be no genius to see that those numbers just don’t pan out. There has to be an explanation, doesn’t there?

4) Fact 4: Fortunately, there does not need to be an explanation, because now, it’s Crying Time! Just as a mysterious tornado can manifest out of the sunniest of days, you too may now feel the need to cry and/or have a mental breakdown for absolutely no reason, mere seconds after you’ve felt blissed out just by touching the peach-fuzz softness of your newborn’s cheek. Sometimes there’s a legitimate cause for your crying, like hearing The Pretenders sing “I’ll Stand By You” on the elevator music channel on the car radio. Or running out of Healthy Choice fudge bars in the freezer. But sometimes, that monsoon on your face will come merely because the baby burped at you in the wrong way.

This is considered “normal” because you have the “baby blues”—a Benjamin Moore style-name for the two weeks postpartum during which your body takes revenge against you for boycotting your period for 9 months. It’s retribution time! These “baby blues” will have you acting like you belong on a reality TV show, and boy, are your crying spells fun for the whole family! During these moments, feel free to complain to anyone who will listen, including your three-year-old, who may or may not comment, “Are you crying again?” as she rolls her eyes. Your complaints can include that you a) feel like a horrible person b) are a lonely, deformed monster whom no one should love c) truly believe you will never be able to “return to normalcy” ever again and d) feel incapable of taking care of your own children. Enjoy, and welcome to parenthood!

5) Fact 5: Like it or not, though, it’s time to turn that frown upside down! Because now, even though your baby is only five days old, you have silently become a card-carrying member of the Parenthood Cult. You are responsible for doing your part by affirming “The Lie” that all parents must perpetuate. In fact, it is this very Lie that sustains mankind and guarantees the continuation of the human race. Without it, human reproduction would cease. Practice this speech, to be used with every person you see for the rest of your life, even if you have just spent the past ten minutes crying alone in your car in the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, despondent over your future as a mombie and breast-milk vending machine: “Yeah, I’m great! The baby is doing terrific. She’s eating so well! And what a sleeper! I know, she’s so delicious. I can’t imagine how I ever lived without her. Yes, this is absolutely the best time of my life, and I’m just cherishing every second of it!”

Cherish it, my friends, cherish it. Then: rinse, cycle, and repeat. Welcome to the rest of your life!

Stand and Deliver

“Here’s what we can do. I can just rough you up a bit and then it’ll be time to go.”

In a moment of sheer stupidity, I said what all dumb people say to a horrid statement like that: “Um. Okay.”

In case you were ever wondering what it was like to pay for molestation at your OB-GYN in order to trigger a baby’s birth, I strongly suggest that you agree to that statement the next time you find yourself nearly naked and extremely vulnerable in gynecological stirrups that have birth control ads on them. (As if the situation alone weren’t sufficient birth control in and of itself.) Look, I’m not exactly sure what my doctor did down there, as I deeply believe in repression as a form of psychological coping. That being said, I’m pretty convinced that whatever may or may not have happened in my vagina somehow involved a sharpened cheese grater, a chainsaw, and a toy dinosaur.

A sick grin came across my doctor’s face as she emerged from the ruins of what had once been a normal, happy and well-adjusted vagina. “How’s that?”

With my vagina whimpering and shaking in the corner of the room, a shell of the woman she once was, I think I heard my vagina somehow manage to whisper: “You just murdered love.”

Dr. Mengele shrugged. “Well, your contractions are regular now—time to go to the hospital!”

It was go-time. We got in the car: suitcase in tow, vagina in pieces. The goldfish crackers were still spawning in the back seat of my car, as they had been on the day of my false labor. It was July 14th: Bastille Day. A day when the French stormed the Bastille fortress wall, liberating their country into a life of modernity…and a day when my fetus would storm my uterine wall, liberating herself from a life of maternity.

In short, it was time this little sucker to do something more than swim in her own urine. Au revoir, Womb. Bonjour, World!

***

            This time, there was no smugness in the PET unit: I was in, and it was time to have my labradoodle.

