If there’s anything that improves with pregnancy, it’s the sense of smell. But if there’s anything that improves with delivering a baby, it’s the sense of hearing. I’ve actually awakened seconds BEFORE my babies started crying in the night, so acute were my ears. Which means by the time you’ve been discharged from the hospital you are basically Cat Woman minus the ridiculously svelte physique and hot pants. (But if you happen to have a svelte physique after just giving birth, I will make an exception and allow you to wear all the hot pants you want. You deserve it because you are obviously a deity of some import.)
But there is another thing the new mother and Cat Woman do not share in common: the first postnatal visit to the OB/GYN. (I imagine after giving birth to a litter of tiny evil kitties that recovery is a walk in the park. And I bet they don’t have SPECULUMS at the veterinarian, either.)
No, the first postnatal checkup, or postnatal UpChuck as I like to call it, is reserved for us mere mortals.
So what follows is my Public Service Announcement for all you first-time pregnant friends and just-delivered friends out there so this most memorable of doctor’s visit will create only limited psychological distress.
LET ME ALSO STATE THAT IF YOU ARE MY GRANDMOTHER, MY FATHER, OR ANY MAN WHO KNOWS MY GRANDMOTHER OR FATHER, PLEASE STOP READING NOW AND GO CHECK YOUR FACEBOOK.
There. I’m just trying to provide a service here, people, and viewer discretion is advised.
1. IT’S THEIR BABY TOO. First the good news. If you thought your OB’s nurses were nice and pleasant to begin with, just wait until you show up bearing the spoils of war like a conquering hero – your baby sleeping like the Messiah in her Graco seat. Their eyes will light up with some otherworldly spark, as if this child, THIS child is the culmination of all their personal toil and trouble. You will think it a little disproportionate because all they’ve really done the past nine months is take your blood pressure and retrieve “specimens” from you, but they act as if they have been just as integral to the whole show, as, well, YOU. So let them stop you in the hall and “ooh” and “ahh.” They’ve earned it. Share the wealth.
2. THE WEIGHT OF GLORY. More good news. If you have shied away from the scale up to this point (which is doubtful because when else in your life will you lose 15 pounds in 5 days and who doesn’t want to watch this miracle unfurl?), your first postnatal weigh-in is a beautiful sacrament. Sure, it won’t reflect your original weight the day you got pregnant (again, unless you’re Cat Woman), but it definitely makes up for that weigh-in the week before your due date — you know the one — where you wanted to explain to the nurse that you really haven’t been eating Crisco out of the bucket bare-handed.
3. DR. EVIL, I PRESUME? And now we come face to face with the woman herself, your doctor. Be prepared for your nether regions to have an involuntary startle reflex upon seeing her face, because the last time you saw her was when they were all torn to shreds. Don’t panic. The key is to RELAX, smile, and pretend like she knows nothing indelicate about you. (Let me take this opportunity also to ask how in the name of all that’s holy do some of you out there go to MEN OB/GYNs? Seriously? We have a male friend who is an OB and we call him “OB Jim.” And I don’t want OB Jim to have that kind of insider information about me, if you know what I mean.)
4. ABREAST OF THE SITUATION. Here’s where we get real, sisters. Your doctor will perform a breast exam. Yes. You may think The Twins have had their hands, well, FULL the past few weeks learning to breastfeed, and the last thing they need is to be poked and prodded. I mean, they’ve been working so hard and now you’re accusing them of letting in some cancer cells? How insulting. They just don’t get no R-E-S-P-E-C-T. But don’t worry: if you let down on your doctor, she is used to it.
5. THE SEVENTH CIRCLE. Here’s where things really get dicey. I would like to tell you your doctor will lift the little sheet, take a passing glance at ground zero and declare you fit as a fiddle. But I’m just trying to prepare you, friend: this is a pipe dream. If you’ve had a C-section, I’m sure this portion of the postnatal visit goes differently, but if you did it the old fashioned way, be prepared for the…for the…I can hardly bear to type the word again…SPECULUM. Yes. I know, the NERVE. But it gets worse: You might even get a PAP SMEAR if you’re due for one, and you might be stuck knees-a-flailing with the SPECULUM in place while the nurse checks your records to see IF you are due for a PAP SMEAR or when the next one needs to transpire — if you don’t die right then and there on the table, that is. My recommendation here is simple: remember those Lamaze breathing techniques that didn’t work in labor and delivery? They won’t work now either. Take a flask.
While she’s in the neighborhood, so to speak, your doctor (I’m assuming your doctor is a “she” because I like to think only sane women read this blog) will also inspect any tearing or episiotomy stitching. This portion of the show is sponsored by the Center for Bragging Rights because you will ask how “bad” the tear was, what “degree” it was — all so you can forever gloat to all of your friends about what an Amazon woman you are for having produced this giant man-child from your dainty little pelvis.
Finally, and we are almost done with all of this unpleasantness, your doctor will top the whole adventure off with a pelvic exam, a la how she determined how “progressed” you were during labor and delivery. This isn’t as bad as the SPECULUM (a word I can only apparently type in CAPS), but you will realize that you are actually still sore in places you didn’t know could be sore, like your spleen.
And at the end of the riggamarole, your doctor will hopefully pronounce you to be “healing nicely,” because let’s face it, there’s no way she’s ever going to say you are “back to normal” because this, sister, IS the new normal.
6. ABSTINENCE IS NOT AN ANSWER. In a funny twist of irony, your doctor will then ask you what you plan to do about birth control, to which you will inevitably answer, “Never have sex again.” (Dad, if you’re still reading at this point, STOP! I beg you!) She will laugh politely only because this answer is so predictable and she is a professional, but she is actually in danger of boredom-induced narcolepsy and you would do well not to push the point further. Face it: you’re inevitably going to do “it” again, and the only question — the real question — is when. (More on that next.) Your doctor will provide you with a litany of birth control options and you will discuss the best one for you; all of this will sound very theoretical because, again, it’s hard imagining even approaching, let alone disturbing, the sacred tomb of your private parts like some raucous nineteenth-century grave robber. But I digress. It would help to come prepared with a list of contraceptive questions, like which are safe for breastfeeding.
7. GREEN LIGHT, RED LIGHT. And now the answers to the two questions you’ve been dreading: when you may resume regular exercise and when you may resume…well…IT. My doctor gave me a month before starting my marathon training regimen (yea right!) and then six-eight weeks before, um, IT. But trust me, everyone is different, and you would do well to take it slow. Because the fact is that IT will not really be the old IT until even up to a year postpartum. Yes. It works itself out, but it takes longer than you would think, so try to RELAX and remember that in the grand scheme of things, a year is just five-hundred-twenty-five-thousand-six-hundred minutes. Meanwhile, use the year to regain that svelte figure Cat Woman could only dream about. Because that will take a whole year too.
And that, fair reader, about covers it. If you have any questions, I am at your disposal. But if you would like your money back, call the Star-Telegram. Let me congratulate you in advance and tell you that all of this is, most definitely, worth it.
(After all, it’s The More You Know…music cue: dee dum, dee dum!)
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