Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This too shall pass...

When was the last time you peed yourself?

As you stretch your mind back to a time when you would perhaps find yourself standing on a towel, while the school nurse rummages through the lost property for a pair of navy blue PE knickers, let me share with you a more recent memory...say yesterday.

Yesterday I realized that I was a woman. Now, I know the breasts, childbirth, vagina thing should have been a giveaway but what I mean is that yesterday I moved from being a normal woman to a bit of a weirdo woman/grown up.

I went to the gym and in a bout of unexplained bravery opted to take a class...because somehow after you have a baby you care a whole lot less what people think about you. You care what they think about your child and what they think about you as a parent, but in terms of your general appearance (did I shower this week?) and trying out new things - it's as though you download the independence app on the iPhone of life. It's simply a case of - I've had a baby and I don't care if people laugh at me. Yep - that's it - after flapping your legs open at anyone that even walked past your hospital room it now takes a lot to cause a mother honest embarrassment. Or so I told myself...

I arrived a haggard mess - rushing from work, sipping an iced coffee...because that's what I used to do in New York and somehow I thought I looked cool sipping a drink as I walked in, clutching my gym kit. After rummaging around in my bag for my ID huffing and sighing, the receptionist offered to look me up in the system. She smacked of pity...but it's okay because I've had a baby and it doesn't matter if people laugh at me. I try to redeem myself by striking up conversation with the young girl. I ask about the class "Turbo Kick" that I plan on taking. "Is it suitable for beginners?", and then I sort of pulled my lower lip down in a mock nervous pose. She smiles and tells me that she doesn't know, she has never taken the class. Fifty percent of my brain gets the hint that she doesn't want to talk - the remaining 50% has a stroke and I find myself winking at the girl before adding, "I'm sure I'll be fine". Erm, am I Magnum PI? Am I an Internet web cam pervert? I shake my head and hurry to get changed. Good lord - who am I? I hate strangers and small talk yet just found myself being a complete weirdo.

I have birthed a child...it doesn't matter if people laugh at me.

I pull on my sports bra from 2003 and some old capri pants and a tank top that I usually sleep in/slept in last night and just threw in my bag. My bra has lost all elasticity so my fish head breasts are set to swing in the wind. However, I'm excited.

Knowing that my bladder is unstable I rush to the loo to squeeze out anything that might be there before the ice coffee trickles through. Trying to do two things at once I hover over the loo, (but give up mid stream - weak thighs), then drop my hairtie on the pee encrusted floor as I try to tie up my hair. I lean down and as I reach for my elastic band my head rests on the side of the cubicle. Then I realise that my head/hair is actually resting on that vile swing bin where people discard their tampons. Deep breath. Onwards.
I wipe, wipe again. Pull up my scrag pants and then reach down and give an extra wipe for security.

I pushed for 32 hours...it doesn't matter if people laugh at me.

I rush upstairs and (deep breath) enter the room. I know I'm in trouble because all the people that look like me, in old gym clothes, are flanking the walls. I am forced to take a somewhat central position surrounded by women that have been poured into their workout gear. POURED. They are wearing Tour De France pants and I am not even in a spinning class. Their calf muscles are pronounced and they are not even on their toes. There are towels and water bottles everywhere. I put my half empty grande cup of ice coffee to the back of the room and wished I was wearing something that said New York or Brooklyn on it so I could feel a little cool. God, even typing that sentence is a travesty.

The woman walked in. I think she was a woman. She looked around the room and asked if this was anyone's first time. I hate this sort of thing. I hate it in church. I hate it anywhere. Why does anyone need to know? I just give a lips together smile and look around the room. I have done a TaeBo DVD with Billy Blank - I can do this.

And so it began...

Now, try to imagine a really embarrassing moment. Perhaps when your OBGYN checked you for hemorrhoids in front of your partner? Perhaps pooping your pants whilst making a daisy chain at lower school? Then mix it with say the memory of kissing someone whose lips were so dry they were flaking off into your mouth. That was the first 30 minutes of that class. I felt like I was in Cocoon but I was the geriatric that hadn't yet swum in the pool. These people were serious punch, skip, ski, kickers. I just knew how to do that speed bag move and that was covered in the warm up.

To be fair, there was a guy in the front row that was clearly insane and was just jumping around doing his own routine. People were no doubt switching their disbelief between the two of us. I kept checking the clock. This too will pass.

Forty minutes of sheer cringing pass and then I just let go. I became a crazy, grown up weirdo. I started whooping. Yes, I started whooping. And then, in one of the bits the instructor started slapping her bum (punch, punch, ski, ski, slap bum). It was just her - nobody else was doing it but I was delirious. I had no water, no towel, I had drained my ice coffee, and was just sucking the ice dregs. I was reminded of a homeless lady on new years eve 1999, kicking a receipt down Exeter High Street. I started slapping my butt too. And then I started laughing. Not like the clown in poltergeist, more like the drunk person on the subway that is laughing at their own joke. I was officially giddy and the more I looked at my Ribena face the more I found myself hilarious.