Once I had been admitted into the hospital, I was reacquainted with Vagina Gopher and The Giantesse, both of whom obviously still wanted a piece of the 180-pound-hotness that was me, as they always did. With heaviness in their hearts, even they had to admit that it was time for me to be admitted (being committed comes later—I think after your child is about three weeks old; details to follow in later posts). After a little more molestation by these two humorless trolls, we moved across the hall into labor and delivery. So far, so good. Everything was fine; contractions were coming pretty regularly, and I was in “level 4” pain on a scale of 0 (at which point I’m cheerfully watching terrible reality TV) to 10 (when I would rather carve out my eyes with razor-edged ice cream scoopers than endure the current pain). The nurses recommended getting the epidural “if I wanted it” at this point.

Look, I respect all you natural birthers out there who want to “experience” birth “as God intended”, by which I mean of course that I think you are all insane, sadistic masochists who probably get your jollies and sexual kicks through hardcore violence to small, adorable animals. But to me, an epidural is not a question—it’s a fact. Why on Earth would I want to “feel” childbirth!?!? I feel and experience enough, thank you very much.

Imagine my delight, then, when an old man in scrubs walked into our labor and delivery room with an-almost-twelve-year-old also in scrubs. Was it “Bring Your Great-Grandchild To Work” day, perhaps? At this moment, my husband was told to leave the room. After all, we wouldn’t want HIM to have to see me in pain, would we? (Um, yes. I could milk that shit for years.)

Somewhat jokingly, I said to Junior, “You’re not new at this, right?”

Begrudging chuckles from the Oldster. “Oh no, he’s not new. He’s a resident, and I do want him to perfect his technique on you.”

Note to anesthesiologists everywhere: NEVER, EVER tell a patient that you want a resident to “perfect” his technique on you. And as long as I’m doling out tips here, please make a personal effort to avoid childbirth in July, when all the new residents arrive. Which means, take this handy note and put it in your goody drawer: “When in November, protection remember!”

Naturally, at this moment, I began crying, not that anyone cared. Where’s the humanity, I ask? I shouldn’t have to beg an emotionless nurse to hold my hand while I got the epidural. Did I do it? Yes, yes I did. For those of you uninitiated romantics, “epidural” means someone is going to stab the biggest needle they can find—we’re talking a foot-long needle here—in your back repeatedly in between your spinal thingies in an attempt to temporarily paralyze you from the boobs down. Sound awesome? Yeah, because it is. This is “not supposed to hurt”. There is supposed to be “a little stinging” and a “cold feeling.”

I don’t know about you, but when someone shoves a saw into my back repeatedly, yeah, it hurts like a motherfucker. At this moment, I began digging my nails into the nurse’s hand, trying to focus on her hideous metallic nail polish as I howled to the world like a wounded Wookie.

Obviously, my screeches were so horrific that neither the Oldster, Junior, nor the nurse felt the need to say goodbye to me; better not to make eye contact with the wild beast. They packed up shop unceremoniously and left the room, at which point my husband returned, a look of horror on his face.

“That sounded awful.”

“Thanks.”

At this point during the “delivery,” a term I use lightly as nothing had been “delivered” to me except several heaping plates of torture and molestation, it was time to wait for my trembling, scared vagina to bust a baby out (as in “How many babies you bust out?”—a question asked to me shortly after delivery by a visiting relative of another patient).  Since I was only four centimeters dilated at this point—and for the next 16 hours, I might add—no one thought this “busting-out” was going to happen anytime soon. In fact, my OB-GYN did not even deign to show up at the hospital, literally “phoning in” her decisions to up my levels of Pitocin, a drug that doctors give you through an IV to make your contractions claw through your skin and make you hallucinate skiing down a mountain of spaghetti naked. (Yes, that was my own personal hallucination. It was AMAZING.)

Every two hours, someone would come to our room to “check my dilation” (read: see if my va-jay-jay was ready to barf out a newborn). Thanks to that magical epidural, these horrific checks didn’t even feel like molestation anymore! Each time a random resident came to check me out, I had only the vaguest sense that someone was up there—maybe with a trumpet or a wind instrument, perhaps?—but it didn’t bother me because the epidural had made the lower right half of my body blissfully paralyzed. The left side was still feeling the world somewhat, but I tried not to let that bother me at this point.

