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“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!

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