And that is when I peed myself.

She said "jumping jack" and between a giggle and an arm flap I just dribbled. What's worse is that made me giggle/dribble more. I stopped the jump out part, squeezed my kegels for dear life and conspicuously tried to rub my legs together. Thank God my legs were hairy - that was bound to slow the flow. The class ended at some point after that. To be fair I was so sweaty that one could be forgiven for thinking that the wet between my legs was just some deep thigh perspiration. Right?

So now, I just laugh at myself. I encourage Depends, Tena lady, full bottom knickers, black pants. I heavily promote kegel muscle exercises whilst pregnant. I now totally understand why celebrities have C-sections. Can you imagine them getting snapped by the pap with wee stains post workout or strutting their stuff on the red carpet and suddenly realizing that their pee is streaking their fake tan legs? And,think of that poor Duggar lady (and her husband) with 19 children - she must permanenetly smell like a park toilet.

Now, don't worry I'm not incontinent. You could hang out with me without wondering if you were wearing damp clothing or sitting near a wet dog. I'm just a little less wink happy and more understanding to the people browsing the fragranced panty liner aisle.

** The writer of this blog would like it to be noted that she had a vaginal delivery of an 8lb 11oz baby.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Long Days, Short Years

I graduated. One year. One amazing, exhilarating, emotionally debilitating, utterly exhausting year that changed my life forever. Now, before I get all crazy, drink one too many glasses of frixy in celebration and convince myself that if we survived one why not have another...I have to take a moment betwixt the giddiness and remember. Just remember. Of course, it's easy to say that the year flew by if you conveniently forget those long days and the longer nights in those first few weeks. The nights where you would just pray for the sun to come up because somehow it was easier in the day. Time wasn't flying as the teething began and the laundry pile grew. Time stood still as the silent debate raged as to whose turn it was to get up for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night. The days when you wouldn't get to shower, might get to brush your teeth. When you would look at the clock and see just how many hours you had left before the cavalry arrived and you could thrust your child into your husband's arms. When you would look at your child and amidst all that love you silently wondered, will my life ever be the same again? The weeks where the George Michael designer stubble became a full grown Barry Gibb beard on your legs. When your eyes would sting. When your breasts would ache. If you were wet you didn't know which body part was leaking. When your hemorrhoids would act as a plectrum on your G-string. No, no, no, time didn't just fly. As the very wise, Dr. Bernie Russell, medicine woman, once said, "parenthood - long days, short years."
Of course, as I look back I am forcing myself to remember it this way. The truth is that the rose tinted glasses are firmly on and things are so rosy I hot flash my way around town. I see babies on the street and I hear my ovaries clicking. I gravitate towards pregnant women and (I know, I know) I have even found myself striking up conversation with perfect strangers pushing pink babies - desperate to share that I too, have a daughter at home. Pre-baby I would finish work and do 1 of 2 things: hit happy hour or nap. Sometimes both. Yesterday, I raced home, stripped off work clothes, strapped Olive on and raced to the park. I cannot describe the sheer joy I experienced in watching her explore the play frame, the slide, the swing. Despite an uncomfortably close proximity to nature, I felt like every ounce of me was being poured into her.
Yet the journey wasn't smooth - I was terrified about becoming a mother, I was devastated to struggle with breastfeeding, I was disappointed that my depression returned after giving birth. I didn't understand a lot of things, I still don't. I'm learning every day. I only know that motherhood is an incredibly levelling experience. I love wholeheartedly and am fiercely protective of my family. (Insert sunburned bald headed Mancunian at Alicante airport "I'd serve time if anyone touched my child" here).
So, upon graduation, I would like to transport myself back to February 2009, about a week before Olive was born, when inbetween gobbling pineapple curry and forcing my husband to mount me, I would pontificate as to what sort of parent I was going to be. As the ghost of parenthood yet to come, I would jangle my chains and offer the following pearl of wisdom...
Dear (you have no idea what tired is) Paula,
You may think you'll never have an epidural. You'll never give your child a pacifier. You will make your own organic baby food. You think you'll never bottle feed. You will absolutely never share a bed. You think a smack bottom will be easy and letting them cry it out a breeze. You will never go away and leave your child with anyone else.
Nobody likes a smug new parent, so never say never....except for never judging another parent.
Kind regards,
Your much more tired and even more wrinkled self.

Of course, as the graduate of parenting 101, I now embark on a new course and am still welcoming any and all crib notes. I am completely in awe of those on the accelerated course with more than one child.
However, as I hear the faint strumming from the inside of the back of my pants I am reminded that it will take another couple of 'short years' before I can forget enough to return to those 'long nights'.