At 4 AM, I received a damning decree, though. Another nameless, faceless

resident peered into my vagina, left a kazoo in there, and then turned to me somberly. “Look. You’re still four centimeters. It’s been a while. If it keeps up like this, it does increase your risk of C-section.”

Cue Ariel’s emotional breakdown, including but not limited to: panic attacks, uncontrollable sobbing, and accusations against husband that he “doesn’t know I’m not going to die.”

By 6 AM, the residents finally found a resident in the hospital who knew how to break my “bag of waters,” or the baby’s swimming pool in utero. The plan of attack was to make this baby not want to be in there anymore by removing her pleasant living environment, which only sounded fair to me, as my pleasant living environment had seriously been ruined from the moment I got “roughed up” at the OB-GYN’s office just a day earlier. I begged my husband to go into my purse and take out the Jewish voodoo talisman that my mother had given me weeks ago: a silver amulet with a prayer for a healthy and safe childbirth. I gripped it tightly in my palm

At this point, I had also begun to accept my fate that I was going to have a C-section and probably going to die in the process as some newbie resident botched the whole thing as he or she “perfected technique” on my body.  That was when I decided, as most people would, that before I died, I wanted my last moments to be spent watching “Spanglish,” the Adam Sandler movie, because it has an absolutely spectacular scene showcasing a sandwich with delicious-looking bread that makes me want to be a better woman each time I see it. (If you have seen this movie, you know what sandwich I’m talking about.)

By 6:40 AM, though, I had not yet seen the sandwich, and I felt something funky going on downtown. I grabbed my husband’s hand and looked into his eyes. “This really fucking hurts like a motherfucker.”

“It’s going to be okay, it’s just a contraction.”

“No, this really, really, really hurts like a motherfucker! I feel this huge pressure crushing my left side. But I don’t feel anything on my right side!”

Hmm: “perfected technique” = epidural that only works on one side of your body.

My husband tried to remain calm, and did a pretty good job at it but I couldn’t help but notice his eyes starting to get red. He was holding his shit together for me because I couldn’t hold it together myself.

“I NEED TO PUSH NOW!”

I can’t really compare the pain to anything because the comparison would fall short but how’s this: maybe THIS was what it felt like to have a huge freaking baby ramming its head over and over again against your pelvis? Who knows? For my first baby, the epidural worked!

Now I couldn’t even dream about watching that delicious sandwich anymore because the pain was real, and the attending nurse just plain old didn’t care. She looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s not time to push yet. Hold it together. We need a doctor to get here.”

I screamed, I cried, but that nasty old bitch of a nurse (husband correction: “sweet, kind, obliging nurse with your best interests at heart”) just didn’t care.

“I. NEED. TO. PUSH!”

The nurse quickly shoved a tricycle into my vagina, took her hand out and declared unceremoniously, “You’re ten centimeters.” And just like that, after 16 hours of torturous waiting and molestation, it was baby time!

Suddenly, my life had turned into a movie, but there was no Adam Sandler, and there was certainly no sandwich. People rushed into the room, seemingly from all directions, which was weird, because there was only one door on the room, so obviously some of them came in through parachutes through the window. There was a party in my vagina, and everyone was invited! As I screeched in terror, three residents and three nurses filed into the room. Each person took one of my limbs and pulled it in one direction, like I was Gumby.

As they shouted, “PUSH!” I felt like I was in a movie, but why had no one done my make-up? I was looking hideous! With three pushes that felt like I was taking the biggest shit of my life, out came our baby, covered in what appeared to be brie cheese. Had they shoved a fromagerie up there during all those checks? The wheel of brie was shoved onto my stomach as they started to sew my vagina shut for its six-week Vaginical, which is like a sabbatical, but for your vagina.

At the exact moment of our baby’s birth, my OB-GYN ran into the room looking fresh from the gym, spitting, “Damn. I missed it.”

Ya SURE did.

Next, she said with a confused tone that should have been filtered, “Weird—I’ve never seen a baby look like that before.”

