Gabriel’s birth was called a VBAC, which stands for “vaginal birth after caesarean,” aka Nora didn’t come out the way we anticipated and Gabe sort of did, aka if I were you I wouldn’t anticipate anything anyway when having a child, case in point: I now know that your water doesn’t always dramatically yet somehow very tidily break like it does in the movies (if it breaks at all before you’re in the thick of it) but might instead - like it did for me with Aidy - partially break at home, and then start up again - holy SHIT, it’s not done - while you’re in the waiting area being checked in at the hospital, sending you running like a crazy person to the restroom and leaving your husband standing awkwardly with the kind administrative staff while you try to remedy the situation even though, sister, the damage is already done. Surrender.
Anyway, while Gabe’s birth was a little less complicated than Nora’s, it was still slightly complicated. There was quite a bit of pushing and I was administered oxygen towards the end of the process. But the births of each of my children were the best moments of my life, the joy erasing any pain or annoyance that preceded it. There he was, my lovely boy. My lovely, angry, hungry boy.
The evening after I had him, however, something less ethereal occurred when I woke up in my hospital room in the middle of the night, stood to go to the bathroom and promptly peed all over the floor. The amount of control I had over this situation was: zero percent control. I just stood there, stunned by my body’s capacity to betray me so thoroughly when the bathroom was, like, three steps away. My pelvic floor, stressed to the max after that day’s activities, I suppose, just couldn’t hack it, not even a little bit.
It would have been okay if that had been it - I had to call a nurse to come help me as J was home with Nora, and I felt so helpless and guilty, even though I was aware that it wasn’t my fault - but that was not it. My temporary incontinence continued for several days after I was home. Only I had no idea it was temporary.
I was reflecting on this brief but memorable period of my parenting experience this morning talking with two old friends about the new babies being born to some my younger family members (HOORAY!) and how far away - but also complicated, exhausting, exalting and indellible - those early days and weeks with a tiny infant feel.
What immediately sprang to mind as we shared memories was being in our house after Gabriel joined the family, doing all the things I normally do, like having a cup of coffee or folding some laundry and caring for my new son - a task which felt infinitely easier than it did with Nora, having a bit more experience under my belt - and also intermittently peeing myself without any warning whatsoever sometimes even when I DIDN’T FEEL LIKE I HAD TO GO, WHY? WHY?!
And so I thought to myself - because I think there is a part of your brain that turns on when you have a new baby that encourages you to accept all new realities as reasonable and just - “Well, this is my life now. I won’t really return to engaging in social or professional obligations because this condition is one best kept in the household - I mean, preferably in the goddamn bathroom but that no longer seems to be an option - and, hey, that’s ok. I can tend to this baby and watch so much television and it’ll be fine. More than fine, it’ll be great. Peaceful, really.”
Now, as anyone who has seen me recently knows, I do leave the house, and I do make it to the bathroom. The intensity of my, ahem, situation, lessened and went away over about a week’s time, although running and sneezing on a full bladder still pose a problem, and when I get a bad cough with a cold, the issue gets worse.
I thought about this, like I said, when talking to friends about those heady days of new parenting; how so many things - sleep, sanity, going out with friends, eating meals while not simultaneously feeding another person, your bladder’s functionality - seem like they’ve slipped away, probably for good.
I think it’s impossible to fully grasp when you’re in it, but I can say with full authority as I’m sitting here at my dining room table, surrounded by my leftover Halloween candy and a pot of coffee nearby, my notebook full of scrawled interview quotes, fun work assignments to complete, and no children anywhere because they are old enough to all be in school, that those rough times do cease. The rewarding things only sharpen and intensify.
So I figured that during a month I’m dedicating to writing about true, real things, I’d throw this one out there for the moms.
The dads too, you guys are awesome! But, I mean, if you’ve ever analyzed the capacity of a Poise or other pad of that variety, this one’s really for you.