I’m someone who likes to go into things prepared. Pregnancy was no different. When I was pregnant you couldn’t pry the second edition of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” from my bloated, clammy fingers. I read each chapter with the gusto some might save for something like “Gone, Girl”. I would read, re-read, daydream and read some more.
And by the time I made it through that book, and several others like it, I was ready. And my baby was ready too. She was looking to make an early entrance and so I was on bed rest, leaving me more time to read about the joys of breastfeeding, mucous plugs and cord blood donation. Intoxicating stuff, really. But it was all leading me towards my preparation of being able to manage my bundle of joy.
And the day arrived. I was in the hospital and although I had a terrible pregnancy, my delivery was pretty easy. I’m pretty sure I sneezed and Shaila slid out. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that easy, but it was close. And in my hands, I held my bloody, mucous covered baby and oohed and aahed over her, feeling that incredible stirring in my chest when I felt her eyes lock on mine for the first time. Almost like she was thinking, “I don’t know who this lady is but I think she might have something to do with feeding me.” She knew I was special, just like I knew she was as I played with her little feet.
The nurses took her away from me to run her vitals and get her all bundled up in her hospital attire. I suddenly realized I was thirsty beyond belief and so I decided to chug my husband’s extra large Chik Fil-A fruit punch that was sitting on the table next to me. The nurses had already told me that I would need to pee before anything else really could happen and that if I didn’t go on my own in an hour, they were going to catheterize me. Which is exactly what you want to hear after you’ve just popped a baby out of your vagina. I had had enough action down there for the day, thank you very much. The fruit punch would hydrate me and help me solve that problem, I thought.
So I got up to use the restroom, and this is when “What to Expect” totally failed me. Because I just about had the shock of my life. Perhaps it had been mentioned that there would be some blood after the baby came. I had remembered reading that and being warned that I would have to wear maxi pads the size of an Encyclopedia Britannica. Yet the vastness of the blood still hadn’t register for me. I guess I imagined some kind of heavy trickle or mild gushing.
What I didn’t imagine was that what started pouring out of me from between my legs made the whole pig blood scene in Carrie look like freaking Mary Poppins.
I almost lost my balance as I resisted the urge to either faint or puke, it was somewhat of a toss up. But that was not my fate.
“You need go pee!” My very bossy Chinese nurse kept admonishing me.
And so I got down to business. And I sat. And I sat some more. I had no pee coming out of me but there was enough blood flowing out of me to make up for that, surely?
“No, you pee now!” She would not budge.
No amount of waiting seemed to help. I put on the sink to hear the steady stream of the water, thinking it would lull me into some type of waterfall like trance where I would be compelled to pee. But nope. Nothing.
“You need catheter now. I come back with other nurse.” She seemed so disappointed in me and my inability to pee. I really felt like I let her down.
The problem was that now, I REALLY had to pee. Like BAD. But I couldn’t. And after sitting so long, I was so inflamed that I guess my body was very confused about how to properly use the many holes that it had so generously given me.
A team of nurses made their way back into the room and got me ready on the bed. An older, grey-haired one who seemed pretty feisty tried to reassure me.
“Don’t you worry, darling! I’ve done this a million times. There ain’t nothing I haven’t seen.”
This was all very reassuring since I was starting to feel like my vagina was very, very special – and not in a good way. I just wanted her to help me NOW because I was ready to explode.
I suddenly hated John for his extra large Chik-Fil-A fruit punch. How dare he leave it on the table, tempting me?
They started the process of trying to put the catheter in. I knew this was going to hurt, but finally, some relief!
“Wow. Everything too puffy down there.”
“You know. You’re right. I ain’t never seen anything like it.”
“It’s like vagina is big balloon now. Can’t get nothing past.”
I appreciated the back and forth and felt ever more reassured as the grey haired woman tried unsuccessfully many times to catheterize me. Finally, as tears of pain, self-pity and the horror that I might explode from not being able to pee washed over me, they somehow got things working down there.
“Oh good job! You lucky. You vagina so swollen, it like so BIG!”
“Yes, I seem to remember you saying this.” I sniffled, feeling violated in a way I had never imagined.
Finally, in relief as the fruit punch left my body, I was able to relax and remember that this wasn’t all so bad. Sure I might be bleeding more than all of Freddy Krueger’s victims combined and yeah, my vagina was so inflamed that it was the size of a small soccer ball, but I had a BABY. And I would be seeing her soon. And one day soon, all of this fun stuff that “What to Expect” never prepared me for would be a distant memory.
Or maybe not. In the end, nobody can ever prepare you exactly for what to expect. I would just plan on more gore and extraneous liquids leaving your body than you might have expected.
Coming home with this made it all worth it.