Trust me, these are not the words you want to hear after you’ve just shat out a person, unless those words somehow suggest that your baby is some sort of otherwordly genius/beauty queen. But it was true, though. The baby’s body was that cute fleshy pink color, but from the neck up, her head was dark blue, and the first thought that ran through my head when I saw her was not very maternal: I just gave birth to a Smurf. I wish there had been another thought—a better thought. A more sentimental thought. But that was the thought I’d thunk.

Suddenly, neo-natologists joined Vaginapalooza .Thankfully, they decided that “when a baby shoots out like a bullet, the face is usually bruised horribly.” My little smurf was fine, it turned out. Just “roughed up,” like her mother.

So there she was: my 8 pound, 6 ounce bundle of joy, pink-bodied, blue-faced, looking really fucking angry—again, like her mom—and 100% ours.

I looked at my husband and saw in him all that sentimentality that I hadn’t let myself feel for the past nine months.

“Is that Eliana?” I asked.

And for the first time, he allowed himself some of the tears that I had cried for both of us all night long.

“Yeah. That’s her.”

Fake Break

Yeah, I ain’t got no baby.

I am officially the loser who went to the hospital with “false labor.” You know, the loser you swore you’d personally never be. That’s me! On Monday, I went to the hospital full of hope and anticipation but was “sent home” full of despair and self-loathing. I didn’t even get a t-shirt that said, “I went to St. Barnabas to have a baby and all I got was this stinkin’ t-shirt.” (For any entrepreneurs out there, this happens to be a fucking phenomenal business idea I’ve just given you, and I suggest that you get on making these shirts ASAP. I only need to get a 15% cut.)

However, I would like it noted before the court that I was not the one who said those words on Monday afternoon at 4:45 PM, but rather my mother, who is gunning for this baby to come like the other six grandchildren she has are somehow just not cutting it.  (And let’s face it: none of them can play the oboe, spell correctly, or make soufflé, so yeah, I’d say there’s room for a front-runner in the grandkid pool.) Yeah, yeah, I’d been having contractions for four hours straight, three minutes apart, with a duration of one minute and twenty seconds for each one. For those of you yet uninitiated into the glorious world of contractions, imagine someone squeezing your stomach like they’re trying to mash your intestines into a Play-Doh pancake, promptly followed by what feels like the need to take the biggest shit of your life, which may or may not end up actually being A) a huge dump that will impress even you and/or B) your baby. Ah, the miracle of life! Don’t even get me started on the “mucus plug,” which is basically when your vagina sneezes out its integrity. For a good time, do a Google image search on that one. Have a blast, and call me after you’ve had your tubal ligation done.

So when Mom excitedly demanded that I “call the doctor” with the fervor of a junkie waiting for a cocaine fix, well, I did it. The alarmist nurse at the OB-GYN’s office said I had to go to the hospital “immediately,” at which point we promptly dumped my three-year-old daughter at my sister’s house. Admittedly, maudlin, treacle sentimentality bubbled in my throat as I imagined our tearful farewell as we bid adieu to the days of her indulgent only-child lifestyle and bonjour to sibling rivalry and deep-seated resentment. However, when Queen of the Rugrats staunchly refused to enter the car until she was plied with Teddy Grahams, crackers, and stickers, she and I parted unemotionally as she cheerfully shouted behind her, “Can I live here now?” at the door to my sister’s house. Nice.  Good thing we were replacing her soon.

When we got to the hospital, Mom stayed by my side as we went to the “PET unit” on the third floor. I know what you’re thinking: “Ariel, you’re having a baby; a labradoodle is not going to come out of your vagina.” “PET” happens to be the horrid hospital acronym for “Perinatal Evaluation and Treatment unit,” but the name is actually pretty fitting, given that, from my own past experience, the whole birth experience is just about as close as I’ve ever felt to being a feral animal with rabies who needs to be taken down. As The Wendy Williams show blared on the TV overhead, with Wendy herself brazenly dictating which lubricants all women should use to heighten their sexual pleasure, my mom barreled into the admission room demanding service. Quietly, I begged her, “Mom, these people are going to be spending a lot of time with my vagina in the next couple of hours. Let’s try not piss them off.” And by “let’s,” I obviously meant, “Mom, stop pissing them off.”

My words were unheeded, which could only mean one thing: woe to my genitals.

The woman sitting behind the desk didn’t even deign to look up at the sight of yet-another preggo and her hysterical mother. I tried to look really pregnant to solicit her sympathies, which included my best acting skills: rubbing my belly and putting a hand on my back as I wiped imaginary sweat off my brow. Instead, we got the “hold-on-one-second” finger that clearly indicated to me that this woman had much more important and valuable things to do such as 1) check her Facebook account for the fortieth time in the hour; 2) finish ordering that sad-looking teal shirt she had mixed feelings about from Old Navy; and 3) check her phone for imaginary text messages that no one was sending her.

Finally, I was admitted. My husband showed up, doing his part to play the dutiful husband role; the suit with the slightly tousled-looking, loosely-knotted tie added to the drama of the event in a way that I found decidedly pleasing. Those contractions kept coming rapid-fire, and I was sure: this thing was on like Donkey Kong. I admit that I was personally quite delighted by the prospect of a child being born on 7-11, which meant that we would have a pretty awesome birthday tradition of getting free Slurpees from Seven-Eleven every year for the rest of the kid’s life. I mean, with that glimmering nugget of hope in the back of my mind, I had no doubt that a child born on this date had a promising future for sure.

They hooked me up to some fetal monitors in the room and asked me about a million questions. Obviously, I was thrilled to be answering questions about Herpes and STDs with my mom in the room, whom I’m hoping thinks I became pregnant through artificial insemination as opposed to (whisper this) sex.

Then, it was time for the vaginal exam. Unfortunately, this never plays out like an awesome porn fantasy, no matter how many doctors you see. As the resident on call put on her gloves, she wouldn’t even make eye contact with me as she said meekly, “This might hurt.” Understatement of the day. Um, yeah, it’s going to hurt if you shove your whole hand up there, try to make shadow puppets, and then try to touch my tonsils. As she reached for my uvula in the back of my throat, I mustered up enough moxie to say, “You know, you didn’t even buy me dinner.” I may or may not have tried then to fake a sexually satisfied moan. My husband smiled and held back a laugh, but that humorless Vagina Gopher didn’t even look up. Unwilling to settle, I said it again, louder this time. She had to have heard it. But she still didn’t care. Shit. Forget terrorism, global recession, and reality TV: what kind of world was this that I was bringing a baby into where a resident on call couldn’t even enjoy some hearty, old-fashioned vaginal humor?

The worst part was, I think I pissed her off, because then she brought in a surly-looking giantesse of a woman who may very well have been half-ogre. And what’s worse: the half-ogre (who happened to be a doctor—or so I was told) did not look pleased. Apparently, she had to “check” on the work that the resident did, which meant rather aggressively shoving her hand up my crotch to reach inside my face to pick my nose.

At this point, they both looked smugly at one another before Vagina Gopher declared, “You’re going to go home.” They printed up some papers for me that said, “Reason for Discharge: False Labor.” They might as well have given me papers that said in bright red: “BIGGEST LOSER EVER.”

And so it went. I paid the six dollars to park in the lot and then got into my car sans baby, t-shirt, and fanfare. There were still multi-colored goldfish crackers spawning in the back seat of the car by my daughter’s car seat, sitting next to the impotent dustbuster. SCENE.

Suffice it to say, this baby is getting one massive “time-out” the second she gets here. Hell hath no fury like a pregnant woman scorned.

The Real Deal

Congratulations: you are an amazing parent!

It’s entirely possible that if you are reading this, you happen to be pregnant, and at this very moment, your little “Peanut,” “Sprout,” “Bean,” “Spud,” “Bump,” or whatever charming little nickname you have given your little fetus, is doing great, living an enchanting life, snug and cheerful inside your womb. He or she is already dreaming big dreams in that glorious sac of amniotic fluid: after all, there are Pulitzers and Nobel Peace Prizes to win, Olympics to triumph in, diseases to cure, and lives to inspire on the outside. Your fetus—so brimming with potential that he or she can barely even fit in your womb—kicks eagerly each day, pounding the walls with adorable elbows as if to say, “Let me out! Let me conquer the world! Let me do all that you yourself have not yet accomplished!”

Yes, yes, of course, you’re probably exhausted and achey. Who wouldn’t be? You’ve got heartburn burning a hole through your chest like acid and gas that would terrify flammable containers. You’re perpetually short of breath, and you often wonder if that’s pee in the toilet or amniotic fluid. But in spite of it all, your heart seems nearly to burst with love and anticipation as you wait for your little friendus to arrive, joining the world and changing it and you forever as you and your loving spouse are transformed from a loving couple to a loving couple with an adorable, snuggly baby, thanks to the astounding miracle of life.

So congratulations on your stupendous accomplishment! You, my dear, are unbeatable! Unstoppable! Your child will change the world and be gloriously cute while doing so! Though you can’t see over your belly, trust me, the world is at your feet right now. Why, you ask?

Oh, dear naïve reader, it is because with your baby still living on the inside, you have not messed up yet as a parent. You’re untouchable. You are a better parent than all of your friends put together. Because they’ve already made their mistakes, but not you! You’re still the golden one. Enjoy your one more month of freedom (from responsibility, guilt, a perpetual state of paranoia, and a breast pump that was likely modeled after a medieval torture device).

When you return home from the hospital, you will become just like the rest of us, joining legions of parents who came before you and legions of parents who will come after you, all of whom spend much of their long days with their newborns wondering, “What the hell am I doing?”

I know this because I was once like you. I once had that doe-eyed look. I once stroked my belly with blissful reverence. I once read What to Expect When You’re Expecting like it was an owner’s manual that was going to change my life.

Then, in August of 2008, my daughter was born.

Holy. Shit.

No matter how much I read, how much I researched, how much I investigated, how frequently I questioned others, how many parenting classes I attended, there was really no one out there who told me or my husband “the real deal” about parenthood. I began to learn the hard way about competitive parenting, and that competitive parenting—which, in my opinion, should actually be a real sport because it is fascinating, bloodthirsty, and vindictive—demands that all competitors never admit their children are anything less than perfect geniuses who eat nutritious meals, sleep 14 hour nights, and recognize letters by six months old. And you and me, my friend? We’re left in the dust, alone in the mango glow of a nightlight at two AM, the soft snore of a newborn drunk from milk lying in our arms as our sore breasts leak while we wonder in our near-wakeful, often-tearful state, “Why am I the only one who fucked this up?”

I am here to tell you the real deal about parenthood. I am here to tell you about the low-down and dirty. I’m here to tell you what your friends won’t—even the friends you think tell you everything. (Trust me, they won’t, and they don’t.)

Like you, I’ve got a croissant in the oven (the buns are on my ass), and like you, I happen to be an amazing parent [to the child in my womb, that is. The jury is out on our three-year-old daughter, who mentioned only this morning she does not want “hair on her tushy like Mommy,” which is offensive both in that 1) I do not have “hair on my tushy” and 2) it suggests that Mommy is less than perfect].

I’ve made my mistakes. I tried to be the perfect parent with our first daughter for that first year. You know what? It didn’t really work out. And now, three years later? I’ve accepted that you know what?  In spite of years of being a teacher, an Ivy League education, an outstanding upbringing, and generally a charmed life, I just might not be all that when it comes to parenting. And that’s okay. I’m flawed and imperfect. I’m great and inspiring on some days (okay, okay maybe I’m being a bit generous with the plural here), but atrocious and ashamed of myself on others. Many others.

But as I prepare to give birth to my second child (due July 20th), you lucky, lucky person, you get to come along for the ride! In the following blog, I will take you through it all…no bullshit. I will tell you the things the others won’t. Why? Because it’s possible I don’t know you. I have nothing to lose. And if I know you? Well, you knew what you were getting into when you started reading this, didn’t you? Welcome to the vortex: the Attack of the Mombies has begun.